The Supreme Court on Thursday set aside a Madhya Pradesh High Court order from last year that directed a man accused of sexual assault to get a “rakhi” tied by the complainant as a bail condition, Bar and Bench reported. The court, in its order, said that stereotypes should be avoided in such cases, according to NDTV.
A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and S Ravindra Bhat was hearing a petition, filed by Supreme Court advocate Aparna Bhat and eight other women lawyers, challenging the decision.
In July 2020, the Indore bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court had asked a bail applicant in a sexual harassment case to get a rakhi tied in order to get bail. The court also ordered the man to give the woman Rs 11,000 as a customary offering and “seek her blessings” and a further Rs 5,000 to the son of the complainant “for purchase of clothes and sweets”. The bail applicant had allegedly entered the house of the woman, his neighbour, and sexually harassed her.
The petition filed by Bhat and other lawyers contended that the High Court order trivialised a heinous offence. The plea also asked whether in a case of bail, it was appropriate for a court to impose “extraneous conditions” that allow contact between the accused and the complainant. It further said that the High Court’s order asking the accused to visit the woman’s home would lead to the “victimisation of the survivor in her own house”.
“There is a strong likelihood that such observations and directions may result in normalising what is essentially a crime and has been recognised to be so by the law,” the plea stated, according to Bar and Bench.
The Supreme Court had then asked Attorney General KK Venugopal to give his suggestions on the matter. Venugopal, in his submission, said that the High Court’s order was “nothing but drama” and that it must be condemned. He also said that it was an opportunity to impart gender sensitisation in the judiciary.
“The suggestion is the exam for judges and national judicial academy and state judicial academy must have programmes on gender sensitisation,” the attorney general had said.
In his submissions, Venugopal suggested that in cases of crimes against women, the Supreme Court should not mandate contact between the accused and the complainant, Bar and Bench reported. He further recommended that the bail conditions should protect the complainant from harassment from the accused and that they should be “free from stereotypical or parental notions of women and their place in society”.