The Supreme Court sought response from the Union Government on a petition challenging Section 64 of the Code of Criminal Procedure on the ground that the said section discriminated against women by treating female members of a family incapable of accepting summons on behalf of the person summoned.
The Bench of Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli issued notice to the Central government returnable by four weeks.
The Counsel for petitioner Kush Kalra contended that the Civil Procedure Code, enacted in 1908, required the summons to be served on any adult member of the defendant’s family regardless of their gender, which was discriminatory against women.
It termed the CrPC, which was enacted after 65 years of CPC, as being “anarchic and dogmatic”.
As per Section 64 of CrPC, “Where the person summoned cannot, by the exercise of due diligence, be found, the summons may be served by leaving one of the duplicates for him with some adult male member of his family residing with him.”
The plea further contended that CrPC did not consider an adult female member of the family capable and competent to receive summons.
It added that this exclusion of female family members from receiving summons on behalf of the summoned person violated their right to equality guaranteed under Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India, the right to know guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India, and the right to dignity guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
As per the plea, the Madras High Court had disposed of a petition in 2006 titled G. Kavitha vs Union of India, which had challenged the discrimination against women under section 64 CrPC.
The High Court, while observing that uniformity and equality should be maintained in treating both the civil and criminal cases, had rejected the petition on the ground that it dealt with larger questions of law that must be dealt with by the Union Government.
The Ministry of Law and Justice and the Central government had been impleaded as Respondents in this petition. The Union Ministry of Law and Justice had then supported the non-service of summons on females to protect their privacy.
It even justified the non-service of summons on females, keeping in mind Pardanashin females.
The petition contended that the provision further jeopardised the victim’s right to speedy trial guaranteed to him under Article 21 of the Constitution.
It said apart from significantly delaying the proceedings, Section 64 CrPC created hardships for all other relevant stakeholders as well.