In this Article, Vaibhav Pasi analyses the judgment given by the Supreme Court in the case of Rajesh Sharma V State of UP and highlights the flaws in the reasoning given by the Court.
India has been a strongly patriarchal society because of its cultural and religious factors. For centuries we have followed the social norm where women are considered to be inferior to men in every aspect of life. Though with time, the paternalistic view has diminished to some extent but the ideology of men supremacy is still intact. Women are limited to household work and manage the house and family. Following the same belief, the law which governs us and the related jurisprudence reflects this women subjugation.
Problem of Dowry in Indian Society
Dowry has been the real menace in Indian society. India faces a high rate of deaths of women in dowry-related crimes. The substantial reduction in the risk of physical violence and sexual violence reflects that how husbands are satisfied and show how dowry defines the woman’s position in the house. The reason for this aggression is the fact that patriarchal society supports this kind of violence at home.
Law governing cases of Dowry Death
Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code deals with the violence against married women by their husbands or relative of their husband. Since its inception, the law has been the point of debate in society because of its misuse by some wives. The law is non-compoundable, hence once a person gets accused, the matter can’t be settled outside the court.
Facts of the case
Rajesh Sharma and Sneha Sharma got married on 28th November 2012 and father of Sneha Sharma gave the appellant dowry to his fullest capacity. But appellants were not happy with the amount of dowry and they started abusing the complainant and was daily beaten and exploited by the husband. The appellant then left the complainant Sneha at her home because her pregnancy was terminated. On that, she summoned Rajesh Sharma under IPC sec 498A and 323.
Decision of Session Court and High Court
The session court in its judgment found Rajesh Sharma guilty under section 498A. But later Sneha summoned her parents in law and the brother and sister of the husband. The said petition was accepted by session judge Jaunpur on 3rd July 2014. The appellant then approached the High Court against the order of summoning. Though the matter was referred to mediation center but without any avail. Then the High Court found no ground to support this petition and rejected it.
The Central issue arising, in this case, was to check the constant tendency to rope in all the family members in the crime. It was stated in the petition that Sneha Sharma herself left her matrimonial home and her father in law was a retired government employee and her mother in law was a housewife whereas it was also stated in the petition that her sister in law and brother in law were unmarried government employee and had no interest in demanding the dowry from Sneha. After Rejection of petition in the High Court, appellant then moved to Supreme Court.
Issue involved in the case
The Supreme Court judgment of the case of Rajesh Sharma vs State of Uttar Pradesh comes out with judges prescribing some measures to curb the misuse of the Sec 498A. The judgment after its pronouncement has been the point of criticism from various feminist NGOs and women social activists. The issue, in this case, was whether the family of the accused be also detained in the act and how to save the innocents. Granting of leave to appellant was not an issue but the reasoning given was flawed to some extent.
Flaws in the reasoning of Supreme Court Judgment
Reflection of patriarchy and male values
- The very depressing fact in this case which everyone talks about is the judge instead of looking the ground reality of the law has taken the support of the data to come to his conclusion.
- The judges did not concede even once that the law up to substantial extent has reduced the physical violence and dowry-related crimes
- The judges not even once thought about what are the implication of a diluted dowry law. This belief fuels from a patriarchal Society which upholds men supremacy and power with pride.
- Feminist perspective: How women rationale is subjected inferior to men.
- Feminists will criticise this judgment that it shows how male values are deeply entrenched in our society that still reflects in its every aspect.
- The judgment also talks about how women file the complaint on the trivial issue and lack the ability to foresee the consequences of that act, shows that Women rationality, reasonableness, and other ability are considered to be less than that of men.
- Any woman who tries to protect her rights and fight for her rights is being named as ‘disgruntled’ by the court which goes to show that anything which is different from the ‘malestream’ thinking will be termed as deviant conduct.
- The court also says that family in Indian society is far more important for peace and harmony in society and that implies that a wife and her roles are stated as per male understanding of the word ‘wife’.
- Women are supposed to work for the unity of a family and have to comply with whatever her husband says. That’s the word ‘wife’ deprives women of her natural rights which are pre-existing and every human being is entitled to it.
- The fact judges show in judgment that 30 percent of accused in the cases are mother or sister of husband shows that how women rationality and thinking has also been strongly influenced by the male perspective and they have kind of internalized the dominant male views.
- Though apparently, it seems the judges have stated how a law in practice differs from its precepts and with society always changing there is need to reevaluate the law and take into account the real situation. But this reasoning of the judges is completely flawed as judges without removing the ought spectacle before looking at the law they started criticising the law and how it has created a floodgate for no. of cases.
- The fact that judges only chose to view the National Crime Records Bureau data and did not take into consideration the surveys and analysis of various NGOs and other data goes to show the judges predisposition towards male domination.
- The fact that NCRB data only shows how number of cases are being filed and only 14 percent of them get convicted goes to show the intricacies involved in Indian Judicial processing and the patriarchal nature of society as most of the women out of fear give up and those who still fight termed false may be because of inappropriate police investigation.
- For many women, the daily occurrence of violence and stigmatization has been so normalized that they have internalized these things and they only approach a court when the case is of extreme violence.
The guidelines issued before the arrest.
- Court has constituted a committee and every case related to dowry will go to this committee which gives this committee uncheck power and it can work as a justice dispensation system.
- No arrest will be done until the committee gives its report to the magistrate that shows the justice to the victim will be delayed.
- Committee members who act as a judicial body can be influenced and bribed by accused.
- The judge’s discretion is based on nothing but his/her background and the judgment reflects that background.
- The precedence judges use also reflects their male-dominant view as most of the cases they used is to support their reasoning that 498A is being misused.
What was required for judges, in this case, was to look at more than one source for their reasoning and a positivistic approach was needed in the judgment. Because now the form of the law is diluted it hardly serves the purpose. The struggle and fight of many women activist behind this law are forgotten in favoring male values. The court needed to re-examine the effect and purpose of the law and then judge the case in light of both and relation to each other.
The major problem our judicial system has, is the falling acknowledge and judicial recognition of rights of women. Rajesh Sharma vs State of Uttar Pradesh judgment reflects how justice for women in Indian society is far from realized. The judgment in itself presents the male-centric Indian judiciary which makes women fight hard for their rights. Indian judiciary needs feminization and it needs to protect rights of men and women equally. Instead of taking measure to curb the menace of dowry, judgment has made the situation even worse. Women who raise voice against such violence and protest will fear to protest as they will be either thrown out of their home or the judiciary will render them as a ‘disgruntled’ wife. Thus, the effect and purpose of law should be rechecked by the judiciary and it should do the needful.