I reproduce below the full text of a writ petition I filed in public interest in the Delhi High Court along with two others on 17 March 2017.
Kapil Sibal, among the most eminent lawyers of India, is arguing this case.
We invoked Article 226 of the Constitution of India for challenging the validity of some of the provisions of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 which have made the anti-rape law draconian and easy-to-abuse.
The High Court has issued notice to the Central Government and set July 5, 2017 as the next date of hearing.
has taken on this case pro bono because he saw merit in the arguments I put forth in the petition, which I drafted personally in consultation with and with inputs from lawyer friends.
Kapil is an old friend
.We often disagree on important issues but it has not caused any bitterness on either side.
1. The petitioners are citizens of India. Petitioner No.1 is an acclaimed social scientist and public intellectual. She is also widely acknowledged as having pioneered women’s rights and human rights activism both in India and abroad. The Petitioner No. 1 currently holds an extremely prestigious fellowship as the Maulana Azad National Professor at the Indian Council of Social Science Research. In addition, she was formerly a Professor, at the Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, as well as the Director of the Centre’s Indic Studies Project. The Petitioner No.1 is also the founder-editor of the internationally acclaimed publication, ‘Manushi – A Journal about Women and Society’ which was started in 1978 and run by the non-profit organization, Manushi Trust. She is known particularly well for her long association with gender justice and women’s rights. Petitioner No. 2 is a woman charged under section 376 read with section 109 of the Indian Penal Code (hereinafter ‘the IPC’) and other offences. Petitioner No. 3 is a man convicted under section 376 (1) in a case where the Prosecutrix admits voluntary sexual intercourse., But since it is alleged that she is below 18, despite the fact that her age has not been verified by medical examination, he is in jail awaiting sentence.
2. By this petition, the changes wrought in sections 375 and 376 IPC by the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 are challenged as discriminatory, arbitrary and severely prone to abuse. On the one hand, the definition of “rape” has been widened to include non-penetrative acts incapable of medical corroboration, the cut-off age for “statutory rape” or “child rape” has been raised to 18 and even for adult rape, ‘consent’ has been defined more strictly. On the other hand ‘judicial discretion to award less than 7 years has been taken away, even though a large number of independently unverifiable cases and even perfectly consensual acts will now be counted as rape. Following these amendments, there has been a startling spurt in false cases in Delhi, with over 53 per cent of the total cases registered in Delhi proving to be fraudulent. Of the total rape complaints in a year, over 25 percent of involve a breach of promise to marry and over 30 percent involve consensual elopements, with revenge emerging as a prime motive for complaint as per studies conducted by the Delhi Commission of Women and the Hindu newspaper.
3. The Petitioner No.1 in her 35 year long engagement with providing legal aid and counselling for women and disadvantaged or unjustly treated groups and individuals in society, has seen the actual working of laws from very close quarters and is therefore deeply concerned about the growing incidents of misuse and abuse of several laws ostensibly enacted for the protection of women. Through her journal Manushi as well as her active engagement with providing legal aid and advice to women victims of domestic violence and sexual atrocities, the Petitioner No.1 played a leading role in mobilizing public opinion against such crimes. The Petitioner No.1, through painstaking investigations and by building a rapport with the victims of atrocities, was among the first to record and publish first-person testimonies of rape survivors, women battling sexual harassment as well as women survivors of gang rapes during communal riots and massacres. While working in relief camps she was able to document the first-person testimonies of women during the 1984 mass violence against the Sikhs in Delhi. She carried out a similar exercise following 1987 communal riots in Meerut & Maliana followed by Bombay riots of 1992-93. All these reports foregrounded for the first time, women’s experience during riots which till then had rarely got the kind of attention that loss of male lives and property did.