More than 5000 people have signed a petition demanding Chief Justice of India to resign after he proposed an accused rapist to marry his victim (a school girl) to avoid jail time.
Chief Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde told the government technician at a hearing,
“If you want to marry (her) we can help you. If not, you lose your job and go to jail.”
Bobde’s offer sparked an uproar in the country and prompted women’s rights activists to circulate an open letter calling for his resignation. The petition has so far secured more than 5,200 signatures, campaigner Vani Subramanian said.
The letter says the man is accused of stalking, tying up, gagging and repeatedly raping the girl before threatening to douse her in petrol, set her ablaze and have her brother killed.
The text of the petition also said,
“By suggesting that this rapist marry the victim-survivor, you, the Chief Justice of India, sought to condemn the victim-survivor to a lifetime of rape at the hands of the tormentor who drove her to attempt suicide.”
India’s history of dealing with rapes has already caught international attention since 2012 when a young girl was ferociously raped and murdered in a bus sparking nation-wide protests.
The letter also attracted attention to another hearing on Monday during which Bobde reportedly questioned whether intercourse between a married couples could ever be considered rape. He said,
“The husband may be a brutal man, but can you call the act of sexual intercourse between a lawfully wedded man and wife rape?”
Problematizing the matter originating from the question, the letter by the rights campaigners said,
“This comment not only legitimises any kind of sexual, physical and mental violence by the husband, but it normalises the torture that Indian women have been facing within marriages for years without any legal recourse.”
Marital rape is not a crime in India.
Bobde has not responded to the criticism. His predecessor Ranjan Gogoi was the highest-profile figure in India to face a #MeToo backlash after he was accused by a former staffer of sexual assault.
He was cleared in 2019 after an in-house inquiry, prompting protests in the country.