Chief Justice of India SA Bobde on Monday said that the Supreme Court, as an institution, has the “highest respect for womanhood” and that the comments made by him last week during the bail hearing in a rape case were “completely misreported”, Live Law reported.

On March 1, the chief justice had asked a government employee if he was willing to marry a woman who had accused him of repeatedly raping her when she was a minor.

On Monday, Bobde was hearing a petition filed by a 14-year-old girl who was raped and sought permission to abort a 26-week pregnancy. During the hearing, Advocate Biju, appearing for the petitioner, said that the “court has been very generous to the girl”, Live Law reported. To this, Bobde responded, “It’s good to hear that. We have heard opposite opinions in the last two weeks.”

“Even in that hearing, we never gave a suggestion that you should marry,” the chief justice said, according to Live Law. “We had asked are you going to marry?”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta supported Bobde, saying that he was “quoted out of context”, Bar and Bench reported. Bobde then asked Mehta to read Section 165 of the Indian Evidence Act.

The section that deals with “judge’s power to put questions or order production”, states:

“The judge may, in order to discover or to obtain proper proof of relevant facts, ask any question he pleases, in any form, at any time, of any witness, or of the parties, about any fact relevant or irrelevant; and may order the production of any document or thing; and neither the parties nor their agents shall be entitled to make any objection to any such question or order, nor, without the leave of the Court, to cross-examine any witness upon any answer given in reply to any such question.”  

Mehta, after reading out the Act, said that “statements, when twisted out of context, will mean something different”.

“As an institution and Court, we have always had highest respect for womanhood,” Bobde told Mehta. “This court has always have given the largest respect to women.”

The advocate for the 14-year-old girl suggested setting up a “mechanism” to deal with people who “tarnish the image of judiciary”.

“Our reputation in in hands of the Bar,” Bobde replied. “We don’t need to protect us like that.”

Meanwhile in the case seeking termination of pregnancy, the court expressed its desire to speak with the parents of the girl and adjourned the matter till March 12.

The controversy

Last week, a bench headed by Bobde was hearing a bail plea of 23-year-old Mohit Subhash Chavan, who is a technician with the Maharashtra State Electric Production Company. The Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court had cancelled his anticipatory bail.

During the hearing, the chief justice asked Chavan’s counsel: “Will you marry her?”

Chavan’s lawyer informed the court that his client had wanted to marry the girl but she had refused. He said Chavan has declined to do so now as he is married.

“You should have thought before seducing and raping the young girl,” Bobde responded. “You knew you are a government servant. 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 court granted the accused interim protection from arrest for four weeks, and said that he could apply for regular bail.