No media gag in CJI case, ₹50 lakh for Gujarat riots victim, age of consent
The 30 April edition of Note This — our weekly round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault
The sexual harassment allegations against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi have opened a can of worms: about the integrity of the Supreme Court, the processes in place to handle complaints about judges, the possibility of ‘fixers’ influencing court decisions, and finally, on whether or not the media should be free to call into question the judiciary.
Another case that was reported widely last week was that of Bilkis Bano. Seventeen years after she was gang-raped and seven of her family members murdered during the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, the Supreme Court has ordered that the state government pay her ₹50 lakh as compensation.
What the West hears about sexual assault in India must change, writes NewsTracker’s Stephanie Butcher. She argues that when the Western media frames gender violence as an ‘Indian problem’, it helps shift focus from rape as a global issue.
Across India: news since last Tuesday
This Monday, the Delhi High Court dismissed a plea by an NGO seeking restrictions on the media’s reporting of the sexual harassment allegations against CJI Ranjan Gogoi by a former member of his staff. The petition claimed that the media should be restrained from “besmirching the image of the CJI” as this could make people “lose faith in the Indian judicial system”, and cause “irreparable” and “vast damage” to the country.
Ever since the CJI story broke on 20 April, the media commentary has been fast and largely furious, particularly regarding Gogoi’s decision to participate in a hearing of his own case.
Many editorials brought up the concept of natural justice. In the Indian Express, Pratap Bhanu Mehta wrote, “CJI’s conduct has sent signal he is above all principles of natural justice”.
Apurva Vishwanath in the Print said, “On harassment charge, CJI Gogoi did what he accused CJI Misra of — betray natural justice,” and threw the spotlight on how the complainant was subjected to “complete vilification”.
On a similar note, Shishir Tripathi in Firstpost wrote, “While safeguarding judicial independence, Supreme Court must also defend principles of natural justice”. Mihira Sood in HuffPost India also made the point that “If SC’s integrity is threatened, it isn’t from allegations Against CJI Gogoi” but from his response to them.
Dhananjay Mahapatra in the Times of India took a different tack in “Difficult time to be a judge in the ‘Cursed Judiciary of India’”. Articulating a defence of Gogoi’s conduct, he asked,“What does a CJI do when faced with such a damaging allegation? Should he let go the only opportunity to vent his anguish, dejection and defence?”
Last week, the Supreme Court directed the Gujarat government to provide a job, accommodation, and a payment of ₹50 lakh as compensation to Bilkis Bano, a Muslim woman who was gang-raped during the 2002 Godhra riots, during which several of her relatives were also killed. Bano had earlier declined the government’s offer of ₹5 lakh.
In “How Bilkis Bano’s lawyer wrested the highest compensation for rape in India,” HuffPost India noted that even this record amount was “insufficient” given the “Gujarat Police’s extraordinary criminality and complicity”.
In the Indian Express, Apoorvanand lauded the Gujarat woman for her courage and said, “Bilkis Bano’s fight for justice, dignity and equality keeps alive the idea of citizenship”.
Harsh Mander in the Print revisited the 2002 riots and the “sadistic” violence it saw, particularly the “use of rape as a form of terror”.
Other major stories
In the Pollachi case, in which a group of men allegedly sexually assaulted and blackmailed scores of women, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed two cases against eight suspects.
Narayan Sai, the son of ‘godman’ and rape convict Asaram Bapu, has been found guilty by a Surat court of sexually assaulting a woman at his father’s ashram between 2002 and 2005.
The Madras High Court has suggested that the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act should be amended to exclude consensual sex with girls above the age of 16. The suggestion has reportedly been “welcomed by legal experts”, although Youth ki Awaaz asks whether Indian teens are sexually aware enough to “deal with the new age of consent”.
In Chandrapur, Maharashtra, a probe has uncovered systematic sexual abuse of minors, some as young as nine, at a hostel for tribal children. The superintendent and deputy superintendent of the hostel have been arrested.
This roundup is curated from the RSS feeds of more than 30 English news publications from across India.
Use our case filter to read reports on specific cases: #MeToo, #KeralaPriest, #RapeOfMinors, #Muzaffarapur, #PoliticsOfRape (use the dropdown menu in column A).
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