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Misuse of laws for women costs severely

Laws are meant to protect. The allegations have to be true. And nobody should have a complaint of being implicated in false cases. While the premise of the law often is used to its spirit, there are some which are often not used judiciously. It hurts one, damages reputation, and costs billions to the person as well as the employer and the society.

The concern of a Delhi court in terms of a false complaint against a man has raised many questions. On January 28, 2015, additional sessions judge Virender Bhat said women filing false rape complaints should be punished. His observation was in a case against Delhi businessman at the behest of someone who wanted to settle scores with him. Justice Bhat defined the case “as a classic example of how men are being falsely implicated in rape cases to settle personal scores”

Observing that the accused even after his acquittal has to live with the trauma throughout his life, the judge said: “Time has come when the courts should deal firmly with the women filing false rape complaints. These women, who turn out to be tormentors and not the victims, should be punished under the appropriate provisions of law”.

Metropolitan Magistrate Shivani Chauhan dismissed the false complaint of a woman in a dowry case and imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh.

In 2013, the Delhi High Court observed that women were using fabricated rape cases for personal crusade, harassment, extortion and forcing men to marry them. In December, 2014, the Supreme Court also made similar observation.

As many as 31,292 cases of alleged cruelty by husbands and in-laws, filed by women under Section 498A of the IPC between 2011 and 2013, were found false or mistake of fact or law after police investigation, said minister of state for home affairs Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary in the Lok Sabha in July, 2015. Similarly, a total of 1,207 cases of insult to the modesty of women (Section 509 of the IPC) were found untrue after police investigation. The number cases under Section 509 has also increased from 386 in 2011 to 482 in 2013. Chaudhary said ministry of home affairs had issued two advisories to the states to curb misuse of Section 498A of the IPC.

The Delhi Commission of Women in a report in October 2014 revealed that out of 2753 complaints of rape filed between April 2013 and July 2014, only 1287 were found to be genuine.

The menace is spreading. It has extended to government and corporate offices. Lok Sabha was told that 526 cases of sexual harassment cases were reported by women.  They are being investigated.

But in some earlier cases it has been found that the complaints were far from genuine. In one case, a young officer, who had just been recruited was alleged of harassing a woman. Detailed departmental inquiry by a senior woman officer found the married woman was smitten by this youth and the complaint was false.

Many in corporate India, however, say there are no easy answers as the definition of sexual harassment is ever expanding and often ambiguous. Lawyers also cite several cases of false sexual harassment cases where women have been found to take the easy way out to defame a male colleague.

Also, there is huge resentment over the fact that the law in allegations of sexual harassment is biased heavily in favour of the women complainant.

In light of this misuse, Supreme Court former judge KT Thomas, pointed out, “Whenever you make a law very stringent on account of pressures from emotionally surcharged social reactions, there is a real danger of its misuse.”

False accusations, reverse harassment and blackmailing in corporate world or academics are also on the rise. Nonetheless, its seldom that an institute or university acts fast to uncover the truth as happened in a recent case at IIM, Indore, where a nine member Gender Sensitivity Committee (GSC) headed by retired justice of Madhya Pradesh Indrani Dutta found that the complainant – a lady professor – had falsely accused her senior colleague for sexual harassment. Her contract was later terminated.

In a similar case at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia this year, a federal court ordered a woman engineering professor – Dr Qizhi Chen – to pay Aus$ 900,000 for failed sexual harassment case. She had made the complaint after she was accused of poor performance.

Back home, recently four sexual harassment cases examined by Central Administrative Tribunal were found to be false and motivated. This compelled CAT judges KB Suresh and PK Pradhan   to question certain provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 which encouraged biased outcome against men rather than neutral fact finding. Judges were critical of Section 4 and 7 of the Act terming these unconstitutional as it encouraged premeditated bias against men!

National Crime Records Bureau data reveal a dramatic surge in the number of cases being filed under crimes against women category. This should be interpreted as willingness of women to take on violators and perpetrators of crimes against them under the new gender empowerment laws. However, extremely low conviction of 23 percent and increasing number of court observations regarding false and motivated cases being filed against men would suggest that men are becoming victims of systemic abuse by women!

The prosecution is often unable to establish the guilt of the accused. Nonetheless, the fate of men, especially in high profile cases such as Justice AK Ganguly or the ones like Delhi boy Sarvjeet Singh accused of harassment by AAP activist Jasleen Kaur that attracted hyper media attention are sealed as soon as they are proclaimed accused followed by social media ostracization! The male version of incidents is either ignored by media or given fleeting treatment. Discovery of truth becomes a victim of sensationalism. Each case imposes severe expenses on the victim and the official agencies.

Laws in India have undergone a fundamental change to tackle the menace of crime against women and to ensure their safety, security and dignity. Unfortunately, these provisions for an effective shield to women are being abused by some. There has to be a serious dialogue started about protecting the falsely accused, and serious repercussions against anyone found to file false allegations. It calls for review of the gender empowering laws.

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