No arrest in dowry cases till charges are verified, says Supreme Court

Supreme Court

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The bench made it clear that its direction would not be applicable in cases of tangible injury and death.
  • The court directed setting up of a family welfare committee in each district to examine authenticity of dowry harassment complaints.

NEW DELHI: Expressing concern over disgruntled wives misusing the anti-dowry law against their husbands and in-laws, the Supreme Court on Thursday directed that no arrest or coercive action should be taken on such complaints without ascertaining the veracity of allegations.

Acknowledging a growing trend among women involved in marital discord to abuse Section 498A of IPC to rope in their husbands’ relatives — including parents, minor children, siblings and grandparents — in criminal cases, a bench of Justices A K Goel and UU Lalit said it was high time such frivolous cases which violated the human rights of innocent was checked.

This is a shift from the dominant judicial conception of women as victims who would silently suffer injustice rather than bring disrepute to their family by taking domestic conflict outside the four walls of the home. Going by the popular portrait, it is only the worst victim of abuse among women who approach the court for redress.

On Thursday, the court broke away from the reigning perception to rule that in dowry cases, the account of the alleged victim need not be taken at face value.

Undercutting the innocence law enforcement agencies had so far assigned to complainants in dowry harassment cases, the Supreme Court on Thursday directed all states to set up family welfare committee (FWC) in each district and tasked them with testing the veracity of every complaint.

“It is a matter of serious concern that 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 bench said.

“We are conscious of the object for which the provision was brought into the statute. At the same time, violation of human rights of innocent cannot be brushed aside,” it added.

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