Observing that gender-based presumptions in favour of women accused go against the core principles of the criminal justice system, the Delhi High Court has set aside a trial court order and remanded the matter back to it for passing an order on charge afresh.
The high court said the Indian legal system is founded on the principle of gender neutrality where each individual, regardless of their gender, is held accountable for their actions in accordance with law.
The high court made the observations while holding that the trial court committed a “grave error” by discharging female accused on the presumption that when the male accused were already beating the complainant there could have been no occasion for them to instigate the men or join them in beating the alleged victim.
“This court is constrained to note that such differentiation was created by the trial court between the male accused persons’ and the female accused persons’. Such an assumption in favour of a female accused, lacking any substantive basis or valid grounds, goes against the core principles of our justice system, which is predicated on the objective assessment of facts rather than preconceived notions,” Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma said.
The high court said presumptions based on gender have no place in India’s criminal justice framework, unless provided for by law, as they undermine the pursuit of truth and justice.
Each person’s involvement in a criminal act has to be assessed independently, based on the statements recorded and evidence collected by the prosecution, and placed on record before the court for consideration, it said.
The high court was hearing a revision petition by Delhi Police challenging a trial court’s order discharging four women accused in a kidnapping and attempt to murder case on the ground that there was no evidence of them having instigated the men accused in the case who carried weapons.
The trial court had framed charges against the five men in the case.
The high court said discharging the women accused on the basis of assumptions was not permissible at the stage of framing of charge.
“In the absence of any specific reasons for discharging the accused persons at the stage of framing of charge itself, in face of specific allegations against them that they had beaten them with fists and kicks, any such presumption made by the trial court holds no ground.
“This presumption was made by the trial court at the stage of framing of charge, whereas the court’s primary duty at this stage was only to apply its judicial mind and see whether a prima facie case on the basis of material on record was made out against the accused persons or not,” it said.
The high court set aside the trial court’s order about the women accused and remanded the matter back to the trial court for passing an order on charge afresh.
“Registrar General of this court is also directed to forward a copy of this judgment to all the District and Sessions Judges of Delhi who shall ensure the circulation of this judgment among all the judicial officers in their courts. A copy be also forwarded to Director (Academics), Delhi Judicial Academy for taking note of its contents,” it said.