Judges should not make “gender biased” and “insensitive” comments in their verdicts while dealing with cases pertaining to women, the Delhi high court said while expunging two such remarks made by a fast track court.
Taking suo motu cognisance of the remarks made by the court’s trial judge ( Additional Sessions Judge Virender Bhatt ) while giving verdict in a rape case, a bench of justices Pradeep Nandrajog and V Kameswar Rao said the observations are “prima-facie insensitive”.
The bench further said that the “sweeping observations” against the girl are “not based on the evidence on record”.
“It is apparent that the remarks, which are general in nature, are not based on the evidence on record, appear to be the result of the experience of the judge… The judge has imparted his personal knowledge pertaining to females in the decision making,” the bench said.
Referring to the judge’s comment that women in the age group of 19-24 years voluntarily elope with their lovers, the bench said the remark is “not based on any empirical data”.
“The passage brings out the dilemma of the women in the Indian society. Caught between her ambition to choose a life partner and the pull of the patriarchal society, women are torn apart between her personal ambition and the patriarchal society. So placed, she has to be treated with sympathy and care and not made the object of ridicule by styling her as a person who is in conflict with herself,” the bench said.
Referring to another observation made by the judge, the bench said, “the second observation is a sermon as to how girls should conduct themselves in society”.
“Every individual is entitled to choose the social life which one wants to lead, and if in the process of choosing the social life which one wants to lead, somebody causes harm, no court can say that: You chose a way of life at your peril and thus the system will not hear your cry,” it added.
“The observations by the judge are prima-facie insensitive observations and are capable of influencing the police to take up women harassment cases lightly, resulting in an insensitive investigation and complete evidence not being brought before the court,” the bench observed.
Taking on record the administrative action against the judge by the Delhi High Court, it said, “Judicial pronouncements which are gender biased may be used as a standard by the police personnel and prosecutors in making decisions how they should investigate and prosecute cases.”
The trial judge in October had made general remarks while dealing with a case filed by a girl against a man, alleging that he had physical relations with her on the false pretext of marriage.
The High Court has also observed that the Judge should be recommended for a Gender Sensitivity Training Course at the Delhi Judicial Academy.
“Girls are morally and socially bound not to indulge in sexual intercourse before a proper marriage, and if they do so, it would be to their peril and they cannot be heard crying later that it was rape,” as per a 19-page order passed by Additional Sessions Judge Virender Bhatt.
Bhatt is the presiding judge at a fast track court in Dwarka, which was established to expedite cases of sexual offences against women. The judge had made the observation while acquitting a man charged with raping the sister-in-law of his brother. He looked into the conduct of the woman and the inconsistencies in her statement to arrive at the conclusion that physical relations between her and the man were based on her “free and well-informed consent”.
The prosecutrix had alleged that the man had promised to marry her and had taken her to Jammu for a week where he had raped her. The judge, however, maintained that the parents of the girl had not filed any complaint when she went missing. After she came back, they even proposed to marry their daughter with him. Based on circumstantial evidence, the judge acquitted the man. The judge also commented on the “disturbing trend” of rape cases.
“The girls in such cases are mostly in the age group of 19 – 24, thus mature enough to understand the consequences of their acts and not so numb to get carried away with any representations of the boy. They voluntarily elope with their lovers… and on return to their homes, they conveniently fabricate the story of kidnap and rape in order to escape harsh treatment from parents. It is these false cases which tend to trivialise the offence of rape and undermine its gravity,” he said.
Judge Bhatt had said, “A girl of this age group, even if belonging to a rural area, cannot be believed to not know how marriage is performed or what the essential ceremonies of a marriage are. I am unable to countenance the argument that a mature girl would consider herself a wife of the person who has merely applied vermilion on her forehead and no other rite or ceremony has been performed.”
DELHI HIGH COURT ORDER