Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Wednesday asked Maharashtra government to respond to a petition alleging registration of false rape cases and seeking framing of guidelines to ensure that innocent persons were not booked.
Claiming that one of the reasons for the over 75 per cent acquittal in rape cases is registration of "false cases", the PIL sought guidelines while registering rape charges against men after a substantial delay or due to false promise of marriage.
A bench headed by Justice Naresh Patil also asked the Department of Social Welfare to file an affidavit by July 30 giving figures on the number of acquittals, conviction and criteria laid down for registration of offences in rape cases.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a Pune-based organisation-- Association for Aiding Justice.
The judges, however, said a person cannot be stopped from filing a complaint. When a complaint is filed, police have to lodge an FIR. However, there can be guidelines while filing such cases, the bench said and asked the petitioner to suggest them.
The petition said there was a need to frame statutory guidelines for police and other authorities to conduct a preliminary inquiry while entertaining a complaint lodged for rape on the allegation of false promise of marriage.
The PIL referred to statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau. On an average, 22,000 rape cases were filed every year between 2007 and 2011. While in 2012, the acquittal rate in rape cases was 46 per cent in the first eight months of 2013, it shot up to 75 per cent. The petition claimed that many were a result of false rape cases that were registered.
"There is no clause in Indian Penal Code (IPC) which specifically labels the breach of a marriage promise as rape. Section 90, while defining consent in general, states that if consent is given under a misconception of fact and if the perpetrator is aware of this, then it cannot be deemed as consent. Courts often use this section of the IPC to interpret cases of rape and breach of promise," the PIL contended.
The petition also added that the updated rape laws, which included sexual assault, was "widely-worded" and "ambiguous" in parts and lend themselves to misuse.
Majlis Manch, an NGO, opposing the PIL, sought to intervene in the matter, saying it wanted to highlight the core issues which affect women and children.
It said the petition was unfounded and lacked credibility.
The court would decide its plea on the next occasion.