Husbands Can Be Immediately Arrested In Dowry Cases
The Supreme Court has said there was no need for the guidelines framed by it to restrain immediate arrest of a husband and his relatives in dowry harassment cases without verifying the authenticity of the complaint and agreed to reexamine its previous verdict.
The SC said the mechanism to screen anti-dowry complaints through district-level committees was outside provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Code of Criminal Procedure and needed to be scrapped.
The court took a second look at the committees it set up as it believed they might be legally unsustainable. Expressing concern over misuse of the anti-dowry law by disgruntled wives against husbands and in-laws, a division bench of the SC on July 27 had directed that no arrest or action be taken on such complaints without ensuring the veracity of the allegations.
It directed setting up of a family welfare committee (FWC) in each district and entrusted it with the task of examining the authenticity of dowry harassment complaints. It had said such complaints received by the police or a magistrate be referred to the committee and no action be taken till the committee gave its report after interacting with the parties.
Four months down the line, a three-judge bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A MKhanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said the court’s July verdict was not needed as it amounted to creating an extra jurisdiction by appointing FWCs that were not provided under the IPC.
“Investigations in such cases cannot be handed over to the committee. How can court frame guidelines for the penal provision of Section 498A. It has to be guided as per the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure,” the bench said. The court agreed to examine the issue after it was told that the police were not registering FIRs following the apex court verdict.
The court posted the case for hearing in the third week of July. Though it is the primary task of the police and the judiciary to ensure justice in criminal cases, the court had, for the first time, brought civil society into the picture by setting up three-member panel comprising paralegal volunteers, social workers, retired persons and wives of working officers who may be found suitable and willing.
The FWC was to act as an additional layer in the administration of justice to check false dowry harassment cases.
“It is a matter of serious concern that a large number of cases continue to be filed under Section 498A alleging harassment of married women. Many such complaints are not bona fide. At the time of filing of the complaint, implications and consequences are not visualised. At times, such complaints lead to uncalled for harassment not only to the accused but also to the complainant. Uncalled for arrest may ruin the chances of settlement,” the SC’s July order had said