It’s another day, another controversy for the Kerala judge who was slammed for saying a sexual harassment case against social activist Civic Chandran did not stand as the complainant was wearing a “sexually provocative dress”. The Kozhikode sessions court judge, S Krishnakumar, granted anticipatory bail to the 74-year-old social activist and writer on August 12. But, this is not the first time the judge has passed such an order in a case against Chandran, as another controversial order by him regarding applicability of the SC/ST Act came to light on Thursday.
In this case, the complainant had accused Chandran of sexually harassing her. The case was registered under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. In an order dated August 2, the sessions judge granted bail to Chandran in the case saying the offences under this statute would not prima facie stand against him as he was fighting the caste system, and it was highly unlikely that he would touch the body of the woman fully knowing she is of the Scheduled Caste.
“The copy of the SSLC book of the accused shows that he had refused to mention caste name in it. The accused is a reformist and is engaged in fighting against the caste system, writing for a casteless society. It is highly unbelievable that he will touch the body of the victim fully knowing she is of the Scheduled Caste,” the order stated, as published by NDTV.
Chandran has been accused in two sexual harassment cases, one by a writer and belonging to a Scheduled Tribe community, alleging sexual harassment by him during a book exhibition in April. The other was by a young writer, who accused him of sexual harassment during a book exhibition in February 2020. The police had registered cases against Chandran, but had not been able to arrest him as he has been at large since the first case was registered. He was granted anticipatory bail in the first case on August 2.
In the August 12 order, criticism for which has continued to pour in, the judge observed that that the offence under sexual harassment is not prima facie attracted, when the woman was wearing “sexually provocative dress”. The court had observed that the photograph of the complainant, produced by the accused along with the bail application, would explain that she “herself is exposing to dresses which are having some sexual provocative one” and it is impossible to believe that a man aged 74 and physically disabled can forcefully put the complainant on his lap and sexually press her breast.”
National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Rekha Sharma and senior CPI(M) Politburo member Brinda Karat also condemned the judge’s observation. “The observations of the Kozhikode sessions court regarding a complainant’s clothes, while granting bail in a sexual harassment case are extremely unfortunate and @ncwIndia strongly condemns it. The court has overlooked the far reaching consequences of such an order,” Sharma tweeted.
Karat, speaking to the media in Delhi, said, “The higher judiciary should take note of the comment and observations (by the Kerala sessions court) and take the requisite action.”
“Will the higher judiciary take any measures to restore the confidence of women, who are victims of sexual abuse, in the courts?” Kerala women and child development minister Veena George asked, criticising the sessions judge’s order by terming it as “unfortunate”. She added that such orders and observations could lead to the public losing their trust or faith in the judiciary, which should not happen. The order is also anti-women, she said and added that “we should move forwards and not backwards”.
(With PTI inputs)