Important Supreme Court of India And High Court Cases on Rights of Men And Judicial Intervention
The intention behind Criminal Law is to apprehend a criminal and bring him/her to justice. An act of crime is seen as an act of violence against the whole society; as such the State steps in to protect the society from the acts of violence committed by such individuals and punishing them accordingly.
Since time immemorial, owing to different reasons such as Patriarchy and illiteracy, women have been at the receiving end of many crimes. Men have time and again acted in ways which has been detrimental to the freedoms entitled to women. Men have been committing acts of violence against women by enforcing their will over women.
As such most of the criminal legislations have been aimed and framed by keeping the rights and interests of women at the epicentre. Almost every decade, a new law reform is done either in the wake of some controversy or some heinous crime which has been committed against women.
As a result the policies which shape up and are an end result of a massive campaign, turn out to be ineffective and faulty. They are the products of a reactionary movement and as the saying goes ‘hard cases make bad laws’.
In India, there are many legislations and penal provisions which have been specifically laid down for the protection of women from crimes and other acts of violence where the perpetrators are men. Some of them are the Dowry Prohibition Act, Domestic Violence Act, Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace, 2016 etc.
Due to the harsh and stringent provisions which have been enacted for the protection of women, it has come to light that often these penal provisions are invoked by women who are not victims but rather victimise their counterpart by unnecessarily take recourse to these provisions with malafide intentions of either taking revenge or for other vested interests.
There are statistics which show that the conviction rates of men for offences such as Rape, Domestic Violence and Sexual harassment etc. are quite low than the number of cases which are filed. However, it would be wrong to rely on such statistics for arriving at conclusion that a lot of these cases are filed fraudulently by women in order to take advantage of the women friendly provisions, but it does force one to at least give a second thought to the idea behind such a narrative.
There are also instances where the husband has committed suicide due to the extreme torture and harassment faced by him due to the malafide invocation of dowry laws against him and his family members.
The Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System, 2003 headed by Justice Malimath recommended a relook at the provisions of Sec 498 A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. It opined that the offence is non compundable and non-bailable. There are cases where a wife might lodge an FIR under a fit of anger against the husband, and even if she realises her mistake, it causes a marital discord due to the involvement of the police and the husband and his family members have to face victimisation.
The question of gender neutrality in such provisions has often been mooted but no serious work has been done in order to achieve the objective behind the concerns being raised for gender neutral penal provisions. However, the judiciary has taken note of such instances and agreed that there do exist cases where a man is not the oppressor but the oppressed.
1. Sushil Kumar Sharma vs. Union of India, (2005) 6 SCC 281
This is one of the initial few cases which took note of the misuse of the provisions. In this case a Petition was filed by the petitioner before the Supreme Court, wherein he prayed that Sec 489A of the IPC be declared as unconstitutional and also guidelines be issued in the alternative to prevent the misuse of the provision and the unnecessary harassment and victimization of the innocent.
The Supreme Court after going through the provisions of the Section 498A of the IPC and the intention and objective of the Parliament behind passing this law held the provision as constitutional and intravires. However, it did accept that there were cases where the provision was being misused.
The Supreme Court held that just because Section 498A was being saved, it did not mean that a license was being granted to women in order to take disadvantage and misuse the provision.
Observations were also made that due to the misuse of the provision, a new trend of legal terrorism was being created. Directions were given to the Government to come up with a framework that the misuse of the provisions could be checked and unnecessary harassment of the husbands could stop.
It was held that till the time the Parliament did not come up with a Law for the protection of ‘harassed husbands’, the courts would have to operate within the confines of law and aim at eliminating and detecting the false cases.
It was further held by the Supreme Court that the aim of the law and judicial scrutiny is for the discovery of truth. As such no preconceived notions must be made against the accused persons and the courts and the investigating agencies must keep in mind that the presumptions under the law are rebuttable.
