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Key Takeaways

  • Death had been caused by a woman running over an elderly couple.
  • The woman who committed the offence was later found to be the sister of the woman who claimed to have committed the crime.
  • They were charged with causing death by negligence and the other woman was charged for misleading the police.
  • The charges should have been framed considering the practicality of the situation and the CCTV footage.
  • The offence should have been under 299 of IPC of Culpable Homicide not amounting to murder.
  • The bail of the woman should not have been granted as the provision itself is discriminatory in nature which allows bail in non-bailable offences if the offender is a woman.
  • There are various laws that are women centric and need to be amended so as to make sure that the fundamental rights of the citizens are not violated.

Introduction

Deepakshi Choudhary was arrested on the charges of causing death by negligence and rash driving. An elderly couple, who were residents of Appu Enclave, was run over by a Baleno. The CCTV footage of the accident has been going viral all over the internet.

The video shows a car hitting the couple and then running over them. A woman comes out of the vehicle and makes a phone call; the identity of the woman is not clear in the video. The police arrived at the spot and the couple was rushed to the hospital where they died of the injuries caused. The woman who claimed to have caused the accident stated “she was thinking about something” but there are suspicions of her talking over mobile when the incident occurred. She was later released on bail.

The elderly couple was identified to be Shanti Swaroop Arora aged 79 and Anjula Arora aged 62 who had gone for a walk when the fatal incident occurred. The bodies of the victims were handed over to the family after the autopsy was conducted for performing the last rites. The victim’s family raised suspicions on the actual driver of the vehicle.

Investigations show the person behind the wheels was not Deepakshi but Nupur Choudhary who is a probationary officer at Canara Bank. Deepakshi had taken the blame for the accident since her sister was working in a government position and also she had a learner’s license and was not accompanied by anyone and also the vehicle was void of ‘L sign’ which is an indicator of the learner’s status of the driver. Nupur would have been charged under Motor Vehicle Act due to non-compliance with the norms of the Act hence in an attempt to save her, Deepakshi took the blame.

Both Deepakshi and Nupur have now been arrested for rash and negligent driving and misleading the police. Investigations are in place to decide any motive behind the act.

Analysis of the Incident with respect to legal provisions

The legal provisions invoked in the case are Section 279 and 304A of the Indian Penal Code. Section 207 prescribes a punishment of imprisonment up to 6 months and fine of Rs. 1000 in case of rash driving by a person in public path. Section 304A provides for Imprisonment of 2 years when a person causes death by negligence.

When the facts of the present case are properly looked into, it can be seen that the death of the couple was caused when the car hit them and the speed of the car was slow and not uncontrollable. When the couple were hit, it would have been possible for the assailant to pull the break which would have caused injuries but would not have led to the death of the victims.

The charges under Section 207 are clearly justified but the question lies on the charges under Section 304A of IPC. When we consider the above mentioned situation, it is not likely that it was just negligence that caused the death of the couple. Had the car been stopped immediately, the lives of the victims could have been saved.

When a car hits and runs over someone it is common sense that it would lead to the death of the person. Only in extremely rare circumstances would a person be alive even after being run over by a car. This attracts Section 299 as the assailant had knowledge that this would likely cause death of the victims. It can also be brought under the Explanation 2 of Section 299 which states that by resorting to proper remedies, the death of the person could have been prevented even if the person has caused bodily injury. If the hand break was pulled, the death could have been prevented.

When the specific case of Nupur driving the vehicle is considered, it can be seen that it is a violation of the rules prescribed by the Motor Vehicles Act which has clear regulations that a person with learner’s license should be accompanied by an experienced driver and also the ‘L signs’ should be pasted on the front and rear of the vehicle; which had clearly not been followed by the assailant.

Powers of Police in Granting Bail

The Police have some powers with respect to granting bail in case of bailable and non-bailable offences. In case of Bailable offences, the powers have been laid down in Section 436 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which specifies that when certain conditions are fulfilled.

