Hitting out at the Bar Council of India for its support to the Chief Justice of India over his remarks while hearing a case where he asked a rape accused if he was willing to marry the victim, CPI(M) politburo member Brinda Karat said the issues raised in the resolution of the BCI have wider implications for the struggle for justice.
The left leader said she will not respond to the "petty, personal allegations" made against her in the resolution, adding that she believed that her work in the field of women's rights should speak for itself.
Karat had earlier lashed out at CJI S A Bobde over comments made during the hearing of a plea filed by a public servant, who is accused of repeatedly raping a girl, against the Bombay High Court February 5 order which had cancelled his anticipatory bail.
"In this context, the role of the Bar Council, a statutory body requires examination. The resolution mentions my letter to the Chief Justice regarding certain comments he made in the open court which were widely reported in the press. "Nowhere does the resolution contradict the reports, in other words, there is no dispute that such comments were indeed made. Whether or not the comments form part of the judgement is immaterial. The fact that such comments were made and reported have their own impact on society at large," she said in her response to the BCI.
Coming in support of the Supreme Court, the Bar Council of India on Thursday asked activists, who wrote to Chief Justice S A Bobde urging him to withdraw remarks made in a rape case, not to "scandalise" the highest judiciary and take "political mileage" of its proceedings.
The apex bar body, in a resolution adopted during a meeting, termed the letter written by Brinda Karat to CJI Bobde as a "malicious attack" on the judiciary and said the freedom of speech and expression cannot be stretched to the extent of "maligning and weakening" the institution.
Karat said, "Comments made by higher authorities such as those made in the present case asking a rape accused whether he would marry his victim, have a most damaging impact on victims of crimes and in this case tend to dilute the enormity of a crime against a minor." "Comments may not have legal sanctity but certainly provide legitimacy to retrograde social approaches, which I have mentioned in my letter. In fact the Bar Council, if indeed it wanted to react, should have upheld the best judicial practices and standards and taken up the negative impact of such comments, with the court concerned," she said.
The Left leader also said that while the bar council speaks of a "written agreement" between the parents of the rapist and the minor girl, she asked if there is anything legal about such an agreement. "Is the Bar Council not aware that the girl tried to commit suicide? Is the Bar Council not aware that the girl refused the marriage offer? And also most importantly if such an agreement was made on behalf of the girl when she was a minor, once she became an adult is it not the bounden duty of the Court to ask her opinion first, before asking the rapist if he would marry her? "It is indeed distressing that the Bar Council resolution does not at all show any sensitivity whatsoever to the minor victim," she said.
Karat also said that it requires examination why a council of such senior lawyers should not see the necessity of judicial processes, more so in cases of rape of a minor, to put the interests of the victim, not the perpetrator, at the centre of the process for justice. She said while the Bar Council has described her letter to the CJI and its reporting in the media as "acts of gross contempt", the resolution also states that immediate measures must be taken to stop this practice of malicious attack, she meant neither malice nor contempt.
"On the contrary, some of the words in the Council's resolution may be taken as intimidation. I doubt very much if such intimidation and threats against an individual/s are within the mandate of the Bar Council. I reiterate the contents of my letter," she said.