Monday, February 6, 2023

Supreme Court sets aside Madhya Pradesh HC order directing accused to tie Rakhi as bail condition

The Bench also issued guidelines to be followed by lower courts while dealing with bail petitions in matters relating to crimes against women.

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The Supreme Court on Thursday set aside the bail order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court where it had directed an accused for “outraging the modesty” of his woman neighbour, to visit her house with a box of sweets and ask her to tie a rakhi, to promise her that he would protect her in future.

A two-judge bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and S. Ravindra Bhat issued directions that the judicial academy should develop a gender sensitization module for judges, lawyers, and public prosecutors.

The judgment was rendered on a petition by Supreme Court advocate Aparna Bhat and eight other women lawyers challenging a July 2020 order of the High Court. The Apex Court last year on December 2 had reserved its order after hearing a petition filed by a group of women lawyers seeking directions from the Apex Court against orders which trivialize heinous crimes such as sexual harassment of women and children.

The women lawyers’ plea stated that such orders objectify women and grossly trivialize the trauma suffered by them. They argued that asking the accused to visit the house of the victim and ask her to tie a Rakhi around his wrist with the promise to protect her resulted in further victimization of the woman in her own house.

The lawyers, in their petition, further said no such condition normalizing a henious crime should be made. The petition added that such conditions encourage compromise. It further submitted that judiciary should refrain from making observations/conditions which note that the best option before the victim is to marry the accused. The petition also cited various instances wherein courts had imposed strange conditions while granting the bail to the accused trivializing heinous crimes.

During the hearing, the bench said they had read the submissions made by Attorney General K.K. Venugopal. The AG had submitted that states are recruiting lawyers who are just graduates. He said this will be an opportunity to sensitize them in order to deal with cases of this nature in a better manner. He added that cases mentioned by Bhat in her petition should be read by the judges. During the hearing, Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh said that what the AG has submitted is really important with respect to stereotypes. The top court had reserved its order in the case following observations by the AG and team of lawyers.

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