Chief Justice Asked to Step Down for Using Obnoxious Language

The President, Ram Nath Kovind, administering the oath of office to Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde, as the Chief Justice of India, at a swearing-in ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on November 18, 2019. Photo: PIB (file photo)
The President, Ram Nath Kovind, administering the oath of office to Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde, as the Chief Justice of India, at a swearing-in ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on November 18, 2019. Photo: PIB (file photo)

Women activists have asked the Chief Justice to step down from his post without a moment’s delay. But the CJI has not yet accepted their demand.

A group of more than 4,000 women’s rights activists, progressive groups, and prominent citizens has written an open letter to Chief Justice of India (CJI) S.A. Bobde, asking him to resign for his loose remarks in a rape case.

The letter says that Bobde – who is known for his free-wheeling nature – had asked a rapist to marry his school-going victim and justified marital rape in the Supreme Court.

While hearing the bail request of the accused government employee, Mohit Subhash Chavan, a bench headed by CJI Bobde told him, “If you want to marry we can help you. If not, you lose your job and go to jail. You seduced the girl, raped her.”

On March 1, the Supreme Court was hearing the bail plea of Mohit Subhash Chavan, who has been accused of raping a schoolgirl and faces charges under the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) law.

“We are not forcing you to marry. Let us know if you will. Otherwise you will say we are forcing you to marry her,” the chief justice continued, while staying the man’s arrest for one month.

These remarks – which seem to suggest raping a minor is okay as long as the rapist marries the girl later – have caused widespread outrage. In their open letter, the activists say, “It fills us with rage that women bear the burden of having to explain the meaning of ‘seduction’, ‘rape’, and ‘marriage’ even to the Chief Justice of India, who holds the power and duty to interpret the Constitution of India and sit in judgement.”

The signatories also bring up the Indian justice system’s marred track record when it comes to dealing with violence against women and sexual harassment, saying ‘Enough is enough’.

The open letter – published by The Wire news service – has been endorsed by a number of well-known women’s rights activists. They asked CJI to step down from his post without a moment’s delay. But the CJI has not yet accepted their demand.

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Rakesh Raman