Reconciliation of marital discords in Delhi at all-time low


New Delhi : Marriages may be made in heaven but in this age they are even more promptly annulled. The rate of reconciliation of marital discords is at an all-time low, if the records of a Delhi Police cell are anything to go by.

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Delhi Police’s Crime Against Women (CAW) cell – a reconciliatory body that serves as a nodal agency for complaints of violent crimes against women – saw a sharp decline in the disposal of cases as well as reconciliation worked out between couples in 2007.

According to the Delhi Police Annual Report, while the number of cases filed by women against their husbands stood at 9,469 in 2007, a marginal drop from the previous year’s 9,879, the number of disposals stood at 7,191 compared to 9,866 the year before.

The rate of compromise worked out between the two parties, for which the cell was initially set up, has also been poor. The cell managed to mitigate discord between just 1,890 couples in 2007, down from 2,777 in 2006.

The CAW cell, the first gender-specific response by Delhi Police to combat violent crimes against women and set up in 1983 under Section 19 of the Delhi Police Act, is a nodal body to receive and intervene in complaints.

However, the working of the cell, especially its efforts at reconciliation, received a setback with a city court last year raised doubts about its working and existence and declared it “illegal”.

Metropolitan Magistrate Pratap S. Malik, passing an order in a case dealing with unnecessary harassment of a husband after his wife complained against him, said: “The working of the Crime Against Women cell is entirely illegal and against the settled principles of the law. A statutory agency (CAW cell) cannot justify its action on other grounds if it is in violation of the statute itself.

“Under the Delhi Police Act, the commissioner of police cannot constitute a cell and ask it to provide better civic amenities in place of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. Nor can any cell constituted by the commissioner of police facilitate ‘better team management’ in place of BCCI to improve the performance of the Indian cricket team. The good objective does not justify transgression of the parent state (Delhi Police Act),” the court observed.

The order implies that that the CAW cell cannot take up reconciliation if the husband and wife are against it.

Another hurdle the cell is facing in its efforts at reconciliation is the shortage of counsellors.

“The need for special counsellors dedicated to reconciliation between families before initiation of criminal proceedings on the complaint by the wife against the husband is urgently needed to fulfil the purpose of the Crime Against Women cell,” a senior police official told IANS.

The disposal of cases is hamstrung by frequent changes in the investigating officer dealing with a particular case. The officers are transferred, making the cases linger on, as the next officer has to first “understand the case right from the beginning”.

The cell also failed to restore in 2007 much of the ‘stridhan’, the dowry articles a girl traditionally brings with her after marriage. It succeeded only in 647 cases, down from 851 in 2006.

The CAW has also come under attack from the judiciary. The Delhi High Court has warned it against using “coercive measures”, such as summoning people and sending officials to their residence.

The ruling came in the wake of complaints about the “overzealous tactics” of the body.

“The cell has no power to investigate a case. It is merely a reconciliatory body created to help women who consider themselves victims,” Justice S.N. Dhingra of the high court decreed last year.

The bench added that at the most the cell could only write letters to people against whom complaints were made.

The court took strong exception after the cell sent policemen to the residence of Gaurav Matta, a trader, when he failed to appear before it despite a notice served on him. The cell was acting on a complaint from Gaurav’s wife Monika who accused Matta of harassment.