Thursday, February 29, 2024

Faking It

Increasing cases of men being falsely implicated of rape have shown the need for guidelines for compensation to victims of wrongful prosecution and miscarriage of justice

Recently, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said that nearly 56% of criminal cases against women in his state were concluded as fake during the probe. While commenting on the services of the state police, the chief minister also said that nobody had the right to tarnish Rajasthan’s image in relation to safety of girls and women.

Alleging that Opposition parties had spread rumours about rapes occurring frequently across Rajasthan and that crime rates had increased too, Gehlot asked his critics to refer to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). He said that while the NCRB showed that Rajasthan topped the list in instances of rape, it also listed a “rise in crime” and an “increase in registration of cases by police”. He said criticism should be based on facts and correct data.

Last month, the Special Crime Branch of Goa Police uncovered an inter-state racket involving girls from economically weak backgrounds who were being allured to file false rape cases. Under the pretext of providing escort services, the girls used to contact clients and if they failed to pay, they threatened them with rape. Against some targets, they even managed to get rape FIRs registered.

There are numerous cases of men being falsely accused of rape all over India. In November this year, the Kerala High Court acquitted a father who was in jail for a year and a half for molesting his minor daughter. The FIR was registered on his wife’s complaint, but was found to be false. 

In another case, the Kerala High Court directed the police to take expeditious legal action against a woman for making a false rape complaint against a junior health inspector after having consensual sex with him.

In October this year, a sessions court in Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh convicted a 45-year-old woman for a fake rape complaint and fabricating evidence. The court pronounced her guilty of framing her 33-year-old nephew-in-law in order to seize the property. The punishment was ten years’ rigorous imprisonment.

In June 2023, a Delhi woman and her male friend, who runs an NGO, were arrested on charges of extorting money from at least 12 men after threatening to implicate them in fake rape cases after honey-trapping them on dating apps.

In May 2023, a Delhi court directed the police to file an FIR against a woman who filed a false rape case against her father-in-law. The court came down heavily on her for making a false claim. It all started on October 24, 2019, four years after the incident, when the woman posted a photo of Sarvjeet Singh on Facebook, alleging that he had sexually harassed her. The court dismissed the charges and Singh was held innocent. The woman didn’t appear in court for the hearings despite repeated summons. The post went viral on social media garnering widespread attention.

In March this year, a 22-year-old woman was arrested for falsely accusing two men of gangraping her and extorting Rs 2 lakh from them for withdrawing her complaint. The woman worked as a web designer with a Noida-based private media Management Company.

In 2021, while declining to quash a rape case compromised by the complainant and accused persons, the Delhi High Court said that false claims and allegations of molestation and rape need to be dealt with an iron hand due to the serious nature of the offences. Justice Subramonium Prasad also said that the false allegations of rape have the potential to destroy the life and career of the accused.

Vishnu Tiwari, a UP man, was arrested on September 16, 2000, for rape and atrocities under the SC/ST Act. However, in January 2021, he was pronounced innocent by the Allahabad High Court. 

Then there was the case of a 24-year-Mumbai resident who spent over two years in jail for allegedly repeatedly raping his 16-year-old sister. He was later acquitted by a POCSO court in Dindoshi after the minor said that she had lodged the FIR against him in anger and was tutored by her boyfriend. The girl said that she was upset that her brother was always reprimanding her for going out with her boyfriend and for trying to convince her that he may cheat her.

With so many false rape cases flooding courts, in 2021, a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court seeking directions to the Union of India to reconsider the misuse of laws under Sections 354A-354D, 506, 509, 376, 498A of the IPC and to make gender-neutral laws as these laws were made more than 150 years back. Many were contrary to Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.

According to the petition, the laws discussed in the PIL were made in 1860, 1956, and 1983—an era when women did not really have much of a say in anything. But laws should be dynamic and keep pace with the evolving social milieu. They should be amended from time to time to keep up with the changing times.

In the PIL, the petitioners highlighted the case of a Lucknow girl who was seen slapping a cab driver in a brutal manner just to gain publicity. Similarly, two sisters in Rohtak had beaten three boys with belts accusing them of harassing them. But it was just a ploy to gain popularity and when the truth came out, the boys were all acquitted by the court on March 3, 2017, but their life, honour and dignity were ruined in the eyes of society.

In the same year, a plea was filed in the Supreme Court seeking directions to the centre to frame guidelines for payment of compensation to victims of wrongful prosecution and to implement the recommendations of Law Commission Report No 277 on miscarriage of justice. The petitioner highlighted laws of various countries which comprehensively dealt with miscarriage of justice and provided compensation to the victims of wrongful conviction. He said that the UK had incorporated the obligation of Article 14(6) of ICCPR into its domestic legislation—Criminal Justice Act 1988—under Part XI subtitled “Miscarriages of Justice”. Sections 133, 133A and 133B provide compensation to a person who has suffered punishment due to wrongful conviction. Section 88 of the UK Police Act, 1996, deals with “Liability for wrongful acts of constables” and vicarious liability of the State for tortuous acts of the police.

The Supreme Court bench of Justices BR Gavai and JB Pardiwala said that while rape causes the greatest distress and humiliation to a victim, a false allegation can cause equal distress, humiliation and damage to the accused and he must be protected against such implication. 

—By Shivam Sharma and India Legal Bureau


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