The troubles endured by three widows last year have reportedly caught notice of Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau, who wrote a letter to Chief Justice G. Rohini, elucidating upon the widespread desecration of law by the Delhi Police on the issue of arrest of women. The women were arrested by the Delhi Police and allegedly tortured by male officers in the police station at night. Both these arrests were made without the permission of a judicial magistrate, as mandated by the CrPC. CrPC necessitates that no woman can be arrested after sunset and before sunrise, and where exceptional circumstances exist, a woman police officer has to obtain permission of the judicial magistrate within whose local jurisdiction the offence is committed or the arrest is to be made.
Judge Lau appealed for the letter to be treated as a Public Interest Litigation and demanded that directions need to be issued to ensure compliance with accepted standards of law. The letter was recently placed before the High Court, in response to which, Delhi Police commissioner B S Bassi appeared before Chief Justice Rohini and guaranteed that action would be taken and an administrative order to this effect issued.
The letter also said that- "As of now the city police appears to be most insensitive to women suspected of committing an offence...there is an institutional hesitation, rather reluctance, to perform (on part of the police). It is this which has prompted me to draw the attention of your lordship, the Chief Justice, Delhi high court to such lapses." It was demanded that prompt action need to be taken, in order to ensure strict compliance with procedural laws.
Several safeguards are put in place with regard to arrest of women, however their implementation is dubious. According to National Human Rights Commission guidelines on arrest, 2008, women police officers should be present as far as possible, where women are arrested. Also, arrest of women between sunset or sunrise should be avoided. Also, body searches of females should only be carried out by women.The Supreme Court in Sheela Barse vs State of Maharashtra held that it is the duty of the police officer making arrest to see that arrested females are segregated from men and kept in female lock-up in the police station. In case there is no separate lock–up, women should be kept in a separate room. According to the proviso to Section 160(1) of the CrPC, Women should not be called to the police station or to any place other than their place of residence for questioning inasmuch as it says that no male person under the age of fifteen or woman shall be required to attend at any place other than the place in which such male person or woman resides. Women should be guarded by female constables/police officers. They must be questioned in the presence of policewomen.
Lau, who holds a doctorate in law, has been a forerunner for reforms within the judiciary. She has been in news before, for using the system to fast-track justice after complex Mirchpur caste violence case was moved her court. She merely took nine months to deliver the verdict and also completed the sentencing nine months later.
She has been brought up imbibed with the letter and spirit of law. The judgments delivered by Lau showcase the cause undertaken by her. In case of a man who was convicted for raping his step daughter, Lau had made a strong case for lawmakers to consider chemical castration as an alternative punishment. She has also suggested the introduction of open jails as a better way to reform criminals and the system of triple talaq as an unsound means of getting a divorce.
In another case, earlier in March this year, Lau, while sentencing a man who was obsessed with his ex-girlfriend and used to stalk her even after her marriage, sought a proper mechanism in the wake of making stalking a non-bailable offence in the aftermath of the December 16, 2012 Delhi gang-rape case. She observed that the decision was hurried with several aspects missed out. She said that- “most unfortunately it was a knee jerk reaction in order to assuage the public anger but in that hurried process certain facets connected with stalking have not been taken care off and there is an urgent need to put in place a mechanism which could take care off several aspects," The act of stalking was instituted as a crime through an ordinance which culminated into an act (Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013).
Even then, the plight of the woman had struck her deep and she had asserted that- "to ensure the safety of the woman there is a desirability of keeping him out of circulation of the society at least till such some time he receives a proper treatment for his stalking behavior".
Judges like Kamini Lau restore the trust that the people lay in the Indian Judiciary and enable them to gaze towards the future with a positive outlook. The cause would hopefully be taken up seriously by the authorities and implemented strictly as soon as possible.
Legal News India, High Court News, Delhi High Court News, Delhi High Court Judgments.