Are sexual offences being trivialised, is objectification of women back: SC seeks AG’s help

Published: Oct 16, 2020, 2:40 pm IST

New Delhi:  Can an accused of sexual offence secure bail by tying rakhi on the victim’s wrist? The Supreme Court on Friday sought Attorney General K.K. Venugopal’s assistance to decide a contention whether a court can pass general direction like a sexual offence accused getting bail by simply offering rakhi as a condition for bail — that reflects the trivialisation of a heinous crime through a simplistic stereotypical solution.

Senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, representing the women lawyers, contended that the plea is not limited to the order passed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court, but it has wider implications, as it calls into question remarks made by judges, which “objectify” victims of sexual assault.

“That the present case is of particular concern since it has taken years to undo the damaging approach followed by Courts whereby cases involving sexual offences committed against women are attempted to be compromised by way of marriage or mediation between the accused and the survivor,” the plea contended.

A bench comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and B.R. Gavai sought assistance from the Venugopal in the matter.

The plea has been filed by advocate Aparna Bhat and eight other women lawyers against the July 30 order by the Madhya Pradesh High Court, where an accused of sexual assault was asked to get a Rakhi tied on him by the victim as a condition for bail.

“The bail condition in question amounts to further victimization of the survivor in her own house. In the context of Rakshabandhan being a festival of guardianship between brothers and sisters, the said bail condition amounts to gross trivialization of the trauma suffered by the Complainant in the present case,” said the plea.

The petitioners argued that the bail condition by the High Court should be set aside.

The top court observed that a case is not made out against the Madhya Pradesh High Court bail order, as the bail condition was already met.

Bhat has contended in the plea that order has been passed by a constitutional court such as a High Court of a state and there is a strong likelihood that such observations and directions may result in normalizing “what is essentially a crime and has been recognized to be so by the law.”

The plea said: “It is highly objectionable for the High Court in the present case to put the Complainant in a position where she is forced to accept the sum of Rs 11,000 as part of the customary ritual of Rakhshabandhan. Moreover, the said bail condition also goes a step further by stating that Respondent No. 2 (the accused) tender Rs 5,000 to the son the complainant.”

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