India’s Supreme Court on Monday turned itself into the theatre of the absurd when the Chief Justice of India, who not only presided over a three-judge bench but also the Indian judicial system, sought to check with a man accused of raping a minor if he was willing to marry her. The man was unable to answer in the affirmative only because he was already married. The court, however, set aside an order of the high court and prevented his arrest for four weeks.
It’s sad, absurd and bizarre that someone needs to remind their lordships that rape of a minor is not a compoundable offence under Indian legal system, though it talks of such offences. The Indian parliament created that piece of legislation, the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, with a view to protecting minor children from predators and to ensure that violators are dealt with an iron hand. The court’s job was limited to see if the man in the dock is guilty or innocent or if he deserves a lenient treatment. But it just cannot broker a compromise - never a marriage - and perpetuate a crime.
Would the court have ordered their marriage were the accused unmarried? Under Article 141 of our Constitution, an order of the Supreme Court of India is the law of the land and all the courts in the country need to align their observations and orders with it. Such an order would have been gross and grotesque miscarriage of justice and plain negation of the legislative intention. The CJI who, in another case, refused to recognise the term marital rape and asked a petitioner if sex in a marriage can be termed rape, however cruel it is, would do well to rescind his suggestions and observations and deliver justice as per his constitutional mandate. He owes that much to the women, and their parents, in this country.