Anti Dowry Act: Supreme Court scraps no arrest rule


New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said that there is no need for setting up of a family welfare committee to look into dowry harassment complaints before the arrests are made.

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud modified the order of a two-member bench that recommended for setting up of the local-level committee.

The bench asserted that there isn’t any scope for courts to constitutionally fill up gaps in penal law. On the misuse of section 498A, the Court said that the accused can now seek anticipatory bail.

The top court had on April 23 reserved its verdict on a batch of petitions seeking revisiting of a judgement that had reduced the severity of the anti-dowry law on the offence of subjecting a married woman to cruelty by spouse and in-laws.

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 top 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.

In July 2017, an SC bench had said that in order to prevent ‘the misuse’ of Section 498A, arrest of every individual without a preliminary inquiry is not possible.

The court had called for the formation of a three-member committee in every district that would oversee such cases. Only if the committee saw reason in the complaint, then the husband and his relatives involved in dowry harassment would be arrested.

What is Section 498A?

Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.—Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be pun­ished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

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