In the matter of “Rajesh Sharma and Ors Vs. the State of Uttar Pradesh”, the Supreme Court on 27th July, said that there will not be a “normal arrest” of the accused without probing the veracity of the complaint. Previously, in a similar case of Arnesh Kumar Vs the State of Bihar in 2014, the Supreme Court, to protect the human rights of the “innocents”, had restrained the police to directly arrest the accused without proper investigation. Taking the purview of the misuse of the section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code, Supreme Court held that a “Family Welfare Committee” will be constituted by District Legal Services Authorities (DLSA) in every district and the complaints received by the police or magistrate will be referred to this committee. The members of this committee will be social workers, the wives of working officials, paralegal volunteers, social workers, and anyone who is willing and competent. The committee is supposed to submit a report of the case to an investigating officer within one month from the date of receipt of the complaint.
According to the data from National Crime Record Bureau (2015), out of all cases registered under section 498A of domestic and sexual violence, only fifteen percent have been reported in which the accused is convicted. This data to some extent shows the misuse of section 498-A by women. But the data does not provide a holistic picture because there may be different reasons for the acquittal of the accused like improper investigation by the investigating officer, some mid-way settlement, threatening the complainant or the witnesses, etc. So, the data itself is neither comprehensive nor conspicuous.
This move by the Supreme Court has been criticised by the women activists groups as containing an ingrained bias that women misuse the law. While according to the data by National Family Health Survey-3 fifty-three percent of the victims of some sort of sexual or physical violence have never gone to the police and out the forty-seven percent who have sought help of the police, only two percent have filed a First Information Report (FIR) while the remaining have just registered it as a Non-cognizable offence.
In this case, the Supreme Court has seen just one side of the coin while the other remains hidden beneath. This judgement also curtails the powers of the police and only after the review by the “Family Welfare Committee”, can police take any action. Thus, this also creates a virtual justice dispensation system.
The fact the entire process of a full one-month review of the case by the committee is also a problem for the victims of serious sexual or domestic violence. This will delay the justice delivery process and can even cause more sabotage. The victim could be pressurised to withdraw or threatened which again questions the very purpose for which section 498-A was added to the Indian Penal Code.
Also, the rate of conviction is low in nearly all the cases so Supreme Court must rethink considering the damage it would cause to the real victim. This judgement opens the scope of further misuse of the law if not by women, then men. As many are already sceptical of the effectiveness of the judgement, it may delve a victim into the labyrinth of a breakdown if justice is not provided at the appropriate time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ASHISH KUMAR YADAV
Ashish is an undergraduate student at Cluster Innovation Centre, University of Delhi. The institution has a Meta College concept and focuses on an interdisciplinary approach. He is the co-founder of two non-profit ventures, one of which deals with education and the other in enhancing scientific communication among the masses. He has done three research projects at Cluster Innovation Centre the first aimed to create a prototype of full-fledged Hindi dictionary and another on the Study of a community’s cultural tradition (Banjara community). The third project was Hafta bazaar aimed to digitalize and study the various weekly markets in Delhi. He is quite ardent in the field of economics and journalism and is intrigued by topics from digital marketing to management, which are reflected in his undergraduate studies. He was also a part of a report published on education.