Over 3,500 concerned citizens, representatives of women’s movements and feminists issued an open letter to Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde demanding that he step down and issue an apology for his remarks in court where he asked a man, accused of raping a minor girl, if he was willing to marry her.
The CJI made the observation on Monday while hearing the petition for protection from arrest of a man accused of stalking, tying up, gagging, repeatedly raping a minor school-going girl, and threatening to douse her in petrol and set her alight, to hurl acid at her, and to have her brother killed. The crime came to light when the minor school-going victim attempted suicide.
“From the towering heights of the post of CJI of the Supreme Court, it sends the message to other courts, judges, police and all other law enforcing agencies that justice is not a constitutional right of women in India. This will only lead to the further silencing of girls and women. To the rapists, it sends the message that marriage is a licence to rape; and that by obtaining such a licence, the rapist can post facto decriminalise or legalise his act,” reads the letter endorsed by well known women’s rights activists including Annie Raja, Kavita Krishnan, Kamla Bhasin, Meera Sanghamitra, Maimoona Mollah and Zakia Soman.
Nearly 50 groups and networks are also among the signatories, including All India Progressive Women’s Association, National Federation of Indian Women, Saheli, Forum Against Oppression of Women, Bebaak Collective.
The CJI also received flak for his comments in another case where he asked whether sexual intercourse between a lawfully wedded man and wife can be called rape even if the husband is a brutal man.
In a separate letter to the Chief Justice of India for his comments on two rape cases, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat said, “Rape victims are not robots whose thoughts and feelings are under remote control of others”.