2. Rajesh Sharma v The State of Uttar Pradesh, 2017 (8) SCALE 313
In this case, the Supreme Court was again confronted with a plea for issuing directions with regard to the cases relating to the offense of Dowry so that the victimization and harassment of the innocent husbands and their relatives could be stopped.
In this case, the wife was the complainant and she filed a case against the Appellant in this case who was her husband and also the Appellants family members.
She alleged that the Appellants had made demands for dowry and when she was pregnant she was harassed by the appellants and the same also lead to the termination of her pregnancy.
The appellants were summoned by the trial court after it was shown that a prima facie case was made out. The appellants went to the High Court of Allahabad for getting the summons quashed and the same was dismissed by the High Court of Allahabad. Hence the Appellants filed an appeal before the Supreme Court against the order of the High Court.
The Supreme Court recognized and accepted that there was a gross misuse of the Penal provisions which was rampant in the society. It accepted that action had to be taken in order to restore the provisions back to their original objective in light of the human rights of the innocent.
The Supreme Court after carefully considering all the existing circumstances and the core issues at hand laid down several guidelines for screening the cases which were fraudulently filed in an act of vengeance or revenge.
Directions were issued for the constitution of a Family Welfare Committee by the District Legal Services Authority which would comprise of three members. The objective of the committee would be looking into every complaint which is made to the police or the magistrate and it would make a report on the complaint comprising of its views on the initial facts and circumstances.
It was held that none of the accused must be arrested until the time the committee has not placed on record its report. The objective behind the committee was to screen the genuine cases from the frivolous ones thereby granting relief to the individuals who were victims of false and malicious complaints.
It was further directed that the accused persons who are not in the territory be exempted from making personal appearances in the court and their appearances be marked by way of video conferencing.
This was a landmark case since it not only recognized but also attempted to put a measure of checks and balances when dealing with penal provisions which were being misused by some women. However, the guidelines with regard to the Family Welfare Committee were done away by a recent case decided by the Supreme Court in the case of Social Action Forum for Manav Adhikar v. Union of India, Ministry of Law and Justice, 2018 (4) KHC 508 (SC).
Although the effect of the ruling in Rajesh Sharma’s case has been done away with but still it was a paradigm shift in the position and the dialogue of the courts. The ruling has lead to a working of a model for a precautionary measure which can be debated and looked into by the Parliament in order to combat the misuse of the dowry laws.
3. Priya Patel v. State of M.P., AIR 2006 SC 2639
In this case, the Supreme Court was faced with a rather tough question, with regard to the interpretation of Sec 376(2)(g) of the IPC which penalizes Gang Rape(As the section was prior to the 2013 amendment). The section uses the term ‘Whoever’ and it was contested in this case that the section is gender neutral.
It was alleged in this case that a girl was raped by the Accused and his wife instead of helping the victim slapped her, closed the door of the house and went away. It was alleged that the wife too was guilty of being a part of the gang rape and as such, she was also liable to be charged under the penal provisions for Gang Rape.
The High Court of Madhya Pradesh held that there was no problem in the charges framed against the accused/appellant. It was held that although a woman cannot be said to have committed Rape, however, if she facilitates it then she would be liable to be punished for Gang Rape.
Aggrieved by the order of the High Court, an appeal was filed by the appellant wife before the Supreme Court. It was held by the Supreme Court that a woman cannot commit Rape and it would be ‘conceptually inconceivable’. The Court further held that a person who is acting in furtherance of the common object in the act of Gang Rape can be held guilty of the crime, but a woman cannot have that intention. As such a woman won’t be guilty of Gang Rape. Thus the appeal was allowed by the Supreme Court and the charge framed against the Appellant was set aside.
Although this case held that Gang Rape is not a gender-neutral crime, but it still paved a way of discussion and debate around this area. The findings of this case law are being referred to by the Supreme Court while handling cases on the gender neutrality ad every time the Supreme Court says that ‘the time has not yet’ arrived for the law to recognize the gender neutrality.
The task is left open to the Parliament, and it is hoped that the Parliament will take note and address the elephant in the room, that Rape and other Sexual Offences can also take place against a man in situations where the woman is the oppressor and not the victim.
