The Attorney General of India, KK Venugopal submitted before the Supreme Court today that orders by the High Courts of India trivialising sexual offences are “nothing but drama” and “must be condemned.”
Justices AM Khanwilkar, Sanjiv Khanna and Dinesh Maheshwari, were hearing the case and have asked AG Venugopal and all parties concerned to file written submissions or notes regarding the steps that can be taken to deliberate on the limitations of judges in imposing conditions for bail. Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave who appeared for 96-year-old ex-judge and an 84-year-old senior advocate who have intervened in the case, was also allowed by the Court to file written submissions.
AG Venugopal reportedly said that, “On the face of it, the judge got carried away. This is more something from the films than anything else. Your Lordships have repeatedly held that judges have to confine themselves to conditions specified in 437-438 (Cr. P. C.) and to any aspects that may be related… this is all a drama and should be condemned… The question is how do we make this known to the judiciary? The PCJ, which holds exams for recruitment of judges, may also cover gender sensitisation. The National Judicial Academy is concerned with District Judges, and the State Judicial Academy with the subordinate judges- judges may be brought in batches to the Academy to educate them.”
He further submitted that, “So far as gender sensitisation is concerned, gender sensitization and grievance redressal committee is there in Supreme Court and lectures need to be given to district and subordinate, high courts too about gender sensitisation. The suggestion is the exam for judges and National judicial academy and State judicial academy must have programs on gender sensitization. As far as the committee is concerned, a Supreme Court judgment should be put on the State information system which will go to subordinate courts.”
“We may say what all is permissible. Once we decide that, it will mean that the rest is impermissible and judges may not venture beyond that. That is one way to go about it. We can also state in what circumstances the discretion may be exercised and how it is to be exercised. We can lay this down for all courts”, observed Justice Khanwilkar.
“This is an opportunity for this Court to impart gender sensitisation”, reiterated Mr. Venugopal to the top court. “That will be part of our observations! An order can be passed here by us”, replied Justice Khanwilkar.
The matter has now been slated to be heard on November 27, 2020.
The Bench was hearing a plea filed by 9 women lawyers including senior counsel Aparna Bhat and others seeking a stay on the bail condition imposed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court on July 30, in releasing a person, apprehended for outraging the modesty of a woman, provided he visits the house of the complainant and requests her to tie a Rakhi band to him with the promise to protect her to the best of his ability for all times to come.
In their petition filed on September 20, they mentioned that the bail conditions is a “gross trivialization of the trauma suffered by the Complainant in the present case” and that this 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.”
This challenge was heard at the Supreme Court on October 16 before the Bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar and also including Justice B.R. Gavai who had agreed to hold a detailed hearing in the matter after senior advocate Sanjay Parekh, representing the 9 petitioners said the high court’s bail order had trivialised the offence of molestation. The Bench issued a notice to the Attorney General K K Venugopal’s office to assist in this plea and listed the further hearing for November 2, 2020.
On November 2, the 3-judge bench took into account the submissions of the Attorney General that majorly emphasised on imparting gender sensitivity lessons to sitting judges and also judicial aspirants of the country.