This special petition involved a 23-year-old Mohit Subhash Chavan, a govt servant who was accused of raping a girl five years ago. The case records the statements of a woman that she was raped when she was sixteen years old. The man has been charged under the 2012 Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The lawyer of the accused tried to protect his client but that would cost him his job, and therefore he should be granted protection. CJI Bobde even mentioned that being a government servant, Chavan should have known the consequences of committing such a hideous crime. However, after mentioning this CJI didn’t hesitate to offer a plea deal to the rapist: “Will you marry her?”
The question is not that whether or not CJI Bobde should have offered such a plea deal to the accused, but whether such a deal abolishes the consent of the victim? Is this not disheartening that the victim is legally and morally discouraged from seeking justice? CJI Bobde was not only offering a plea deal but also ‘help’ to the accused, he went on to say: “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.”
The accuser claims that Chavan stalked her and harassed her since she was in the ninth grade. Chavan was a relative of the survivor’s family so he would often visit them. So one day when her parents were out of town Chavan entered from the back door of her house and bound her, raped her. Chavan then terrorized her to keep silent on the happenings. The survivor recounts Chavan use to threaten her with harming her family and throwing acid on her. He had continued to stalk her and rape her between 2014 and 2015. But when she sought to file a complaint against Chavan, Chavan’s mother argued that the two could marry and Chavan agreed and promise to do so.
For women and girls across the country, this incident comes as a waking nightmare. So isn’t this idea of marriage by the highest court in the country is shocking and disturbing? Earlier, the Bombay High Court had condemned Chavan receiving anticipatory bail by a Sessions Court in the strongest terms, calling the judgment “atrocious”.
In another case yesterday, a UP woman accused a man of rape after a live-in relationship where he had allegedly pretended to marry her, then married someone else. CJI Bobde remarked, “If a couple is living together as man and wife, the husband may be a brutal man, but can you call the act of sexual intercourse a rape?”
So in a country where 1 rape is reported every 15 minutes what exactly is the weightage of the crime in India? What does ‘rape’ means in India? Clearly, the crime as defined by the law holds very little weight in the judiciary system if the accused offers to marry the victim. It is extremely sad to see that SC is also on the same page in prescribing marriage as a solution to rape. This solution had become a standard practice across the country for several reasons. The accuser and her parents are often given the second priority whereas the accused is always offered to marry the victim and get away with the crime easily. In such cases, the accused often delivers a false promise of marrying the victim like the couple from UP and sadly this has become pretty normal and common in India. National Crime Records Bureau data from 2018 records 12,568 such reported rape cases. In 2017, it registered 10,553 cases under the “known persons on a promise to marry the victim” rape cases, according to a report in Article 14.
However, the statement by the SC is not exactly the problem here. Rape in India is seen as a ‘dishonored’ practice that compromises the status of the family of the woman or girl. By naked eyes, it’s a crime that involves the fundamental rights and safety of a woman. In the wide context of understanding the fundamental rights and consent of a woman, she is more than just a mother, sister, or wife. It is very important that the judiciary of this country should not be based on the grounds of ‘marriage’ and just a ‘solution’ to the crime.