We the undersigned Women’s organizations and groups are shocked to see the press release issued by the Bar Council of India dated 04.03.2021. In this press release you have alleged that “a handful of politicians and some so-called social activists” are feeling elevated by criticizing and making reckless comments. You have also said that such attempts are a direct attack on the independence of the Judiciary. You have accused thousands of women who have critiqued on the CJI’s remarks as motivated people casting aspersions against the judges. You have further threatened that “immediate measures will have to be taken to stop this practice of malicious attack”. Please note that the law of this country gives us the right to criticize the comments made by even highest authorities when these comments are against gender justice for women. It is totally wrong to call our comments motivated or to say that these are malicious attacks through media. The independence of the Judiciary is, in fact, strengthened by taking into consideration comments by women who have been fighting for gender justice and pointing out how sexual violence affects women and traumatizes them. To take the women’s perspective within its fold will strengthen the institution of justice.
The resolution says that comments made by judges not resulting in orders have no legal sanctity, but it fails to understand that the two comments made by the highest judicial authority in our country can influence not only the judiciary as a whole but the public at large. It can also give a fill-up to retrograde elements in our society who think that sexual assault, verbal or physical, can be minimized in this manner and that the law does not punish those who inflict violence in intimate relationships. Your naming of Ms. Brinda Karat and some other individual is totally uncalled for. Please note that whether the victim was under the age of statutory rape or not, the fact is that she was brutally raped 10-12 times. The victim was in fact tied down and gagged on occasions and was even threatened to be burnt by throwing acid which led the victim to try to commit suicide. It is wrong of you to say that the victim gave her consent at any time. An agreement of marriage signed between parents of both parties does not matter. We feel that it is totally wrong for any judge to ask a man who has raped a girl whether he is ready to marry the girl since it not only minimizes the violence and trauma she has undergone but also undermines her dignity. We have stated earlier also that the girl at no time has given her consent and we fail to understand how you have reached such conclusion. We have also stated earlier that we do not agree with the Supreme Court giving four weeks’ protection to the accused in such matter.
In the second case, in our opinion, being a government servant does not matter. The BCI obviously thinks that in the case of the live-in relationship no case of rape can be made out. It has also cast aspersions on the character of the victim in that particular case which is wrong. Whatever the law may be, women’s organizations have been struggling for decades to get recognition for sexual assault within a marriage and live-in relationships and a case is pending before the Hon’ble Court to recognize marital rape as rape. Brutality within intimate relationships is unacceptable. You have also falsely alleged that laws meant to protect women are being misused flagrantly. You are obviously speaking on behalf of men only who raise the cry of misuse when such a case comes up. We request the Bar Council to desist from issuing these intimidatory and threatening public statements against those who are fighting for gender equality and justice and showing sensitivity towards women’s issues.
ALL INDIA ARAGAMI MAHILA SAMITI
ALL INDIA AGRAGAMI MAHILA SANSKRITIK SANGATHAN
ALL INDIA DALIT MAHILA ADHIKAR MANCH
ALL INDIA DEMOCRATIC WOMEN’S ASSOCIATION
ALL INDIA PROGRESSIVE WOMEN’S ASSOCIATION
CENTRE FOR STRUGGLING WOMEN
MUSLIM WOMEN’S FORUM
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF INDIAN WOMEN
PRAGATISHEEL MAHILA SANGATHAN
SWASTIK MAHILA SAMITI