Across the country, there are at least 3,00,000 people being tried under section 498A.
The Indian Home Ministry, in 2005, revealed that over 50,000 498A cases were being registered each year. Please see the excerpt below:
“According to data provided by Ministry of Home Affairs, there were 58,319 registered cases and 134,757 people underwent arrest under 498A and A and Dowry Prohibition Act. That is on average 2.3 people were arrested in every complaint of woman. There were 358 children and 4,744 senior citizens arrested. Out of 129,655 cases, approximately 18 per cent (23,337) were not charge sheeted and hence suffered only because these acts are non-bailable”
I came up with an estimate of 300,000 for the sake of prudence, but I believe that this is a very low figure: The NCRB reported that over 99,000 cases were registered under cruelty by husbands and relatives (Section 498A) in 2011 — and I find this number to be unbelievable. You can check the numbers here: Crime In India –2011
Though a number of cases registered are “settled” in the police station itself, the remainder end up in the Indian criminal justice system.
As the Home Ministry reported, each 498A case has at least 2 people named in an FIR; I calculated that at the least — since a trial in an Indian court can last 3 to 7 years — there are 3,00,000 Indians (50,000 cases/year * 2 Indians/case * 3 years under trial = 300,000 Indians) running around trial courts trying to get acquitted from their 498A cases.
It is a fact that the Indian police rarely conduct any investigation after registering an FIR in 498A cases. Most of the time, the contents of the FIR are copied and turned into a charge-sheet. I speak from experience, as that’s what happened in my case, and also because Justice Dhingra stated this in a judgment (Crl. Appeal No. 696/2004) in Nov/07. Here’s the excerpt from this judgment:
Over the years, the Indian police led Indians to believe that once a charge sheet is filed, the matter is out of their hands and that the only recourse to justice is to file quash petitions in moribund, slow, and callous state high courts. The other options are to give in to the extortion and pay up, or to run around trial courts for years either to get acquitted, or worse, convicted. Convictions can occur, though charge-sheets were filed without nvestigations, if the judge or magistrate is corrupt –which appears to be the norm these days.
Please do remember that the Indian judiciary is corrupt.
I often wondered if there was an alternative path to an acquittal and I found the answer: The Indian Supreme Court, in a judgment from 1979, stated that the Indian police can “further” investigate cases after charge sheets have been filed — even if the trial has commenced.
Anyone acquainted with the day today working of the criminal courts will be alive to the practical necessity of the police possessing the power to make further investigation and submit a supplemental report. It is in the interests of both the prosecution and the defence that the police should have such power. It is easy to visualise a case where fresh material may come to light which would implicate persons not previously accused or absolve persons already accused. When it comes to the notice of the investigating agency that a person already accused of an offence has a good alibi, is it not the duty of that agency to investigate the genuineness of the plea of alibi and submit a report to the Magistrate ? After all the investigating agency has greater resources at its command than a private individual. Similarly, where the involvement of persons who are not already accused comes to the notice of the investigating agency, the investigating agency cannot keep quiet and refuse to investigate the fresh information. It is their duty to investigate and submit a report to the Magistrate upon the involvement of the other persons. In either case, it is for the Magistrate to decide upon his future course of action depending upon the stage at which the case is before him. If he has already taken cognizance of the offence, but has not proceeded with the enquiry or trial, he may direct the issue of process to persons freshly discovered to be involved and deal with all the accused, in a single enquiry or trial. If the case of which he has previously taken cognizance has already proceeded to some extent, he may take fresh cognizance of the offence disclosed against the newly involved accused and proceed with the case as a separate case. What action a Magistrate is to take in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure in such situations is a matter best left to the discretion of the Magistrate. The criticism that a further investigation by the police would trench upon the proceedings before the Court is really not of very great substance, since whatever the police may do, the final discretion in regard to further action is with the Magistrate. That the final word is with the Magistrate is sufficient safeguard against any excessive use or abuse of the power of the police to make further investigation. We should not, however, be understood to say that the police should ignore the pendency of a proceeding before a Court and investigate every fresh fact that comes to light as if no cognizance had been taken by the Court of any offence. We think that in the interests of the independence of the magistracy and the judiciary, in the interests of the purity of the administration of criminal justice and in the interests of the comity of the various agencies and institutions entrusted with different stages of such administration, it would ordinarily be desirable that the police should inform the Court and seek formal permission to make further investigation when fresh facts come to light.
Here is the complete judgment*:
Based on this judgment, the Bombay and Patna High Courts allowed the police to re-investigate/re-examine a witness. You can read these judgments* below:
But how does a powerless, helpless Indian citizen, being tried in a criminal court, and with no connections of any kind, get the police to re-investigate a case after a charge sheet is filed?
For additional information, please read the comments posted by Carlisle Collins.
I have a few ideas and I’ll list them soon…
*My thanks to Indiakanoon.org for placing these judgements in the public domain.