“We have the highest respect for women,” a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde stated. The bench also said that the reputation of the judiciary is in the hands of its lawyers.
The observations were made while the bench was hearing a case of a 14-year-old pregnant rape victim seeking a nod to abort the foetus of about 26 weeks. The comments from the bench came in the wake of recent criticism against the Supreme Court that it asked a rape accused in another case whether he would marry the victim, who was a minor when the crime was committed.
After the hearing, several women’s rights activists, intellectuals, writers and artistes penned an open letter to the chief justice demanding an apology on the remarks. “We do not remember any case of marital rape was before us …We have the highest respect for women” the bench said referring to the earlier case.
The Bar Council of India supported the Supreme Court and asked activists who had written to the CJI to withdraw his remarks to not “scandalise” the highest judiciary.
In the March 1 observations, the bench heard a plea filed by the accused, serving as a technician in Maharashtra State Electricity Production Company Ltd. He moved the apex court against a Bombay High Court February 5 order cancelling his anticipatory bail.
“Are you willing to marry her? If you are willing to marry her then we can consider it, otherwise you will go to jail. We are not forcing you to marry” the bench said.