Staff Reporter

It excludes women from receiving court process

Judge refuses to strike down Section 64 Asks Centre to arrive at "best" decision

MADURAI: In a significant ruling, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has asked the Union Ministry of Law and Justice to consider amending Section 64 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which excludes women from receiving court process in the absence of the person summoned.

Passing orders on a public interest litigation moved by a woman lawyer from Thanjavur, Justice Makena Eswara Narasimha Patrudu said when the Civil Procedure Code permitted both male and female members to receive summons, "I do not understand the reason for denial of the same right in a criminal case. There should be uniformity and equality in treating both."

But the Judge refused to strike down Section 64 and instead opined that the Centre should elicit the view of a larger section of society, including women's welfare organisations, before taking deciding on the issue.

"It is unfair to react to the feelings of one individual... principles of natural justice require that all parties concerned in the issue must be heard before taking a final decision... Therefore, I am leaving this decision to the wisdom of the legislature at the national level," he said.

While asking the Centre to arrive at the "best" decision to maintain equality before law and ensure there was no discrimination between male and female members of society, the Judge directed the Bench Registry to forward a copy of the order passed in the PIL to the Law Commission of India and the Member Secretary, National Legal Services Authority.

Differing with the arguments advanced by the Assistant Solicitor General of India that Section 64 had omitted the word `female' only to maintain privacy of women and there were certain women who might not be able to come out of their houses due to their customs and religious practices to acknowledge the receipt of summons, the Judge said: "If that is so, Parliament can definitely in its wisdom exclude such respectable ladies from receiving summons. But it is unfair to bar all women for the sake of a very few."

The Judge agreed with the suggestion made by petitioner's counsel S. Nagamuthu that the Civil Procedure Code exempted certain women from appearing in person before a court of law and similar exemptions could be given under Section 64 of the Cr.P.C. too.