By LE Staff
The Supreme Court on Monday asked a government servant, facing charges under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, if he would marry the woman who had accused him of raping her when she was a minor.
The top court also stayed the arrest of the accused for four weeks.
The apex court was hearing the bail request of Mohit Subhash Chavan, a technician with the Maharashtra State Electric Production Company.
“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,” Chief Justice of India SA Bobde told the petitioner’s lawyer, who argued that his client could lose his job.
The petitioner told the court his mother had offered marriage when the girl went to the police. But the survivor had reportedly refused. Later, a document was created to say a marriage would take place once the girl turned 18. When she did, however, the man refused to marry her. That is when a rape complaint was filed against him, according to the petition filed by Chavan.
The Chief Justice asked the accused man, “Will you marry her?”
Chavan’s lawyer replied, “Will take instructions.”
Chief Justice Bobde said, “You should have thought before seducing and raping the young girl. You knew you are a government servant.” He further said, “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 accused’s lawyer said he would reply after consulting his client. Later, he told the Supreme Court, “Initially I wanted to marry her. But she refused. Now I cannot as I am already married.”
He also said the trial was on and charges were yet to be framed. “I am a government servant and if I am arrested I will be suspended automatically,” he said.
“That’s why we have given you this indulgence. We will stay the arrest for four weeks. Then you apply for regular bail,” said Chief Justice Bobde.
The trial court had granted Chavan protection from arrest but the High Court had cancelled it.
The Supreme Court said he would not be arrested for four weeks and he could apply for regular bail.
Recently, another man from Punjab accused of rape got reprieve from the Supreme Court on the condition that he would marry the woman within six months. He was warned of a jail term if he broke his promise to marry the woman, who is now in Australia.
But in this case, the man had a relationship with the woman who accused him of rape and cheating after he refused to marry her.
Indian courts’ acceptance of marriage as a suitable resolution of rape cases has been commented upon and criticised by several legal experts and activists.
Writing for The Wire, Goa-based lawyer and human rights activist Albertina Almeida had noted in her analysis: “Women’s groups and advocates and child rights activists in India generally converge on the point that marrying the survivor is a time tested ploy by rapists to escape conviction or the prolonged sentence. This tactic takes advantage of cultural issues around rape, where raped women are, to this day, looked upon as jinda lash – living dead”.