The Supreme Court today asked a government employee seeking protection from arrest whether he would marry a woman who has accused him of rape.
The top court was hearing the bail request of Mohit Subhash Chavan, a technician with the Maharashtra State Electric Production Company. He has been accused of raping a schoolgirl and faces charges under the severe POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) law.
"If you want to marry we can help you. If not, you lose your job and go to jail. You seduced the girl, raped her," Chief Justice of India SA Bobde told the petitioner's lawyer, who argued that his client could lose his job.
The petitioner told the court his mother had offered marriage when the girl went to the police. But she had reportedly refused. Then a document was drawn up to say a marriage would take place once the girl turned 18. When she did, however, the man refused to marry her. That is when a rape complaint was filed against him, according to a petition filed by Chavan.
In a question that has been commented upon on social media, the Chief Justice asked the accused man: "Will you marry her?"
Chavan's lawyer replied: "Will take instructions." The Chief Justce said: "You should have thought before seducing and raping the young girl. You knew you are a government servant."
The Chief Justice said: "We are not forcing you to marry. Let us know if you will. Otherwise you will say we are forcing you to marry her."
The accused's lawyer said he would reply after consulting with his client.
Later, he told the Supreme Court: "Initially I wanted to marry her. But she refused. Now I cannot as I am already married."
He also said the trial was on and charges were yet to be framed.
"I am a government servant and if I am arrested I will be suspended automatically," he said.
"That's why we have given you this indulgence. We will stay the arrest for four weeks. Then you apply for regular bail," said Chief Justice Bobde.
The trial court had granted Chavan protection from arrest but the High Court had cancelled it.
The Supreme Court said he would not be arrested for four weeks and he could apply for regular bail.
In another instance, a case relating to a matrimonial dispute before the Chief Justice-led bench was sent to mediation between the two sides.
"If you cannot live together gracefully then leave gracefully," the Chief Justice noted.
Recently, another man from Punjab accused of rape caught a reprieve from the Supreme Court on condition that he would marry the woman within six months. He was warned of jail if he broke his promise to marry the woman, who is now in Australia.
But in the case, the man had a relationship with the woman who accused him of rape and cheating after he refused to marry her.