[Gender Neutrality] Delhi High Court sets aside order discharging female accused persons without any reasonable basis

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Delhi High Court: A criminal revision petition was filed under Sections 397, 401 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC) on behalf of petitioner/State seeking to set aside the impugned order dated 06-09-2019 passed by the Trial Court in FIR registered under Sections 147, 148, 149, 323, 341, 307, 365 and 114 of Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’) and Section 27 of Arms Act, 1959 filed at Police Station Nand Nagri, Delhi. Swarana Kanta Sharma, J., sets aside the impugned order and held that in the absence of any specific reasons for discharging the accused persons at the stage of framing of charge itself, in face of specific allegations against them, any such presumption made by the Trial Court holds no ground.

An FIR was registered on 30-06-2015, on the statement of the complainant, who had stated that one person was murdered three months ago and thereafter, his paternal grandfather, and three uncles had been in judicial custody in that murder case. The complainant had alleged that relatives of the deceased, being the accused persons herein, had forcefully apprehended the complainant and had physically assaulted him to seek revenge for the murder. During the altercation, one of the accused opened fire into the air, after which, someone contacted the police, and the complainant was taken to the hospital. The police officials had found bloodstains, drag marks, an empty cartridge, and a bullet at the spot of incident.

After completion of the investigation, the chargesheet was filed against all the accused persons under Sections 147, 148, 149, 323, 341, 307, 365 and 114 of IPC. The Trial Court vide impugned order dated 06-09-2019 had framed charges under Sections 307 and 34 of IPC against male accused persons, however female accused persons were discharged on the ground that there is no evidence for the female accused persons instigating the male accused persons as the male accused persons were already armed with different weapons.

The Court noted that the complainant had specifically stated that on the day of incident, when the accused male persons were beating him, the co-accused female persons/respondents had joined them and had instigated the other accused to kill him. It was further specifically stated that thereafter, the respondents had themselves given beatings to the complainant through kicks and fists.

The Court further noted that the Trial Court is completely silent about the reasons for the discharge of the female accused persons/respondents except that the allegations of instigating the other accused persons and beating the victim “does not appear likely” and that “there was no requirement on their part to do so, when the other male members were already acting as per their wishes” are pure assumption without basis. A dividing line seems to have been drawn by the Trial Court only with one line where it holds that “males” were beating others at their instigation therefore, “females” could not have participated in assault though, there are specific allegations of beating against them in the complaint.

The Court opined that the Trial Court committed a grave error by discharging the accused persons on the basis of assumptions that were not permissible at the stage of framing of charge. Such an assumption in favour of a female accused, lacking any substantive basis or valid grounds, goes against the core principles of our justice system, which is predicated on the objective assessment of facts rather than preconceived notions. Our legal system is founded on the principle of gender neutrality, unless otherwise provided, where each individual, regardless of their gender, is held accountable for their actions in accordance with the law. Presumptions based on gender have no place within this framework, unless provided by law, as they undermine the pursuit of truth and justice. Each person’s involvement in a criminal act has to be assessed independently, based on the statements recorded and evidence collected by the prosecution and placed on record before the Court for consideration.

Thus, the Court sets aside the impugned order and remanded back to the Trial Court for passing order on charge afresh qua the respondents after hearing both the parties, in accordance with law.

[The State Govt NCT of Delhi v Babita, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 5468, decided on 04-09-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Manoj Pant, APP for the State with SI Niraj Singh, PS Nand Nagri for petitioner


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