Madras High Court: In a contempt petition filed to initiate contempt proceedings against the Inspector of Police, All Woman Police Station, and punish her for willfully disobeying the order passed by Supreme Court in Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar, (2014) 8 SCC 273, the division bench of R. Subramanian and L. Victoria Gowri*, JJ. has issued the following directions:
The Inspector was directed to:
Equip the All-Women Police Stations (‘AWPS’) with a special cell for women for the purpose of ventilating the grievances of adolescent and young women facing harassment in the Society.
Equip the AWPS with a child friendly corner, a room to interrogate juvenile suspects.
Ensure to revive the family counselling unit in her station with a qualified family counsellor, one Social Worker, one female lawyer, a doctor and a female psychologist.
Resume the mobile counselling unit of her police station.
Conduct women empowerment camps in her jurisdiction on every weekend, sensitising the various sections of the Society, maintaining a record of the same.
Conduct family counselling in the family counselling unit of her station in all the matrimonial disputes arising there in each and every case and maintain a register in this regard.
The Court further stands directed the Director General of Police to implement the above said directions in all the AWPS across the State of Tamil Nadu. Such an exercise shall be carried out across the State by the Department of Home, State of Tamil Nadu, as a part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the State Police’s Women’s Wing which is going on in this year of 2023.
In the case at hand, the husband/petitioner and his parents have indulged in heinous domestic violence, dowry demand and abuse against his wife, which prompted the wife to file a case against them. Following which, the Inspector of police with a team of police persons, served notice of appearance under Section 41-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (‘CrPC’) on the husband and his parents and without waiting for them to co-operate, dragged him and his parents to the police station. Thereafter, without conducting proper preliminary enquiry and following the guidelines laid down in Arnesh Kumar (supra) and Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh, 2014 (2) SCC 1 remanded the husband to judicial custody.
Whether the police have committed contempt of Court by disobeying the guidelines of the Supreme Court in Arnesh Kumar (supra)?
Whether this Court has and exercise contempt jurisdiction in respect of Contempts of Court superior to it?
The Court said that the Central Government while taking note of the huge statistics of arrest done mechanically by the various prosecution agencies across the country has incorporated Section 41-A in the CrPC, which made it mandatory that there shall not be any mechanical arrest and remand for offences punishable up to seven years imprisonment and fine. Further, it said that the guidelines in Arnesh Kumar (‘supra’) are binding on the Tamil Nadu Police, and they should act in aid of these guidelines.
The Court noted that in compliance to the aforesaid guidelines, specific checklist as specified under Section 41(1)(b)(ii) CrPC was prepared along with the reasons, which necessitated the arrest, after which the petitioner was produced before the jurisdictional Magistrate. This exercise was done by-passing the specific direction in Arnesh Kumar’s case mandating the investigating officer to serve a notice of appearance in terms of Section 41-A CrPC as extended by the Superintendent of Police of the District, only within two weeks from the date of institution of the case.
The Court noted that, in the present case on receiving a complaint from the de-facto complainant the Inspector had swiftly registered an FIR on the same day and while exercising her duties in discharge of conducting a preliminary enquiry on summoning the accused persons under Section 41-A CrPC, arrested the petitioner on the next day and remanded him to judicial custody.
The Court remarked that AWPS are groomed in this State in the year 1992 with an intention of undoing the indifferences creeping in matrimonial disputes, by strengthening the family system of this country, by acting as a shield to the victims of domestic violence and at the same time being a watchdog against the violence and cruelty inflicted on women, nailing the culprits with the due course of justice. Thus, a balancing task is expected from the officers of the AWPS in ensuring gender sensitisation of the Society, thereby making them a reformatory institution. However, AWPS are reduced to stations of corruption and many times the despicable attitude of arrest first, and then proceed with the harassing of either of the parties, depending on the money, muscle and power of the approaching parties.
The Court expressed its disappointment by stating that an institution which has been introduced with great expectation to contribute towards the comity of society has reduced itself into shameless Kangaroo Courts.
The Court said that AWPS is mandated by the various circulars of the Government of the State to conduct family counselling, gender sensitisation and women empowerment programmes, but none of the family counselling units attached to it are functional today. Though AWPS are equipped with facilities to conduct mobile counselling programmes, still there is no provision of the same. The officers, who are bound to sensitise this Society, themselves act without gender sensitisation, leaning towards the mighty parties approaching them for justice.
The Bench said that the police have acted recklessly by arresting the petitioner by conducting a preliminary enquiry in a namby-pamby style. Further, the Court found it ridiculous to understand how the jurisdictional Magistrate authorised the detention of the petitioner casually, observing that the grounds of arrest, checklist and other records are satisfactory.
Concerning the unconditional apologies in the counter affidavit of the Inspector, the Court took note of Mulk Raj v. State of Punjab, (1972) 3 SCC 839, wherein it was observed that “Unless apology is offered at the earliest opportunity and is offered at a time when the contemnor finds that the Court is going to impose punishment, it ceases to be an apology and it becomes an act of a cringing coward”.
The Court viewed that, though the Inspector had acted hastily, once the Court had issued notice on her, without any delay, voluntarily and spontaneously she gave an unconditional apology in her counter affidavit filed at the earliest point of time.
Thus, the Court though upheld the hasty arrest of the petitioner by the police but was also shocked by the gravity of dowry demand, harassment and cruelty meted out to the de facto complainant.
The Bench further expressed its displeasure about the unethical arrest of the petitioner by the police, exhibiting police arrogance to the extent of violating the directions in the Lalita Kumari case. Hence, it warned the Inspector to not repeat such abominable conduct in the discharge of her duties as a police officer.
The matter will next be taken up on 27-07-2023 for reporting compliance.
[K. Janarthan v. Mrs. Vimala, 2023 SCC OnLine Mad 4187, Order dated 28-06-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For Petitioner: Senior Counsel K.P.S. Palanivel Rajan;
For Contemnor: Additional Advocate General P. Veera Kathiravan;
Additional Public Prosecutor S. Ravi;
Government Advocate P. Veerenthiran.