Aparna Bhat
Aparna Bhat

Comments of Karnataka HC Judge on conduct of rape victim is "misogyny at worst", SC Lawyer in Open Letter to CJI and Woman Judges

Bhat has urged the Supreme Court to intervene and issue an advisory to the effect of discouraging such comments about victims of sexual violence by High Courts and lower courts.

Debayan Roy

In an open letter to the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Supreme Court judges, Justices R Banumathi, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee, Advocate Aparna Bhat has urged the Court to issue an advisory to all High Courts and subordinate courts to refrain from commenting on the conduct of victims of sexual violence.

The trigger for the letter is the recent Karnataka High Court order granting anticipatory bail to a rape accused expressing its reservations about the genuineness of the complainant’s case.

The High Court had observed that her explanation that “after the perpetration of the act she was tired and fell asleep" is "unbecoming of an Indian woman.”

In the order, Justice Krishna S Dixit found it difficult to believe that the complainant was subjected to rape on the false promise of marriage “in the given circumstances of the case.”

Bhat, in her letter states that sheis aware that she is "breaking the protocol" in writing the letter. However, she has questioned whether "there exists a protocol for rape victims to follow post the incident which is written in the law that I am not aware of?"

"Are “Indian women” an exclusive class who have unmatched standards post being violated? Who are “our women”?" Advocate Bhat writes in her open letter."

reads the open letter.

The lawyer, who has closely dealt with rape cases, mentions that adult women who accuse men of sexual violence and with whom they have been in a relationship in the past, "rarely get empathy from the system."

Bhat states that the opinions of Justice Dixit "reflect misogyny at its worst and since it is from a judge of a Constitutional court, not condemning it will amount to condoning."

Elaborating on how the observation could impact proceedings in courts subordinate to the High Court, Bhat states that "disparaging comments are made casually about the conduct of the victims" often in Mofussil (lower) courts when they are examined in the court in the course of a criminal trial.

"While one shudders each time this is encountered and beseeches the judge concerned to censure such conduct, what can one do when superior courts exercising supervisory jurisdiction over these courts exhibit these neanderthal opinions about women?"

says Bhat in her letter.

Bhat has now urged the top Court to intervene and issue an advisory to the effect of discouraging such comments about victims of sexual violence by High Courts and lower courts.

"Intervene and issue an advisory to all the High Courts and the subordinate courts in the Country to refrain from commenting on the conduct of the victims, exercise restraint to ensure that their judgements do not reflect stereotypical notions that one may nurse about women, shun misogyny and strive towards enhancing the dignity of women while preserving the sanctity of the judiciary, " urges Advocate Bhat.


Aparna Bhat open letter to CJI (1).pdf

On a related note, another open letter has also been addressed to Justice Dixit by a collective of activists, individuals and groups, urging the Karnataka High Court judge to self-correct the controversial bail order, asserting that, "we cannot accept when judicial officers abandon their role as Judges with constitutional obligation and responsibilities but instead express opinions that justify the worst of patriarchal norms and practices."

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