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Dowry judgment would "encourage" Khap Panchayat, kangaroo courts, vigilante justice: Letter to chief justice

By Our Representative
Several women's organisations have strongly protested against the recent Supreme Court judgment expressing concern over disgruntled wives misusing the anti-dowry law against their husbands and in-laws, insisting the judgment is "part of a backward trend that we have noticed" in the recent past.
Especially referring to the apex court direction  to constitute Family Welfare Committees in every district of the country comprising of three civil society members to look into and report on all complaints of Section 498A, with these committees empowered to give report for the police and the court to act, a letter they have sent to the Chief Justice of India says, this is "both manifestly unjust and unfeasible".
The letter emphasizes that the setting up of these committees to enquire into all cases filed under Section 498A IPC "will cause grave injustice to victims of domestic violence and increase the barriers to accessing justice exponentially", calling them "extra-judicial bodies of questionable competence and cannot take over the functioning of the Police.  
"Allowing their functioning akin to allowing decisions to be taken by Kangaroo courts, Khap Panchayat, or other forms of vigilante justice", it adds.
"These committees will form a wall between victims and the justice system and will interfere and impede the course of justice rather than assist it. They are yet another hurdle that victims have to cross before they can even knock at the doors of justice", the letter says.
Seeking a review of the judgment, the letter says, the judgment "completely overlooks the fact that women are daily recipients of harassment for dowry and of domestic violence, which are perpetrated by the husband and by his family, particularly in cases of dowry harassment."
The judgment says, that no arrest or coercive action should be taken on such complaints without ascertaining the veracity of allegations, suggesting that there is a growing trend among women involved in marital discord to abuse Section 498A of IPC to rope in their husbands' relatives — including parents, minor children, siblings and grandparents — in criminal cases."
The apex court bench of Justices A K Goel and UU Lalit said it was high time such frivolous cases which violated the human rights of innocent was checked, widely being interpreted as a shift from the dominant judicial conception of women as victims who would silently suffer injustice rather than bring disrepute to their family by taking domestic conflict outside the four walls of the home.
Those who have signed the letter include representatives from the All India Democratic Women’s Association, All India Women’s Conference, Centre for Struggling Women, Janwadi Mahila Samiti, Joint Women’s Programme, Nari Shakti Manch, National Federation of Indian Women, Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan, Swastika Mahila Samiti, and the Young Women's Christian Association.
Saying that they are "deeply concerned and dismayed" that the entire judgment proceeds are based on the premise that "women are liars and file false cases under Section 498A IPC not only against their husbands, but also against the husband’s family members", the letter citesthe National Family Health Survey-3 data to say that "around one out of every 3 women are victims of mental, physical and verbal domestic violence".
Foreseeing the relevant chapter of the survey for perusal, the letter says, "Our experience of dealing with cases through the years has also shown that domestic violence is perhaps the most pervasive kind of violence against women and deeply affects their health and wellbeing."
Quoting National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) data of 2015, it says, of the 1,13,403 cases of violence under Section 498A IPC filed in that year, of which Charge sheets were filed in 89.4% of cases.
The apex court notes that a “large” number of cases are being filed under Section 498A IPC, accepting the contention that “most of such cases are filed in the heat of the moment over trivial issues.”
To support its position, the court relies upon statistics from NCRB, two of which are from the years 2005 and 2009 show that the police has found a small percentage of the cases to be false on account of “mistake of law or on facts”. In 2005, the percentage was 8.78% and in 2009 it was 7.08%.
The letter underlined that "these percentages in fact show that in an overwhelming majority of cases, a prima facie case of gross domestic violence has been found and charge sheets have been filed", adding, "It is pertinent to mention that there is no comparison made with false reporting of IPC offences in general."
Referring to the apex court quoting "abysmally low" conviction rates of 14.4% in 2012 and 15.6% in 2013", the letter says, "In our experience, the low conviction rate is not at all indicative of whether cases are false. In many cases, investigation is not properly conducted, statements of material witnesses are omitted, and evidence is improperly collected."
Furthermore, says the letter, as much of the domestic violence "occurs in the confines of home and family, convictions under Section 498A IPC are notoriously difficult to achieve. The basic premise on which the judgment was based was therefore wrong."
In fact, says the letter, "it is a constant complaint of victims that the police are insensitive and gender biased, often minimizing the instants of assaults. Most women victims find it extremely difficult to even lodge a complaint. Rampant corruption is yet another problem."
Pointing out that women’s organizations and groups have been demanding strengthening of the law, the letter says, "It is pertinent to note that the court in this case was not assisted by any person or organization working on women’s issues or acquainted with the lived reality of women’s lives."
Also taking exception to the apex court asking the police only to act in cases in which “tangible physical injuries” and “death” takes place, the letter reminds the chief justice, "Mental torture and abuse and infliction of physical violence, which may not be evident, has not been considered by the judgment though S. 498A IPC expressly covers both mental and physical violence."

Comments

Anonymous said…
Its sad to see that even most educated Indians are so uncivilized that they have zero concept of due process and basic human rights which should be afforded to any person accused of crime (like right to bail, fair trial etc.). Its even sadder to see people like Indira Jaising who are supposedly world renowned spouting crazy non-sense. Any civilized world country would want to arrest someone only after verifying and investigating a crime. Every civilized country grants bail to person accused to crime. My guess is that Indira Jaising and other lawyers opposing this measure know the standard best practices of any civilized society. But why are they still opposing this? Because they are fraudsters and have been faking concerns for human rights of aam aadmi (common people). For these charlatans outrage politics is what they live by. Otherwise why will a so called human rights activists propose unchecked tyranny of state power in case of 498a. Hope she and her peers rot in special hell

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