Even in 21st century when women have achieved great heights in terms of equality with men, they are subjected to heinous crimes for being the soft target in the patriarchal society. Abuse of their modesty is rampant in the police custody too. Hence, to protect them from such crimes, women have some prerogatives bestowed upon them by the law for the times when they have to be arrested. Chapter V of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, lays down the procedure for arrest of persons.
No Arrest before Sunrise and after Sunset, and Arrest only by a Lady Officer
According to Section 46(4) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 which governs the arrest of women, It is specifically mentioned that “Save in exceptional circumstances, no woman can be arrested after sunset and before sunrise, and where such exceptional circumstances exist, the woman police officer shall, by making a written report, obtain the prior permission of the Judicial Magistrate of the first class within whose local jurisdiction the offence is committed or the arrest is to be made.”
From the bare perusal of the section, it is crystal clear that no police officer can arrest a woman after sunset or before sunrise, unless he is bound to do so under exceptional, compelling circumstances. Only a lady police officer can arrest a woman. This rules out the possibility of vulgar manhandling and sexual abuse of the woman to be arrested. When the exceptional circumstances exist and it is felt that if the immediate arrest is not executed then there is a possibility that the accused might abscond, then also arrest cannot be made without prior permission of Judicial Magistrate, First Class.
Search and Medical Examination
Section 51 (2) of Cr.P.C. states that when a woman has to be searched, it should be done only by a lady police officer, keeping in mind the decency and modesty of the lady.
Section 53 (2) of Cr.P.C. provides that medical examination of the lady should only be carried out under the supervision of female medical practitioners.
The Apex Court in Sheela Barse v. State of Maharashtra [(1983) 2 SCC 96] laid down guidelines for the females in custody. It held that the segregation of females from males in the police cell is necessary and it must be ensured by the police officer. There should be a separate room for women in case there are no separate cells for females. Any interrogation that has to be done should be carried out in presence of lady constables. If the woman in custody is pregnant, safety of the lady and the foetus should be of utmost importance. Necessary pre- natal and post- natal care facilities should be provided to them. No force should be used on a pregnant lady, or it should be used as a last resort.
Right of a Lady Witness during Examination
Section 160 Cr.P.C. deals with the power of police to require attendance of witnesses. The proviso to sub section 1 of Section 160 reads as:-
“Provided that no male person 1[“under the age of fifteen years or above the age of sixty-five years or a woman or a mentally or physically disabled person”] shall be required to attend at any place other than the place in which such male person or woman resides.”
Thus, a female witness also has some privileges and must be examined at her place.
The privileges given to the lady suspect or lady witnesses are very significant as they are meant to protect the modesty and dignity of the lady and prevent the offences against the woman.