The mediation centre at the Punjab and Haryana High Court has witnessed a change in the nature of complaints it is getting in the cases of matrimonial disputes over the last one year, with more cases under sections 376 (rape) and 377 (unnatural offences) of the IPC being registered by the police.
“After the criminal law was amended (following the Delhi gangrape), the police are adding sections of rape against the father-in-law of the woman or any other male relative. Sections of unnatural offences are also being added,” says senior advocate Atul Lakhanpal, member of the mediation and conciliation committee.
Says Reeta Kohli, co-ordinator of the mediation centre, “Police and counsel for the petitioner women make them add allegations which are non-bailable just to make their cases stronger. It defeats the purpose of mediation. On the one hand, we are trying to get the families together and on the other, the police and the counsel are trying to break them by levelling false allegations.”
The two counsel maintain that the spark for dispute is often petty, which leads to court cases and police complaints. “A couple came to me for counselling along with their families. The woman had imposed Section 377 on her husband. In one session, I called them both without their families. When I asked them the reason, both of them said that there was no incident of unnatural offence. The dispute started because the man said the woman used to serve him a cold cup of tea,” says Lakhanpal.
Kohli says, “The concept of early counselling is missing. Couples come to us when the situation gets worse. In most of the cases, the couples part ways, but in peace. They shake hands and leave after we settle. We have even seen cases where women have paid maintenance and parted ways.”
Both mediators say the high court is now expanding their mediation centre. “More and more people are coming to the mediation centre. It is quick, easy and effective. People either get together, or part ways but it is settled with the consent of both persons involved. People are coming in for mediation directly.”