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Did you know women can’t accept court summons on behalf of others? SC to examine double standard

Advocate challenges constitutional validity of section 67 of Criminal Procedure Code, says it violates women’s right to equality, right to know and right to dignity.

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New Delhi: Did you know that the law allows only adult male members of a family to accept court summons if the person to whom it’s issued isn’t at home to receive it?

Calling this provision in section 64 of the 1973 Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) discriminatory against women, an advocate has challenged the constitutional validity of the section before the Supreme Court. On Monday, the court agreed to examine the legal question.

A bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud has now issued notice to the attorney general, senior advocate R. Venkataramani, for his assistance in the matter.

The CrPC lays down the process to be followed while conducting criminal trials. Section 64 of the code deals with “service when persons summoned cannot be found.”

The section says “Where the person summoned cannot, by the exercise of due diligence, be found, the summons may be served by leaving one of the duplicated for him with some adult male member of his family residing with him, and the person with whom the summons is so left shall, if so required by the serving officer, sign a receipt therefore on the back of the other duplicate.”

Also Read: CJI Chandrachud’s call for gender justice is timely and hopeful

‘Archaic provision’

Advocate Jyotika Kalra, who appeared for the petitioner, told ThePrint that a two-fold challenge has been raised against the “archaic” provision.

The first is that it violates various constitutional provisions. “The provision excludes female family members from receiving summons on behalf of the summoned person. This clearly violates the women’s right to equality guaranteed to them under Articles 14 and 15, the right to know guaranteed to them under Article 19(1)(a), and right to dignity guaranteed to them under Article 21,” she pointed out.

According to the petition, the underlying principle behind these equality provisions is equal treatment under similar circumstances in terms of both the powers conferred and the liabilities imposed.

Further, it was argued that section 64 CrPC also jeopardises the victim’s right to speedy trial under Article 21 of the Constitution. The court was told that apart from “significantly delaying the proceedings, section 64 of the CrPC creates hardships for all other relevant stakeholders as well.”

The petition said that essentially, the section fails to take into account two situations. One is when a person summoned resides only with female family members, and the second when the person available when the summons is served is female.

“The possibility of such a situation (second) is particularly high in light of the stark gender gap in the workforce between the males and the females, i.e., only 22 per cent of the Indian women are at work, which entails that the remaining 78 per cent of women are at home,” the petition said.

(Edited by Geethalakshmi Ramanathan)

Also Read: Alarming gender disparity in judiciary: 4 women judges out of 33 in SC, 66 out of 627 in HCs


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