Wary of anti-dowry law being ‘abused’, Supreme Court says no arrest till charges verified

The apex court, which passed a slew of directions to deal with complaints under section 498 A of the IPC including constitution of family welfare committees in every district, has observed that many of such complaints are not bonafide.

By: PTI | New Delhi | Published: July 28, 2017 2:32 pm
Anti-dowry law, dowry arrests, supreme court, anti-dowry law misuse The Supreme Court. (Source: File Photo)

The Supreme Court has voiced concern over “abuse” of the anti-dowry law and has directed that no arrest should “normally be effected” without verifying allegations as violation of human rights of innocents can not be brushed aside. The apex court, which passed a slew of directions to deal with complaints under section 498 A (subjecting a married woman to cruelty) of the IPC including constitution of family welfare committees in every district, has observed that many of such complaints are not bonafide and “uncalled for arrest”may ruin the chances of settlement.

It noted that the apex court had earlier observed that a serious review of the provision was warranted and at times,such complaints lead to uncalled harassment of not only the accused but also the complainant. “We are conscious of the object for which the provision(498 A of the IPC) was brought into the statute. At the same time, violation of human rights of innocent cannot be brushed aside. Certain safeguards against uncalled for arrest or insensitive investigation have been addressed by Supreme court. Still, the problem continues to a great extent,” a bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and U U Lalit said.

The apex court directed that in every district, one or more family welfare committees be constituted by the District Legal Services Authorities (DLSA) and every complaint received by police or the magistrate under this provision be referred to and looked into by the committee. It said that constitution and working of such committee,which would preferably be comprising of three members, may be reviewed from time to time and at least once in a year by the District and Sessions Judge of the district concerned.

The bench said that such committees may be constituted of para legal volunteers, social workers, retired persons,wives of working officers and others who may be found suitable and willing. It also said that committee members would not be called as witnesses in such cases and the panel may have interaction with the parties, involved in such cases, personally or by other means of communication. “Report of such committee be given to the authority by whom the complaint is referred to it latest within one month from the date of receipt of complaint.

The committee may give its brief report about the factual aspects and its opinion in the matter. Till report of the committee is received, no arrest should normally be effected,” the bench said. It said the committee’s report may then be considered by the investigating officer or the magistrate on its own merit. “Members of the committee may be given such basic minimum training as may be considered necessary by the legal services authority from time to time. The members of the committee maybe given such honorarium as may be considered viable.

It will be open to the District and Sessions Judge to utilise the cost fund wherever considered necessary and proper,” it said. The court said that complaints under this provision and other connected offences may be probed only by a designated investigating officer of that area and they may be required to undergo training for this. “In cases where a settlement is reached, it will be open to the District and Sessions Judge or any other senior judicial officer nominated by him in the district to dispose of the proceedings including closing of the criminal case if dispute primarily relates to matrimonial discord,” it said.

The bench also said that if a bail plea is filed in such matter, the same may be decided as far as possible on the same day with at least one day’s notice to the public prosecutor or the complainant. “Recovery of disputed dowry items may not by itself be aground for denial of bail if maintenance or other rights of wife/minor children can otherwise be protected. Needless to say that in dealing with bail matters, individual roles, primafacie truth of the allegations, requirement of further arrest/custody and interest of justice must be carefully weighed,” it said.

It said that regarding persons residing out of India, the process of impounding of passports or issuance of Red Corner Notice should not be a routine. The apex court also said that personal appearance of all family members and particularly outstation members may not be required and the trial court ought to grant exemption from personal appearance or permit appearance by video conferencing without adversely affecting progress of the trial. It, however, made it clear that “these directions will not apply to the offences involving tangible physical injuries or death”.

The court has asked the National Legal Services Authority(NALSA) to give a report about need for change, if any, in the directions or for any further directions and listed the matter for consideration in April 2018.

