Individual reputation and honor is a facet of human life and a cornerstone of one’s dignity. The right to protect one’s honor is recognized across all jurisdictions. So much so that it is the only right of an individual that continues even upon the death of a person. The law does not only guard a person against defamation during his lifetime, but empowers his legal representatives to do so even after his death.
However, the misuse of the anti-sexual harassment laws has led to a blatant violation of the rights of innocent men who are wrongly framed. What follows is judicial custody for no reason, and social ridicule. Recently, sessions judge Arun Grover Baliga made a similar observation. The court, while acquitting the accused in a rape case, suggested that the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) should train its counselors adequately to provide support to the victims. It remarked that the task of the commission is to provide support and empower victims, and not to encourage lodging false cases. In the case at hand, the victim had clearly mentioned in her deposition before the court that she had made the allegations of a rape only upon the advice of a counselor at the Sarojini Nagar police station. This prompted the court to direct a copy of the judgment passed by the judge to the DCW, bringing to notice the wrongful conduct of the concerned counselor at the Sarojini Nagar police station. The court further stated that it had no doubt about the fact that the statement made by the prosecutorix on oath about making the allegations only on the advice of the counselor in question, was true and correct. The court also recognized the plight of the accused, as he had to spend 22 days in judicial custody only due to the false and mischievous advice rendered by the counselor.
Fortunately for the accused, the prosecutorix appears to have been a reliable witness. She did not conceal any critical facts and correctly stated that it was the grandfather of the prosecutorix who did not allow finalization of marriage between the victim and the accused. She also admitted that there was no duress or fraudulent conduct on part of the accused to establish sexual relationship with the prosecutorix. Therefore, the argument that the accused had sexually assaulted the victim a number of times on the false pretext of marrying her could not be sustained. Had the prosecutorix pressed strongly with her allegations and the court been swayed away due to the strong presumptions in law against the accused in cases of sexual harassment, the accused could have landed in a soup.
It is bizarre how the DCW counselors mandated to empower women end up giving totally false advice in complete disregard of binding judicial precedents. It has been repeatedly observed by courts throughout the country that every breach of promise to marry by a man due to strained relationships cannot be treated as rape. However immoral or socially unacceptable it may be, every adult has the right to choose whether he wants to marry someone. The law cannot thrust marriage upon an adult.
It is a pity to see state functionaries flare up strained relationships and ego clashes, and convert them into legal battles. The law rightly protects women against sexual harassment as it is rampant in society, however, there must be some device in place that protects men against false cases of sexual harassment. The proceedings in a false case lodged by an overzealous prosecutorix have serious implications against the wrongly-accused person. The innocent accused stands to lose in all parameters of life, from financial security to social standing and reputation. The state must compensate (or better still get the accused or the counselor responsible to compensate), monetarily or otherwise, men victimized by false cases. Such compensation becomes all the more necessary when false cases are lodged against the accused due to rash and irresponsible advice rendered by a counselor.