The Delhi High Court remarked that the hidden biases are the enemies of an impartial, gender-balanced, and equitable judgment.

The Court requested the Delhi Judicial Academy to include issues such as gender equality, cultural diversity, etc. as part of the curriculum and continuous judicial education program.

A woman had filed a petition against the judgment of the Additional Sessions Judge in a case registered for the offence punishable under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

A Single Bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma observed, “Hidden biases, often lurking in one’s mind, are the enemies of an impartial, gender-balanced and equitable judgment. Though these biases, often ingrained in societal norms and cultural attitudes, can subtly influence the perceptions of a judge and the decision-making process, it is for a judge to remain unbiased in his mind and his words to ensure that justice is administered impartially to all, as per law.”

The Bench said that the essence of gender-neutrality must permeate through every line of a judgment, and a judge must cultivate thoughts that are inherently gender-neutral.

Advocate Divjot Singh Bhatia appeared for the petitioner while APP Naresh Kumar Chahar appeared for the respondent.

Brief Facts -

The petitioner was a Sub-Inspector and had filed a complaint under Section 498A of IPC against her husband and his family. Her husband was also a Sub-Inspector and the petitioner had learnt about the greed of dowry of her in-laws, when soon after marriage, her husband, his parents and sisters had started taunting and teasing her for bringing in insufficient dowry. A specific demand of Rs. 1.5 lakhs, a car, and a separate house was raised by the husband and in-laws. The failure on the part of the petitioner’s father to fulfil the demands of accused persons resulted into torture and physical injuries being inflicted upon the petitioner.

She was also threatened by the husband via dagger that he would kill her in case she failed to meet the demands. Since she was unable to fulfil the same, she was allegedly beaten and thrown out of her matrimonial home. Hence, she lodged a complaint and thereafter, the Metropolitan Magistrate dropped charges under Section 406 of IPC against the accused persons but however, they were charged under Section 498A read with Section 34 of IPC. The accused persons being aggrieved by this, preferred a revision petition before the Sessions Court. The said court allowed the same and discharged them. Hence, the petitioner approached the High Court.

The High Court in view of the above facts said, “In this Court’s opinion, the finding is perverse and is not based on the principles of criminal jurisprudence and fair trial, but on the basis of probabilities, which too, is based on an unjustified perception and bias that a person who is working a s a police officer can never be a victim of domestic violence. A criminal case and trial cannot be driven by probabilities or perceptions but has to be adjudicated on the basis of facts, which are apparent from the record.”

The Court added that while deciding the question of framing of charge, the opinion of a court of law cannot be either blinded or prismed through any stereotype perception about any gender or perception about any profession.

“The Courts have to remain aware of the existing hard realities of lives of people living in the society, of which the judges are also part of. Decisions cannot be made in state of utopia, one has to not only be compassionate and sensitive towards the people and circumstances, but also backgrounds which the parties appearing before them belong to”, it said.

Furthermore, the Court enunciated that humans by their nature are not the same and their respective professions or professional lives may not always guide them in their private lives, which is why they are called as private lives.

“People can be different and rather entirely different in their public and private lives, therefore, a person’s professional life and professional behavior and his or her personal life and behavior in personal relationships may be entirely different and contrary to each other. … In this Court’s opinion, a woman or a man undergoing challenging situations in their personal lives, may put up a brave front and continue to excel in their professional life and position, which should go to their credit, and not discredit. This is true not about women alone, but men also, as they too face challenging personal situations in their personal lives”, it remarked.

The Court also noted that it is important for the judges to not forget that the idea of being gender neutral while authoring judgments, not only means that the terminology employed and words used in the judgment are to be gender neutral, but also means that the mind of a judge ought to be free from preconceived notions or prejudices based on gender or profession.

“The present case of a female police officer, deemed incapable of being victimized, solely due to her profession is an illustration of the insidious nature of our hidden biases. To harbor assumptions, especially as a judge, that a woman, by virtue of her profession as a police officer, cannot possibly be a victim in her own personal or matrimonial life, is a form of injustice of its own kind and one of the highest kinds of perversity which can be seen in a judgment. Judicial decisions, premised on such assumptions, are examples of court’s refusal to recognize the complex realities of people’s lives, and defiance of law, logic and empathy”, it emphasised.

The Court observed that it is important to acknowledge the unique characteristics of a case of domestic violence and cruelty, particularly in our country, and concerning women who occupy positions of authority and command in their professional lives.

“… a court of law cannot make sweeping generalizations about the credibility of the allegations levelled in a complaint on the basis of the gender of the victims and their professional stature. … Every woman, regardless of her position or background, deserves equal respect, recognition, and access to legal protections. This idea extends to men as well. Just as women should not be unfairly treated or disempowered based on their gender, men should also be free from discrimination or ridicule. Gender neutrality in judgments does not entail favouring one gender over another, but treating all persons appearing before the Courts equally, and premising the on legal principles, evidence, and fairness, without bias or discrimination based on gender”, it further remarked.

The Court said that it should be the prime duty of the judicial academies to ensure that those who adorn the golden chairs of justice and are in command of the chariot of justice, should not see those who appear before them with spectacles and prisms of gender biasness but should at all times write their judgments wearing spectacles of gender neutrality, impartiality, equality and remaining aware of any hidden biases or perceptions one may hold as a judge.

“Community will judge the judicial system through its decisions and judgments which are based on reasons. … This Court, therefore, requests the Delhi Judicial Academy that in view of today’s rapidly changing world, issues such as gender equality, cultural diversity, etc. which are at the forefront of legal discourse, be made part of the curriculum and continuous judicial education program conducted by the Academy. Judicial education in this regard would ensure that judges will possess the knowledge, awareness, and empathy to adjudicate cases involving these complex and sensitive matters fairly and impartially”, it concluded.

Accordingly, the High Court disposed of the petition and set aside the impugned judgment.

Cause Title- Sanghmitra v. State (Neutral Citation: 2024:DHC:2524)


Petitioner: Advocate Divjot Singh Bhatia

Respondent: APP Naresh Kumar Chahar and Advocate Gautam Das.

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