1. When the crime committed is not punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years, Life imprisonment or death.
2. When the matter can be reasonably enquired further.
3. When there are reasons to believe the crime has not been committed by the accused.

Until and unless challan is filed in the Court, the police has the power to grant bail.

In case of non-bailable offences, the Section 437 lays down the conditions that need to be fulfilled. Though the offender in bailable offences has a right to claim for bail, the offender in non-bailable offences can claim no such right and it is discretion of the Court.

1. When the offender is a woman or child.
2. When there are not enough evidences.
3. When the FIR is delayed.
4. The accused is in critical health.

The power to grant bail in this case lies only with the officer-in-charge of the Police Station or the Court who is required to mention the special reasons for granting bail.

When the case at hand is considered, the offences charged are bailable, but based on the points discussed above, it is clear that the charges should have been that of non-bailable offence. Though the accused at first who had been granted bail had not committed the act, but this fact was discovered later by the police so for the time being, the first accused was the real culprit.

Also the investigation with regard to motive, if any, is still going on and if the motive is proven to be malice, then the accused should be charged for Murder under Section 300 and not 299.

Gender Bias

The Indian legislation is filled with women centric laws. Given the past instance and the male dominance prevalent in the society, it is not absolutely uncalled for. But the development in the country and the upliftment of women has got to the point of having laws that are gender neutral. When we look into the provisions of many legislations, for example, Domestic Violence Act, 2005 is purely women centric and gives no right to the men to approach the court in case of any violence committed by the woman.

It is not that all women commit crimes nor is it that all men commit crimes and also when looked at the ratio, men committing crimes against women are higher in comparison to women but still there are cases and no recourse for the men.

In cases which are not gender based should not have provisions benefitting to women. Article 14 of the Indian Constitution guarantees equality to all the citizens and general laws being made different for men and women is violation of both Articles 14 and 15.

In the current instance had the act been committed by a man, it is very likely for stringent actions being taken against the man than that were taken against the assailant. This is not just in respect to the reaction of the society but also of the authorities in charge of providing justice to the people.

The provision of CrPC which allows bail to an offender if it is a woman is clearly discriminatory as the death has been caused by a person not by a specific gender. So the punishment should also be for the person not a specific gender. The jurisprudence behind the enactment of the specific clause is though not known but now it is violative of the fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizens of our Country.

Some Other Women Centric Laws that Need Fixing

It is not just the bail provisions but also other legislations that are women centric and it makes is biased in favor of women. It is contradictory to the very base of the legal system.

Maintenance Laws

The maintenance laws in India provide for the man to provide maintenance for his parents, wife and children. Section 125 of CrPC prescribes for maintenance to be provided along with the personal laws of different religions. Where personal laws are applicable to the specific religion, Section 125 can be claimed by anyone irrespective of their religion.

Section 37 of Indian Divorce Act, 1869 lays down that the husband has to pay maintenance to the wife for her life time unless she remarries. The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act of 1936 provides for a Parsi woman to claim a maximum of 1/5th of the income of the man. The Muslim laws provide for maintenance under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 under certain conditions including the return of the Mehr amount. Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 gives the Hindu wife a right to claim maintenance from her husband.

These laws do not have any specification regarding the position of the wife and her financial stability. When a woman is dependent on the husband, it is reasonable to provide for maintenance till she becomes financially stable. If she is independent and does not require any financial support, it is wrong on the part of the wife to claim maintenance.

Also the financial stability of the man needs to be taken into consideration. There are instances where the wife is better off than the husband and yet the husband is liable to pay maintenance. It is purely unfair for the men to be in such a position and yet have to pay for the maintenance of the woman even when she is capable of doing so. It is important to make some changes to this law so that the benefit of both wife and husband is taken into consideration and not just the wife.

Rape Laws

Rape laws in India are recognized under Section 375 of IPC. It specifies that only a man can commit the offence of rape and only against a woman. Prior to the case of Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, Section 377 of IPC had provisions to criminalize carnal intercourse with anyone against the normal course of nature. After the case, Supreme Court held that the provision was unconstitutional to the extent that the provision criminalized consensual intercourse.

