In a landmark verdict on Thursday, the Supreme Court said that the police will have to conduct a preliminary inquiry to verify charges before making arrests in dowry cases.
Expressing its concern over a growing trend among women involved in marital discord to abuse Section 498A of IPC to harass their husbands’ relatives in criminal cases, a bench comprising Justices A K Goel and UU Lalit said that it was high time such frivolous cases which violated the human rights of innocent were checked, reported Times of India.
The anti-dowry law was framed in 1983 following a spate of dowry-related deaths.
The court, in 2014, had given a 41-point directing police to consult it before making any arrest even suggesting that the law ministry should consider amending the Act to stop its misuse.
The apex court on Thursday said that the anti-dowry law was enacted with the laudable object of punishing cruelty at the hands of husband or his relatives — particularly when such cruelty drives the wife to suicide, reported NDTV.
The court said that in light of the current misuse of the law, family welfare committees should be set up in every district across the country. Every dowry harassment complaint made under Section 498A of Indian Penal Code, it added, must be referred to the committee, which would look into them.
“Till report of the committee is received, no arrest should normally be effected. The report may be then considered by the investigating officer or the magistrate on its own merit,” India Today quoted the bench.
“Complaints under Section 498A and other connected offences may be investigated only by a designated investigating officer of the area. Such designations may be made within one month from today,” the bench said.
The judgment came during the hearing of a petition by one Rajesh Sharma, which was an appeal against an order by the Allahabad High Court.
The Supreme Court said one of the steps is to facilitate the closure of proceedings where a genuine settlement has been reached.