As an institution, the Supreme Court have always had the highest respect for the womanhood, said Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde on Monday, as he sought to dispel a controversy after bench led by him asked a rape accused last week whether he was ready to marry the complainant.
“As an institution and as a bench in this court, we have always had the highest respect for the womanhood. This court has always given the largest respect to women. We never asked the accused to marry the girl. We asked him ‘Are you going to marry her’. There was complete misreporting of what we said,” observed the CJI, as he heard a petition by a 14-year-old rape survivor who has sought termination of her 26-week pregnancy.
Reacting to the controversy that flared up after his comments attracted criticism from a section of lawyers as well as rights groups, justice Bobde pointed out that his questions to the lawyer for the accused were in the facts of that particular case but there was misreporting by the media.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who was present during the proceedings, supported the CJI, saying the court’s poser during the hearing on March 1 were completely in sync with Section 165 of the Evidence Act, which empowered judges to ask questions in order to discover or to obtain proper proof of relevant facts in a case.
Mehta said that the court’s questions were justified in the facts of that case but the comments were widely reported out of the context. At this, the CJI said: “Our reputation is always at the hands of the Bar.”
The plea by the minor, who underwent medical examination at a hospital in Haryana as regards to feasibility of the termination of her pregnancy, was adjourned to Friday on a request by her counsel VK Biju.
After going through the medical report which was submitted confidentially, the bench, which also included justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said that it would wish to speak to the minor’s parents.
When Advocate Biju said that the Supreme Court had been very generous to the girl, the CJI replied: “It is good to hear that. We have heard the exact opposite in the last two weeks.”