Millennium Post

A Preity fine mess this!

The gang rape and brutal assault which resulted in the death of the paramedical student in the capital city on 16 December 2012 shook the conscience of the entire nation. The youth took to the streets and marched towards  Parliament which was responded by water cannons and lathi charge by the government. But the spontaneous outcry throughout the nation forced the supreme law makers in the country to bring about the necessary changes in the criminal law. Both houses of Parliament witnessed debates and passing of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 whereby enlarging the definition of rape and making the punishment more stringent for the offences committed against women under various sections of the Indian Penal Code.

Bollywood actor and owner of Indian Premier League team Kings XI Punjab Preity Zinta have filed a criminal complaint against her former boyfriend and team co-owner Ness Wadia with
allegations of molestation and criminal intimidation.

During the debate in Parliament over the passing of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013, some of the parliamentarians expressed their apprehension regarding the misuse of the stringent provisions provided in the amended act. The government wilting under the public outcry and tremendous pressure seemed to be in a great hurry and therefore despite opposition from various members across party lines passed the act without due deliberations.

Undoubtedly the recent incidents of atrocities committed against women in Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country does require very hard provisions of law to tackle this widespread menace, however at the same time law needs to consider incidents of abuse or misuse of such provisions in the civilised society. By no stretch of imagination my intent is to go to the truthfulness of the complaint filed by Preity or to pass any judgement regarding the merits of the case. The fact that she had been in relationship with Ness or the fact that he is a co-owner of the team also does not take away her right to file a criminal complaint.
The point that merits debate today is that people in high places especially with celebrity status must be extremely cautious before filing complaints alleging serious offences such as molestation under the amended act.

Section 498A of the Indian Penal code was introduced to protect married women from being subjected to cruelty or his relatives. The Supreme Court of India in the case of Preeti Gupta Vs state of Jharkhand observed that ‘serious relook of section 498A is warranted by the legislative as it is a matter of common knowledge that exaggerated version of the incident are reflected in a large number of complaints.

The tendency of over implication is also reflected in a very large number of cases wherein it is a common tendency to implicated  husband and all his immediate relations in the complaint. The complaints were being filed with an oblique motive to wreck personal vendetta and therefore it becomes necessary for the legislative to find out ways how the makers of frivolous complaints or allegations appropriately dealt with’.

Coming back to the stringent law relating to offences against women relating to molestation charges under the amended criminal law does require a close scrutiny especially in larger cities where there is a great possibility to its misuse. We don’t wish to reach to a situation where another judgement of Supreme Court is required directing the parliamentarians to take a fresh look at the severe law.
Due to rash and negligent act of few we do not want a hard law which is required at this point in time when the law and order situation is deteriorating in the country especially with crime against women rising to be curtailed or to have a relook. However, in Preity Zinta case the Mumbai police are investigating the matter with utmost care and sensitivity without sensationalising the matter beyond media parlance. The Mumbai police have not acted in haste; they are collecting sufficient evidence, recording statements of the witnesses as well as the complainant which is the right way to go forward in such highly sensitive matter which has significant public attention and ramifications.

Preity Zinta has been in limelight earlier for her Bollywood exploits and later as the co-owner of Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League. She is constantly under media glare which takes her to every Indian household during the IPL matches. Her behaviour, mannerism, attitude, her style everything is keenly watched by a larger section of people which has an impressionable mind. She is adored and admired by millions of Indian women across all geographical boundaries for her success and her actions are emulated by the young generation. Celebrities act as a role model and younger generation is deeply influenced, and therefore all celebrities have a greater responsibility than an ordinary citizen.

The laws are there for protecting the vulnerable women and at times a blur line separates an altercation and an act of molestation. This is the moment when at times one needs to stop and think and take a more mature decision.

The author is an advocate
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