Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: The Bench of Ahsanuddin Amanullah, J. quashed criminal proceedings against relatives of a man accused of torturing his wife and demanding dowry from her, holding that allegations against them were of general nature and as such, allowing proceedings against them to continue would amount to abusing the process of the Court.

The instant proceedings arose under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 seeking quashing of a complaint case whereunder cognizance was taken against petitioner/husband under Section 498-A of the Penal Code, 1860 for demanding dowry and torture. Primary argument advanced on behalf of the opposite party 2/ wife was that her husband had remarried and was staying with two other wives at Mumbai and that he was refusing to accept her and her two sons without payment of Rs. 5 lakhs for purchase of a kholi.

Learned counsel for the petitioners Mr Uday Kumar submitted that they were the husband’s brothers and his sisters-in-law, who had nothing to do with the matrimonial discord between the parties. It was submitted that they had no objection if opposite party no. 2 and her two sons reside in the matrimonial/ancestral home of the husband.

The Court took note of judgment in Preeti Gupta v. State of Jharkhand, (2010) 7 SCC 667, where it was held that allegations against husband’s relatives must be scrutinized with great care and circumspection. It was observed that allegations against petitioners were general and omnibus in nature. Admittedly, the main grievance of the wife was against the husband.

It was opined that since the petitioners had taken a categorical stand to give sufficient place/space to the opposite party  2, as per share of her husband, in the ancestral/ matrimonial home, therefore letting the criminal proceeding against them to continue would be an abuse of the process of the Court. Accordingly, the application was allowed.[Bablu Khan v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 386, decided on 27-03-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Orissa High Court: The Bench of Akshaya Kumar Mishra, J. acquitted the accused by setting aside the order of the Sessions Court since the allegation of dowry or violence were not proven and were vague.

The facts of the case are that the deceased had married the petitioner in 1997 and after a few days he started demanding for cash, T.V., cycle and for the inability to give those articles, the deceased returned to her father’s house and lodged written FIR. Based upon the testimony of the victim, the demand was found to have been proved. A concurrent verdict was passed in 1999 by the Addl. Sessions Judge dismissing the appeal against the judgment given in 1998 passed by the SDJM. However, the deceased had filed an affidavit in pursuance of the order stating that she was staying with her husband and both of them was blessed with two female children. In today’s date, the children are well settled and are living with their father peacefully.

The Court while setting aside the order passed by the Addl. Sessions Judge, held that there was no clinching evidence to hold the accused persons guilty for the reason that the allegation of torture was not specific and demand of dowry was not commensurate to the common man life. [Raibu v. State Of Orissa, 2019 SCC OnLine Ori 28, Order dated 24-01-2019]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC): The NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports that a 14 year old girl was detained at a police chowki and a police station in Noida for eight days. She was beaten, burnt with cigarettes and electrocuted there. Reportedly, the girl, a domestic help, was detained after her employer accused her of theft.

The Commission has observed that the contents of the media reports, if true, indicate cruelty of the police personnel for which the deserve exemplary punishment so that a message could be given that such inhuman acts by a public servant cannot be accepted at any cost. The law does not empower the police personnel to humiliate and harm the innocent citizens. Accordingly, it has issued a notice to the Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh, calling for detailed report in the matter within 4 weeks. He is also expected to send the report about the steps taken for counselling/ rehabilitation of the victim.

According to the media report carried today on 31st May, 2018, the family members of the victim girl have stated that she was detained by the police on the 14th May, 2018, at Salarpur police Chowki, where she remained till 16th May, 2018. They were not allowed to meet her and she was released on the 16th May, 2018. The police again picked up the girl, the next day and this time her 17 year old brother was also taken into custody. Both of them were finally released in the night of the 22nd May, 2018, following the intervention by an NGO, Bachpan Bachao Andolan and an order from the Child Welfare Committee (CWC).

Reportedly, the CWC, on the 23rd May, 2018, also ordered a medical examination of the girl. The medico legal case report has revealed discoloured “brown-shaped circular discolorations” near her left and right wrists linking these to burnt marks. The report also mentions abrasions on the right forearm near the elbow and three discoloured abrasions on both wrists. The report specifically clarified that all injuries are more than 10 days old, caused by hard and blunt object.

The SHO of Police Station Sector-39, Noida has, reportedly, denied the allegations of illegal detention and torture. He has also claimed that the girl was not a minor. The MLC however, confirms that the girl is a minor. On a complaint filed by the NGO, the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has sought a report from the Senior Superintendent of Police, Noida through Noida District Legal Services Authority. As mentioned in the news report, the girl has alleged that the employer himself came to their house and demanded that she work as their domestic help and when she protested, he took away her on his scooter in front of the neighbours.

National Human Rights Commission

Case BriefsForeign Courts

High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division  (England and Wales): Recently before the High Court, the statutory guidance,  ‘Adults at Risk in Immigration Detention’ issued under Immigration Act, 2016 was in question. This Guidance came into force in September 2016, in accordance with the Immigration (Guidance on Detention of Vulnerable Persons) Regulations.

The charity Medical Justice alleged that the government had adopted an extremely and unreasonably narrow definition of ‘torture’ in policy changes made last year in September relating to Article 1 of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT). It was argued by petitioners that the new definition (impugned) had led to many detainees including the victims of human trafficking as not to be recognized as victims of torture. It was contended that the change in policy did not comply with the Government’s public sector equality duty under the Equality Act 2010.

Out of the seven claimants, two of whom were women submitted that they suffered severe ill-treatment at the hands of persons who were not state agents and were subjected to sexual violence, rape and human trafficking for sexual exploitation. After the new policy came into operation, both had fallen outside the definition of torture and were no more protected from detention. The counsel apprised the Court of the fact that the rest of the claimants also fell out of the new definition and these individuals had been seriously ill-treated by drug traffickers or because of their race, religion, or being homosexual or members of an ethnic minority. Counsel Ms. Harrison told the Court that torture did not only occur in police stations or by the state security forces, but also “in your own home or in hotels”.

On the other hand, counsel on behalf of Home Office Home Office submitted that it was not correct to suggest that its “adults-at-risk” policy excluded victims of torture who fell outside the UNCAT definition. It was contented  that it included those who had experienced any kind of traumatic event, of which torture is a part or example and likely to make them vulnerable, if placed in detention.

Justice Ouseley observed that the ‘chief problem’ with the UNCAT definition “is that it excludes certain individuals whose experiences of the infliction of severe pain and suffering may indeed make them particularly vulnerable to harm in detention”. Finally, he concluded and held that AARSG had fallen short of meeting the statutory purpose which it was required to meet on the basis that there were some, excluded from the scope of ‘Uncat torture’ and who would not fall under any other indicator but were still vulnerable to detention. [Medical Justice v. Secretary of State for Home Department, [2017] EWHC 2461 (Admin), decided on 10th October, 2017]