Women and crime: India
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
Women in crime, statistics, year-wise
The Times of India, Sep 21 2015
Maharashtra tops in number of women held for murders in 2014
The Sheena Bora murder case, in which her mother Indrani Mukerjea is an accused, is not an isolated incident involving a woman in a serious crime. Last year, as many as 579 women were arrested for murder in Maharashtra. Although way below the number of men arrested for the same crime in the same period (5,187), it is the highest for any state. The crime report for 2014 released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) last month also places Maharashtra second and third among all states and UTs for the number of women arrested for attempt to murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder, respectively . Maharashtra also tops 36 states and UTs for women arrested under all types of offences.
In the list of women arrested for murder, Maharashtra was followed by Uttar Pra desh (472), Karnataka (330), West Bengal (317) and Madhya Pradesh (316). The report said that the maximum number of crimes were committed by women in the 30-45 age group, followed by those between 18 and 30 years.
According to the report, 194,867 women were arrested across 36 states and UTs, of which 30,568 were from Maharashtra. The latter figure is nearly double that of UP (17,437). Rajasthan (16,187), Gujarat (14,152) and Bengal (12,181) follow.
In Maharashtra, 95,174 women were arrested in the 20122014 period. The charges covered a wide spectrum: murder, attempt to murder, culpable homicide not amounting to murder, rape, attempt to commit rape, kidnapping and abduction, dacoity, dacoity with murder, preparation for dacoity , robbery , burglary , theft, unlawful assembly , riots, breach of trust, cheating, forgery , co unterfeiting, arson, grievous hurt, dowry death, assault on woman with intent to outrage her modesty , cruelty by husband and relatives, importation of girls, causing death by negligence, offences promoting enmity between different groups, extortion, disclosure of identity of victims, rash driving or road rage, human trafficking and unnatural offences.
Mumbai police spokesperson DCP Dhananjay Kulkarni said, “Very few women manage to give up crime after release from prison; 99.9% of them turn into hardened criminals. Many form gangs specialising in pick-pocketing, theft and economic offences.“
A study done by S P Singh for the NCRB in 2004 on involvement of women in violent crimes stated that in the past too experts have concluded that the increasing incidence of violence by women shows that they have a natural capacity to be as violent as men.
The National Capital Region (NCR) cities of Faridabad and Gurugram have topped the table in overall crime rate and the crime against women in Haryana. According to information tabled in Haryana assembly, Gurugram had topped the table with 3,768 cases while Faridabad recorded 3,440 cases between August 2014 to September 2018.
Gurugram saw 555 cases of rape and 2,308 cases of molestation and kidnapping of women and girls. Similarly, in Faridabad 352 cases of rape were registered in the same period while the figures of kidnapping and molestation had touched 1,656 cases so far. Overall, the state has a total of 37,161 cases registered during the past four years. The report was tabled on a question by Gohana MLA Jagbir Singh Malik, who had asked the government whether there was an increase in crime against women. Malik had also questioned whether women police stations had been of help in curbing the crime against women.
The crimes include an increased trend in the rape cases. Since August 2014 to September 2015, Haryana saw 961 rape cases. As per the statement, a total of 1,413 rape cases have been registered since September 2017. While providing the figures of crimes against women across Haryana, the government admitted that the districts having women police station saw a decrease in the offences.
Haryana DGP B S Sandhu justified the increase in the registration of cases. “The increase was mainly due to the fact that all complaints related to crime against women have been converted into cases. Besides, there are certain incidents across Haryana in which rape cases were found to be incidents of honey trap. We have busted 47 such gangs. Hence, the figure is not that alarming and policing has become effective,” he claimed.
Reacting to the figures, Congress legislature party (CLP) leader Kiran Choudhry said the rise in crime against women was due to the dilly-dallying attitude of the cops. “There is no doubt that Haryana is not a safe place for women. All that is happening is against the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ slogans. We have seen the incidents in which the girls have even been forced to end their lives.” Download The Times of India News App for Latest City News.
Quantum of punishment
SC: Some leniency for women convicts acceptable
But No Mercy In Terror Cases, Court Clarifies
Gender is not a mitigating factor when it comes to punishment for criminal acts, the Supreme Court said that in the Indian context, a woman convict having three minor children to support would be a ground for courts to impose a lenient sentence on her.
But, mercy or compassion may not be shown in case of a woman who has committed a crime as part of a terrorist group, the court said.
The SC was hearing a case about a woman who had helped a man rob another of Rs 27,000 by drugging him in August 2000. The victim was then beaten up badly and left at a place near Himachal's Dalhousie. The woman was convicted of the offence, which is punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years.
A Chamba trial court took note that the woman had three kids, two of whom were mentally unsound. In 2003, it awarded a sentence of two years in jail to her and a fine of Rs 6,000. After nine years, the Himachal HC took a further lenient view and erased the sentence and substituted it with a fine of Rs 30,000. The state government has appealed against this in the SC. A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhush an, through separate yet concurring judgments recently, agreed that slight leniency for women criminals was justified in the Indian context but it should not be to an extent to completely erase the trial court's already lenient twoyear sentence.
