By Vandita Morarka
Continued abuse and maltreatment of women in India creates an urgent need for more awareness amongst women about their legal rights. Women are often left without recourse after being subject to a crime. Here we look at 8 procedural legal rights that Indian women must know to better exercise their other rights.
Presence of female officers:
While arresting a woman, at least one female police officer should be associated with the arrest as far as possible. At the time of questioning the woman accused, the presence of a female officer is mandatory. Women are also to be guarded only by female constables or officers.
Night Time Arrest:
Under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), Section 46(4) and NHRC guidelines, a women accused can only be arrested between 6pm to 6am under exceptional circumstances. In case of exceptional circumstances, the women officer making the arrest needs prior written permission from a Judicial Magistrate under who’s jurisdiction the arrest is made or offense is committed. Even in case of such an arrest, the woman accused can only be arrested by a female officer and be taken to an all woman police station.
Under Section 51(2) of the CrPC, body search of a woman accused can only be done by a woman police officer while ensuring adherence to decency.
An FIR for a cognizable offense i.e. an offense for which police can make an arrest without the need for a warrant, can be filed at any police station irrespective of its jurisdiction over that offense or residence of the victim. This can even be filed if you are just located away from the place where the correct jurisdiction lies or are unaware of the jurisdiction. The police station where such a Zero FIR is filed needs to undertake at least preliminary investigation before directing this Zero FIR to the police station under whose jurisdiction the complaint lies.
The police station where such a Zero FIR is filed needs to undertake at least preliminary investigation before directing this Zero FIR to the police station under whose jurisdiction the complaint lies.
Virtual Complaints Permissible:
If a woman is unable to go to a police station to lodge a complaint in person she can file such a complaint virtually as well. She can register such complaint by way of registered post or email, addressing it to a senior police official (rank of Deputy Police Commissioner or Police Commissioner) – they then direct the Station House Officer of the police station where the jurisdiction of the case lies to further investigate the case. Following this, the police officials can come to her place to record her statement.
If a woman is unable to go to a police station to lodge a complaint in person she can file such a complaint virtually as well.
The Supreme Court has maintained that a woman has the right to file a complaint regarding an incident of sexual violence even after considerable time has passed after the actual incident.
Statement at Own Residence:
Under Section 160 of the CrPC, a female witness has the right to record her statement at her residence and cannot be forced to record the statement at a police station.
Under Section 12(c) of the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987, a woman is entitled to free legal aid by the State irrespective of her income. This ensures that women have access to justice at all time as several instances of abuse involve the cutting of access or ownership of personal or joint financial resources.
Vandita Morarka is a law student and policy consultant. She works as Policy and Legal Officer at Red Dot Foundation's Safecity, and tweets @vanditamorarka