Critics who say India's judicial system isn't up to the task of handling rape cases are pointing to comments from the nation's top judge as a prime example. While addressing a 23-year-old man accused of raping and threatening to burn a 16-year-old girl to death, the chief justice of the supreme court said: “If you want to marry (her), we can help you. If not, you lose your job and go to jail," reports Al Jazeera. The comments by Chief Justice Sharad Bobde have led to a petition signed by more than 5,000 people demanding that he retract his statement and apologize, per the BBC. The letter also points to comments Bobde made in another recent case in which he asked, “When two people are living as husband and wife, however brutal the husband is, can you call sexual intercourse between them ‘rape?'" per the Hindu.
In regard to the first case, the petition asserts that "by suggesting that this rapist marry the victim-survivor, you, the Chief Justice of India, sought to condemn the victim-survivor to a lifetime of rape at the hands of the tormentor." The BBC adds some context, reporting that the girl's family initially agreed not to press charges because the accused agreed to marry her when she turned 18. He then reportedly backtracked. Such pacts are known to emerge in rural communities, though recent court rulings have made clear that marriage cannot be used a resolution in rape cases. The judge's comments "will send a message to the rapists that marriage is a license to rape, and that by obtaining such a license, the rapist can post facto decriminalize and legalize his act," says the petition. The judge has not responded to the criticism. (Read more India stories.)