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App

  1. R
    Ram
    Jul 29, 2017 at 11:01 am
    இந்த வரதட்சிணை சட்டத்தால் எத்தனை குடும்பங்கள் நாசமாகி போனது தெரியுமா. வக்கீல்களே இதை காட்டுமிராண்டி சட்டம் என்று வர்ணித்தனர். மனைவி கணவன் மேலே இந்த சட்டத்தை பயன் படுத்தி அவனையும் அவன் குடும்பத்தையும் ஜெயிலுக்கு அனுப்பிய பிறகு அவன் எப்படி அந்த மனைவியுடன் வாழ பிடிக்கும். அப்படியே வாழ்ந்தாலும் அது சவத்துடன் வாழும் வாழ்க்கைதான். எனவே பலகுடும்பங்கள் மனைவி குழந்தை என்று பிரிந்து வாழ்கிறார்கள். ஏன் என் குடும்பமே சின்னா பின்னமாகி யார் எங்கிருக்கிறோம் என்றே தெரியாமல் நடை பிணமாக வாழ்த்துக் கொண்டிருக்கிறேன்.
    (0)(0)
    Reply
    1. M
      Murthy
      Jul 30, 2017 at 1:28 pm
      Ram Brother, I wish you had written this message in English also. My personal sympathies to you. Please remember, that Manushya Janma, is seldom free from these "Ups and Downs". You should not let one pitfall in your Life's Path to make you stop. You cannot sit and stare at that Pit for ever. MOVE ON.. Too many relations advise married couples badly. Some husbands also upset their wives to such a great extent that the wives decide to file complaint under S.498, IPC. Or, it may be some Police officers are also inducing them to do so.... motivated by the thought of earning "bribes" from both parties. In the corrupted Indian Culture of our times, both husbands and wives, fail to consider the TENSION they generate in the other. I agree with you that this anti-Dowry harassment law has had unforeseen consequences. Remember, ANGER between married couples, is a form of MADNESS. It takes twenty years down the road for each to realise HOW SILLY EACH HAD BEEN TO THE OTHER.
      (0)(0)
      Reply
    2. R
      Ram
      Jul 29, 2017 at 10:58 am
      இந்த வரதட்சிணை சட்டத்தால் எத்தனை குடும்பங்கள் நாசமாகி போனது தெரியுமா. வக்கீல்களே இதை காட்டுமிராண்டி சட்டம் என்று வர்ணித்தனர். மனைவி கணவன் மேலே இந்த சட்டத்தை பயன் படுத்தி அவனையும் அவன் குடும்பத்தையும் ஜெயிலுக்கு அனுப்பிய பிறகு அவன் எப்படி அந்த மனைவியுடன் வாழ பிடிக்கும். அப்படியே வாழ்ந்தாலும் அது சவத்துடன் வாழும் வாழ்க்கைதான். எனவே பலகுடும்பங்கள் மனைவி குழந்தை என்று பிரிந்து வாழ்கிறார்கள். ஏன் என் குடும்பமே சின்னா பின்னமாகி யார் எங்கிருக்கிறோம் என்றே தெரியாமல் நடை பிணமாக வாழ்த்துக் கொண்டிருக்கிறேன்.
      (0)(0)
      Reply
      1. R
        Ram
        Jul 29, 2017 at 10:52 am
        இந்த வரதட்சிணை சட்டத்தால் எத்தனை குடும்பங்கள் நாசமாகி போனது தெரியுமா. வக்கீல்களே இதை காட்டுமிராண்டி சட்டம் என்று வர்ணித்தனர். மனைவி கணவன் மேலே இந்த சட்டத்தை பயன் படுத்தி அவனையும் அவன் குடும்பத்தையும் ஜெயிலுக்கு அனுப்பிய பிறகு அவன் எப்படி அந்த மனைவியுடன் வாழ பிடிக்கும். அப்படியே வாழ்ந்தாலும் அது சவத்துடன் வாழும் வாழ்க்கைதான். எனவே பலகுடும்பங்கள் மனைவி குழந்தை என்று பிரிந்து வாழ்கிறார்கள். ஏன் என் குடும்பமே சின்னா பின்னமாகி யார் எங்கிருக்கிறோம் என்றே தெரியாமல் நடை பிணமாக வாழ்த்துக் கொண்டிருக்கிறேன்.
        (0)(0)
        Reply
        1. S
          stranger
          Jul 28, 2017 at 6:42 pm
          this is a problem. law needs to be overwhelmingly biased in favor of the weak, in this case hapless wife, but such law are usually taken advantage of by the strong against the weak, again in this case lecherous scheming and well off women against their simple unsuspecting husband/family, this is also true for rape laws, what is needed is qualitative evaluation of complainants character instead of reading the law verbatim. now that becomes a politically incorrect subject. idea of political correctness has reached a level that it is hurting the society.
          (0)(0)
          Reply
          1. C
            Citizen
            Jul 28, 2017 at 6:30 pm
            When laws are passed with out proper checks and balances just for the sake of votes this is what one can expect Even the SC/ST act is also more abused than this law in day to day affairs it too needs some guidelines from SC What happened to all the stalwarts who are presently arguing about the privacy against the Adhaar do they think individual freedom is so cheap as abused by these two acts over the period ever since they were enacted??? Jaihind
            (0)(0)
            Reply
            1. Load More Comments