National Crime Records Bureau has released crime statistics for year 2020. It is important to note that the country was under a lockdown for several months due to Covid -19 Pandemic in 2020. The organization releases data on crime against women separately.
There are several sections of Indian Penal Code that consider only women as victims and a man as perpetrator. That several of these sections are regularly misused is a common knowledge now. Here’s an analysis of some of those sections that have particularly become a tool of revenge, extortion and destruction of lives of thousands of men and their families.
IPC 498A – Cruelty by Husband and Relatives
Passed in 1983 to punish dowry demands and mental cruelty to a married woman, section 498A of IPC has instead been known to be one of the most abused sections under Indian Penal Code. For years, the conviction rate of this section has been lowest amongst all sections of IPC except petty crimes like theft and hurt. The misuse of this provision has been so much that in 2005, Supreme Court of India compared it to Legal Terrorism.
In 2014, Supreme Court delved deep into the issue and passed guidelines for Police to follow before making any arrests under 498A. In the immediate aftermaths of this judgment called the Arnesh Kumar Judgment, the number of 498A cases registered in India went down and the number of arrests in such cases also went down by a good margin. Police was now bound to issue summons to accused to join investigation under CrPC 41A unlike before where they could immediately arrest entire families on registration of FIR. This brought some respite to victims of misuse of this section.
In 2017, in Rajesh Sharma Judgment, Supreme Court directed formation of family welfare committees to look into these cases owing to widespread abuse and passed various other guidelines to curb multiple litigation, harassment of senior citizen parents of the husband and more. It was a well-meaning judgment but feminists outraged against it and eventually part of the judgment was reversed in 2018 by larger bench of the Supreme Court. Even though the court did not reverse any protective measures granted against immediate arrest, media as we all know went berserk reporting that immediate arrests under 498A was once again allowed.
Since then, in a lot of States the police are not heeding to Supreme Court guidelines and making immediate arrests under this charge.
A total of 111,549 cases were registered under 498A in 2020. Of these, 5,520 were closed by Police citing as false and overall 16151 cases were closed by police either because they were false or there was a mistake of fact or law or it was a civil dispute etc. That is 14.4% of cases were closed by police for not finding merit in the case. 96,497 men, 23,809 women were arrested under 498A last year making total arrests under this section 120,306.
18,967 cases were tried in courts of which 14,340 led to acquittal and 3,425 led to conviction. 498A cases pending trial at the end of 2020 are 651,404 with a pendency percentage of 96.2%
IPC 376 – Rape
There were 28,046 rape cases registered in India in 2020. Of these, 3,375 were closed by Police citing as false and overall 5,015 cases were closed by police either because they were false or there was a mistake of fact or law or it was a civil dispute etc. That is 17% of rape cases were closed by police for not finding merit in the case. 31,103 men, 1,507 women were arrested under Rape charges last year making total arrests under this section 32,610.
9,713 cases were tried in courts of which 5,403 led to acquittal and 3,814 led to conviction making the conviction rate as 39%.
Rape cases pending trial at the end of 2020 are 159,660 which was 145,865 in 2019. Pendency percentage of rape cases in India by end of 2020 is 94.2%.
This despite the criminal law amendment 2013 bill asking for rape cases to be tried in fast-track courts and day to day hearings.
Rape on Pretext of Marriage
Number of rape cases registered under pretext of marriage by a friend or a live-in partner combined with cases filed against separated husband in 2020 are 10,751 which is 38% of the total reported cases in India. This number was 16,311 out of 32,033 i.e 51% of reported rape cases in 2019 and 12,568 out of 33,356 i.e 37.6% of reported rape cases in 2018.
Rape on pretext of marriage are cases where the man has sexual relationship with a woman allegedly on promise of marriage but later on refuses to get married to her. This bifurcation can be found under the table “Offender’s relation to victim of Rape.” In 95.6% of rape cases registered in India, the offender was known to the victim. Rape by a stranger or an unknown was perpetrated in 4.4% cases.
IPC 354 – Assault on Women with Intent to Outrage her Modesty
After IPC 498A, this section contributes maximum to statistics of crime against women in India. Section 354 criminalizes stalking, molestation, sexual harassment, eve-teasing, inappropriate words or gestures said to a woman and more under various sub sections of this charge.
There were 85,392 cases registered in India in 2020 under this section. Of these, 5,821 were closed by Police citing as false and overall 12,426 cases were closed by police either because they were false or there was a mistake of fact or law or it was a civil dispute etc. That is 14.5% of these cases were closed by police for not finding merit in the case. 89,498 men, 5,329 women were arrested under this section last year making total arrests under this section 94,827.
20,182 cases were tried in courts of which 13,649 led to acquittal and 5,629 led to conviction making the conviction rate 28%.
Kidnapping & Abduction
A glaring data that caught my attention while analysing NCRB stats was that of the charge of kidnapping and abduction of women. Out of 62,300 cases reported in 2020, Police closed a whopping 37,897 (60%) cases filing a final report in the same. Out of these, 9,247 were declared false by police and 18,878 closed as mistake of fact or law or civil dispute. Closure of more than 60% of the cases by police under this section paints another sorry picture on how such serious charges are frivolously filed by people.
There have been researches that have found that such charges along with rape charge are frequently used in cases of elopement of teenage couples or even adult couples where the girls family charges the boy with rape, kidnapping and abduction even if the girl goes along with the boy with her own consent. Our juvenile homes have many young boys facing such charges only for the crime of being in love with a girl. This section alone with charge sheeting rate of just 38.6% drops the charge sheeting rate of all crimes against women which is usually above 85% in most sections. The conviction rate under this section is also abysmal.
Almost all sections under Indian Penal Code that deal with Crime Against Women are non-compoundable which means that these cases can not be closed by the parties on basis of a mutual compromise between the accused and the complainant. The idea is that these crimes not only impact an individual but also the society at large and these crimes are so serious in nature that the accused can not go scot free because of a compromise. But law on paper and law in reality is different.
Today, even rape cases are being compromised where the woman withdraws her testimony and courts are allowing it to happen without any consequence to the complainant. The official data on the same under section 498A and 376 is as follows:
- Number of 498A cases compounded or compromised during 2020: 5640
- Number of rape cases compounded or compromised during 2020: 103
Question arises when these offences are considered so serious in nature then how are courts entertaining compromises? It is to anyone’s knowledge that such compromises mostly are monetary in nature where the complainant demands money from the accused and cases are closed after desired money is paid. It’s the most common occurrence in 498A cases that the wife takes back the cases after husband accepts to give her a huge alimony, no matter how short the marriage was.
Crimes against women is a serious concern in a country like India where we hear of unimaginable crimes perpetrated against women every day. Laws have been toughened to extreme in order to punish perpetrators in such case. Police is already short staffed and judiciary overburdened. In such a case if abuse of laws is not contained, it not only destroys lives of innocent people, it also causes great harm to genuine victims of such crimes.
With the new Law Minister in charge, we hope gender-based laws that are being blatantly abused today will have some check and innocent lives won’t be destroyed. In 21st Century, citizens of this country deserve at least that – a fair and quick justice.
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