SC modifies order on dowry harassment cases

Supreme Court
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday modified its order to set up of a committee to deal with dowry harassment complaints by protecting the provision of pre-arrest.(Pre-arrest investigation is the stage of criminal procedure that takes place after a report of suspected criminal activity).

The top court had on April 23 reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas seeking revisit of a judgement that had reduced the severity of the anti-dowry law.

"We have protected pre-arrest or anticipatory bail provision in dowry harassment cases," said a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud.

The apex court, while modifying the verdict given by its two-judge bench, said there was no scope for the courts to constitutionally fill up the gaps in penal law.

"There should be gender justice for women as dowry has a chilling effect on marriage on the one hand, and on the other hand, there is right to life and personal liberty of the man," the bench had said while reserving its verdict.

The bench was hearing a plea filed by an NGO 'Nyayadhar,' an organisation formed by a group of women advocates of Maharashtra's Ahmednagar district, seeking sharpness in section 498(A), claiming that the otherwise 'helpful instrument' in the hands of victim women has become "valueless."

The plea suggested that out of the three members in family welfare committees, at least two should be women and one should have done Masters in Social Work. It had also suggested recording of facts at the time of counselling and said the committee should also consider the economic status of the parties.

A two-judge bench of the apex court in July last year had voiced concern over the 'abuse' of section 498 A (subjecting a married woman to cruelty) and passed a slew of directions, including that no arrest should 'normally be effected' without verifying allegations as violation of human rights of innocents cannot be brushed aside.

The bench had observed that many such complaints are not bonafide and "uncalled for arrest" may ruin the chances of settlement.

The apex court had issued notices to Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Women and Child Development and National Commission of Women and sought their responses while disagreeing with the July 27 verdict of the smaller bench. 

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