The Constitution of India lays down the framework of the legal system of India. Adopted in 1949, it is the longest written constitution in the world. Naturally, a lot of misconceptions are there among the Indians about the legal system. Let’s clear the doubts regarding some of the core issues:
The Common Misconceptions About Law and Order In India:
1. Bribe Giving is Not an Offence
The common idea is that only the bribe-taker can be can be condemned, and not the bribe giver. However, according to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the act of giving bribe is as grave an offence as taking it, and the giver is punishable with the same penalty as the receiver.
2. Section 233 IPC Allows Free Murder of Assaulter by Woman
Although it is heavily circulated by people that section 233 IPC is a new law that allows a woman to injure or kill a man if she is being attacked sexually, and walk away freely. The whole concept has flawed, and the information is incorrect. It is section 376 IPC that deals with rape laws, which declares punishment to the assaulter. Crime against women is dealt with under sec. 363-372, 302, 304B, 498A, 354, 509, 294 and 366B IPC. None of them allow indiscriminate killing or injuring the assaulter. Although section 100 and 96 IPC permit private defence during a physical assault, irrespective of the damage caused in the process, but, the woman is required to provide evidence of the crime herself, or the account of witnesses. Sec. 97 IPC allows a person associated with the assaulted woman to attack the assaulter to defend her, but, the rules or providing substantial evidence still holds.
3. As per Section 377 IPC, Homosexuals are Criminals
377 IPC only criminalizes carnal or sexual acts ‘against the order of nature.’ That does not necessarily apply to members the Lesbian/ Gay/ Bisexual/ Transgender/ Intersex/ Queer community. It is only limited to the acts of coitus in an ‘unconventional’ way, and that can also refer to consenting heterosexual couples. There is no legal reason to condemn those with alternate sexual orientation or third gender, or for acts like cross dressing, being effeminate, holding hands or sitting with each other in the park on Valentine’s Day, etc.
4. Dowry and Inheritance
Dowry given to a woman at the time of her wedding and ancestral inheritance are often confused. However, these two are absolutely different. Giving dowry is an evil practice that has percolated down generations. It started out with a noble cause of giving the bride a share in the inheritance to help her begin her life and have assets to fall back on. But, it has taken the shape of gifts in the form of jewellery, furniture, house, motor vehicle, cash, etc., for which the bride and her parents are often severely pressurised, leading to many crimes. Dowry is prohibited under the Dowry Prohibition Act under sec. 498A IPC but, the practice is still in vogue. Dowry and inheritance are not the same thing. Sec. 498A does not disentitle a girl from her right or share in the Will, nor does giving dowry.
5. Withdrawal and Non-validity of Currency Notes
Panic and concerns have been imbibed in the minds of Indians about the withdrawal of currency notes and the non-validity of notes with scribbles on them. This is only partially correct, as RBI has declared that it will withdraw all notes issued before the year 2005, and has requested customers to exchange such notes at banks, and has notified that they will need to present identity and residential proof for exchange of more than 10 pieces of 500 and 1000 notes after July 1, 2014. However, RBI has clarified that it has not issued any instruction on the non-acceptance of scribbled notes.
6. Marital Rape and Section 376 IPC
Section 376 IPC deals with rape, but, it does not punish a man for forcing himself upon his wife against her free will. Although, after 2012, rape laws in India were revisited and broadened, the Parliament rejected the appeals of the Verma Committee to punish marital rape. The commonly mistaken idea has been developed in the minds of common Indians by television soaps and films that a woman has the right to file a legal complaint against a sexually abusive husband. However, there is no law against marital rape in India, which, ironically, is established on the archaic misconception that a woman is her husband’s property.
7. Police and its Accountability to Political Parties
The highest rank of Indian state police forces is Director General, who is answerable to the home secretary. Since the police force is accountable to law and not political parties, it is beyond the rights of the political party members to use the services of the police for their personal gain or even for the welfare of the party. Hence, police cannot act upon the instructions of political rulers, without proper investigation or evidence.
8. Arrest and Summoning to the Police Station
It is not up to the police to decide who is a criminal and take actions accordingly. They cannot arrest without a warrant, or force someone to go to the station without a written instruction. Women and children below 15 have to be questioned in their house, and women cannot be arrested after sunset until there is a written order and women constable is present. Since police cannot physically abuse a person in custody, the person can request a body check for injuries before the arrest.
9. FIR and Cognisable Crimes
People are often confused about when they can file a FIR. There are two kinds of crimes: cognisable and non-cognisable. Cognisable crimes include murder, rape, dacoity, etc., while non-cognisable crimes include fraud, bigamy, forgery, etc. It can also be said that crimes that require urgent attention of the police are cognisable offenses. FIR can be filed to report a cognisable crime. However, non-cognisable crimes must also be noted by the police in the general diary to be taken up by the magistrate who will direct the police to investigate it.
10. Person Arrested on Fridays Has to be in Custody till Monday
An arrested person cannot be kept in custody for more than 24 hours. The illegal practice of arresting a person on Friday and keeping the person in custody till Monday is continued with the excuse of unavailability of a magistrate, when the truth is that there is always a magistrate on duty, and the person can be presented before the magistrate after court hours even at his home.
As the country is coming of age, the legal system, too, is facing many changes and amendments, in keeping up with the standards of the fast-paced world, as well as the country. It is important to do thorough research about the legal practices and changes, before spreading wrong information. It can be misleading, and particularly dangerous in many cases.
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