Due to the absence of gender-neutral laws and the stereotypes associated with sexual offenses it becomes hard for a man to come out in the open and share his ordeal with the society, that he was subjected to sexual abuse by a woman.
4. Vishal Arora v. The State (Government of NCT), Bail Application No. 53/2010
In this case a complaint had been filed against the Petitioner by his wife under the provisions of Sec 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. An FIR had been registered against him and as such the Petitioner filed an application for Anticipatory Bail before the Delhi High Court.
The State opposed the bail on the ground that the dowry items had not been returned by the Petitioner and as such his application be rejected, whereas the Petitioner submitted that he had returned all the items and the complaint filed by the wife a false complaint and it was only a matrimonial dispute.
The Ld. Single Judge of the Delhi High Court, after interacting with the wife of the Petitioner came to the conclusion that the instant case was a matrimonial dispute and there was scope of settlement between the two parties. It held that if the Petitioner is arrested and sent to jail, then all the hopes of them coming together would completely extinguish.
Keeping in mind these circumstances the Ld. Judge allowed the application filed by the Petitioner for Anticipatory Bail. The Court further held that if the dowry items were not returned to the wife then the wife can take recourse to other options provided by the law to retrieve the same.
5. Arnesh Kumar v. the State of Bihar, (2014) 8 SCC 273
In this case the Petitioner filed a Special Leave Petition for seeking Anticipatory Bail as his application for the same was rejected by the sessions court and later by the Patna High Court. He apprehended arrest on the ground that his wife had filed a complaint against him under section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Sec 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
His wife had alleged that demands in terms of cash, car, etc. were made and she was also allegedly thrown out of the matrimonial house. The Petitioner refuted these charges and the Supreme Court allowed him the leave.
The Supreme Court also observed that there was a growing tendency of cases where applications for anticipatory bail were being made on account of the increasing number of cases being filed under the category of dowry-related offenses.
The Supreme Court held that the offenses under which the Petitioner had been charged were punishable with an imprisonment of less than 7 years and as such the Police machinery needs to keep note of Sec 41 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1972 (Cr. PC) which prescribes that no arrest shall be made without recording cogent reasons for the arrest.
The Supreme Court issued several guidelines for the Police authorities to keep in mind before effecting the arrest. The Supreme Court directed that the Police will not make an automatic arrest of the accused on a complaint under Sec 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The police officials are to comply with the provisions of Sec 41 of the Cr.PC and also submit reasons if they are making an arrest. When the accused is produced in front of the Magistrate, the Magistrate will go through the reasons cited for the arrest and if he feels satisfied that the reasons are not satisfactory, he will not allow the detention of the accused.
PROMISE TO MARRY
6. Deelip Singh @ Dilip Kumar v. State of Bihar, (2005) SCC 88
In this case, the Appellant had been convicted for an offence under Sec 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC)on the ground that he had obtained the consent of the girl for sexual relations on the false promise of marriage.
The Appellant was convicted for the offense by the trial court and his conviction was affirmed by the Patna High Court. Aggrieved by the same, the Appellant filed an appeal before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court held that in such cases where it is alleged that the accused had obtained the consent on a false pretext of marriage, it would have to be seen that whether the accused when he made the promise of marriage had any intentions of going ahead with the marriage or it was a hoax just in order to gain the consent.
It was held by the Supreme Court that a representation which is made just in order to get the consent without any intentions of marrying the girl, then the consent obtained would be vitiated for the purpose of Sec 376 of the IPC.
It was further held that in cases where the girl gives her consent while being fully conscious of what she is going to do and there was a voluntary participation by her without the influence of any promise for marriage, she can’t claim that the consent had been obtained on the pretext of marriage.
The evidence, in this case, showed that the girl had herself on certain occasions refuted the talks of marriage by citing caste differences, as such the Supreme Court set aside the conviction of the Appellant under Sec 376 of the IPC.