The world does not only have one gender and offences are not committed against only women. Under Section 377 at max only the charge of sodomy could be implemented against the offender when there is a case of sexual intercourse against the normal course of nature; which includes men and the LGBTQ community as well.

Though the cases with respect to men and transgender being raped are few in comparison to women but the cases do exist and lack of provisions only let the offender free from getting convicted. The maximum charges that can be filed are under Section 377 only.

It is important to make the rape laws gender neutral so as to enable the criminals getting punished for their crimes. The crime of rape is not to be taken lightly and specifically when it happens with anyone. The gender of the victim should not be a criterion to decide if the offender is to be punished or not.

Sexual Harassment Laws

Section 354 of the IPC is a special provision for women. If any force is used or threatened to use force with the intention to outrage the modesty of woman, it would lead to provoking this section. This is a crime even more serious than criminal force as police has the power to arrest without any warrant. The definition of what would amount to outraging the modesty of woman depends on the circumstances.

The provisions under section 354A of IPC specify what would amount to sexual harassment. The case of Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan was the first ever case which brought into light the sexual harassment faced by women at the workplaces.

These rights are granted to just women. Men and transgender have not been included in this provision. The protection should not only be guaranteed for women. It should include all genders. Having only women in the blanket of protection is discriminatory under the Equality Rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

Criminal Summons

Section 64 of the CrPC prescribes for the summons be made only to the male member of the family when the person who is summoned is not found. The civil procedure does not differentiate between who can receive the summons.

In the case of G. Kavitha v. Union of India the constitutionality of the provision was challenged and the Court held that though the provision cannot be stuck down, it should be considered for maintaining equality before law.

So it is important to understand that the Code of Civil Procedure has the provision of summons being made to any member of the family, male or female, there is no bar on the gender of the member but this bar is prevalent in the case of CrPC. It is not important to make these legislations women centric just to not put pressure of getting involved in the litigation process.

Adoption Laws

According to Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, the male who wants to adopt a child has to be of sound mind and not a minor but also has to have a wife living and who has not renounced the world or is of unsound mind.

A single female has been given the right to adopt a child but not a male. The intention behind adopting a child is always a question in case of men. Even child care centers are unwelcoming of men who want to be single fathers. Also there have been instances where the adoption by a man has been denied stating that a child needs the love and care of both parents. But this would not have been stated had the person been a woman; there would have been no excuse of a child needing both parents, as an excuse for not allowing adoption.

In India the custody of a child is mostly given to the mother with the thinking that the mother is the best care giver for a child. Though the guardianship of the child stays with the father but the custody stays with the mother. The father can get custody if the mother is willing to give up the custody or if she is of unsound mind or immoral character. The mother has to be financially incapable or a convict or that the background of the mother is in dark otherwise the father cannot gain the custody of the child unless the child is above 13 years and willingly states his/her wish to stay with the father.

Adultery Laws

Under Section 497 of IPC, a man is subjected to imprisonment or fine or both if he has intercourse with wife of a man without his consent. But this does not make a liability on the woman. If the woman has intercourse with the man with her consent, even then she is not to be punished.

Adultery can be a ground for divorce but the woman cannot be criminally charged. This biasedness in the legislations between a man and woman is violative of the fundamental rights of the citizens who are entitled to equality.

Conclusion

The case is yet to be brought before the Court and the fate of the culprit is yet to be decided, but considering the legal provisions and the facts of the case, the culprit should not be acquitted with a lesser punishment. Even if the above mentioned points on the act falling under Section 299 are not considered, the accused should be charged with the maximum punishment because it is the matter of lives lost, children orphaned and continuous negligence on the part of the current generation while driving.

The other laws that are also women centric should be amended so as to maintain the equality in the society and not discriminate between offenders due to their gender or even make any laws in specific to favor a specific gender.


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