Debating between deterrence and reformative mechanisms to quantify sentence, Justice Sikri said, “When the Indian Penal Code provides discretion to Indian judges in awarding sentence, the court will undoubtedly regard extenuating and mitigating circumstances.“
Referring to the two mitigating circumstances canvassed by the convict -she being a woman and having to support three minor children -Justice Sikri said, “In this backdrop, the question is as to whether the respondent being a lady and having three minor children will be extenuating reasons? ...In so far as Indian judicial mind is concerned, I find that in certain decisions of this court, gender is taken as the relevant circumstance while fixing the quantum of sentence. I may add that it would depend upon the facts of each case, whether it should be treated as arelevant consideration and no hard and fast rule can be laid down.“ Justice Sikri restored the trial court's lenient sentence of two imprisonment to the woman.
The international practice
This is bizarre“, that is how people reacted to a recent Supreme Court judgment endorsing a bit of leniency by courts while sentencing a woman convicted of a crime. The woman was convicted for helping her male accomplice drug, assault and rob another man of Rs 27,000 in August 2000. She was convicted in March 2003. The trial court found that she had to support three minor children, two of whom were of unsound mind. Though the law provided a punishment of up to 10 years in prison, a lenient trial court awarded just two years jail term to her.
If the trial court took one step in leniency , the high court took two. It erased the jail term and imposed a fine of Rs 30,000, to be given to the victim of robbery . The SC said in the Indian context, a bit of leniency for women convicts was acceptable. But it ruled that discretion to award lenient sentences to female convicts could not be so stark as to appear as discriminating against male convicts.
Giving an insight into Indian judicial minds, a bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said they found SC judgments which took gender as a relevant factor to determine the quantum of sentence. This was caveated with a quick clarification no leniency to women committing crimes as part of terror outfits. Leniency towards women convicts is not unique to India, but is common to judges across the world, who are possibly aware that women have been fighting for gender equality in almost every sphere of life to protest against deep-rooted biases.
So, how should a judge treat a woman convict compared to a male criminal?
The UK's Equal Treatment Bench Book, 2013, which provides general guidelines on sentencing, says “fair treatment does not mean treating everyone in the same way: it means treating people equally in comparable situations“.
What it aims to convey could be understood from an example. A commoner de cides to argue his case against a big industrialist represented by a seasoned senior advocate. Will it be fair for the judge to allot 30 minutes each to the commoner and the advocate to place their case before the court?
After analysing fairness, the Equal Treatment Bench Book says, “Sentencers (judges) must be made aware of the differential impact sentencing decisions have on women and men including caring responsibilities for children or elders, impact of imprisonment on mental and emotional wellbeing, and disproportionate impact that incarceration has on offenders who have caring responsibilities if they are imprisoned a long distance from house.“ In the US, the situation is no different from India when it comes to leniency towards women criminals. A 2014 study , quoted by `Journalist's Resources', based at Harvard's Shorenstein Centre on Media, Politics and Public Policy , suggested that federal courts were more lenient on female defendants in general. They were less likely to incarcerate women and tended to give women shorter sentences than men.
This finding was endorsed by another study in 2015, published in the `Journal of Criminal Justice', which examined 3,593 felony (serious crime) cases in northern US and found that women were 46% less likely than men to be detained before trial; bail bond amount for women were 54% less than that demanded from men and women were 58% less likely to be sentenced to prison. But the alarming part of the study indicated a trait of racial discrimination in the subconscious judicial minds. It said, “Black female defendants were, in some ways, treated differently than white female defendants. Black women were assigned higher bond amounts and were more likely to be sent to prison than white women. Women of both races were equally likely to be released prior to trial.“
In India, such studies are rare. But one submitted by Asha Bhandari two years ago to National Law University , Jodhpur, talked about women convicts in central jails of Rajasthan. It said, “The law talks about equality between the two sexes. When women commit crime they would be punished equally like men. The social reality , on the other hand, is full of inequality .
“Profile and background of women in prison and reasons for their imprisonment are different from those for men. Existing prison facilities and programmes for women inmates had all been developed initially for men, who historically accounted for an overwhelming proportion of prison population.Therefore, gender perspective must be seriously considered while catering to needs of women in criminal justice system in general and prisons in particular.“
The SC in its recent judgment struck the middle path of `a bit of leniency' for women by quoting renowned UKbased criminology professor Eugene McLaughlin, who had said “paper justice“ would mean similar sentence for similar offences.
He was of the view that elements of consequences of a sentence on the convict, depending on the criminal's gender, had to be taken into account if a judge wanted to do “real justice“. Real justice would consider the likelihood that a child might suffer more from a mother's imprisonment than that of his father's, he said.
In conclusion, a question if a man gets convicted of a serious crime, would he get a lenient sentence if he had three motherless minor children to look after?