The #MeToo movement has sparked off a debate on how women are being treated in Indian society.
The #MeToo movement has sparked off a debate on how women are being treated in Indian society. The purpose of this article is not to regurgitate the popular debate, but to highlight the rights of women to protect their integrity even years after a sexual misconduct against her. People accused of misconduct going scot free under law is the larger issue we all are grappling with since the dawn of the #MeToo movement in India.
We have the Indian Penal Code, 1860 which lists offences under various heads and punishments related to them. The machinery that runs the criminal justice system in India is governed by the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the procedure for collecting evidence is provided under the Evidence Act, 1872. All these Acts play in tandem to bring justice to the aggrieved party.
#MeToo movement and consequences: Status as per the Indian Penal Code?
The Indian Penal Code, 1860 covers crimes such as rape, stalking, assault and voyeurism. The Code of Criminal Procedure in India sets a limitation period for the offences covered under Indian Penal Code. It provides that no Court shall take cognizance of an offence after the expiry of the period of limitation.
The period of limitation has been given under the Act.
#MeToo movement: Delay in reporting sexual harassment
The said period of limitation starts from the date on which the offence is committed, or if the date on which the offence was committed was not known, the first day on which such offence comes to the knowledge of such person, or where it is not known who committed the offence, the first day on which the identity of the offender is known.
The Code of Criminal Procedure further provides that any Court may take cognizance of an offence after the expiry of the period of limitations, if it is satisfied on the facts and in the circumstances of the case that the delay has been properly explained or that it is necessary so to do in the interests of justice.
In the wake of me too movement, where the offence committed is brought to light after many years, it therefore, first becomes necessary to ascertain whether the accused could be brought to Court for an offence which he committed long time back. The following table will give an overview of what all offences can be tried even after lapse of period of limitation.
However, with the elapse of time, it is next to impossible to garner evidence for proving the offence. This lies as a major hurdle for all those concerned with #MeToo movement. With no assistance from evidence, it might become difficult for the victim to prove commission of offence by the accused. This does not mean that no evidence can be harnessed at all and it will all depend on the facts and circumstances of each case.he other aspect to look for is spurt in defamation cases against women taking part in the me too movement. Defamation in India can lead to both civil and criminal action. However, just because there is an imminent danger of a defamation proceeding which could be initiated against the women, the women should not fall prey to what has deterred them to initiate me too movement. It is high time that women recognize that the need of the hour is to tell the world that they have a right to lead a life of dignity and integrity.
Saurabh Bindal is an Advocate and shares deep interest in issues pertaining to the information technology sector. Views expressed are the author’s own.