Panels to sift genuine dowry cases: SC

SC rules out immediate arrest in dowry cases directs states to form family welfare committee

SC rules out immediate arrest in dowry cases directs states to form family welfare committee

Instead, the Court said that prior to making an arrest, the police must conduct a preliminary inquiry similar to any other case.

In a landmark judgment, aimed at putting an end to misuse of section 498A of the IPC that is dowry-related offences, the Supreme Court on Thursday put an end to the automatic arrest of the husband and his family members.

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. "Certain safeguards against uncalled for arrest or insensitive investigation have been addressed by this Court", it added.

But in the wake of the abuse of this law, a bench of Justices A K Goel and UU Lalit said it was high time that such frivolous cases violating the rights of innocent have to be checked.

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.

Lastly, the Court issued a caveat that these directions would not apply to offences involving tangible physical injuries or death. This order is expected to provide relief to a large number of husbands and family members who normally are arrested based on the complaint filed by the wife even before the her claim is verified.

"We are conscious of the object for which the provision was brought into the statute". 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. "After seeing the working of the arrangement for six months, the National Legal Services Authority may give a report on changes if necessary".

The apex court also said that personal appearance of all family members and particularly outstation members may not be required and the trial court ought to grant exemption from personal appearance or permit appearance by video conferencing without adversely affecting progress of the trial.

The Court also directed that cases under 498A may only be investigated by designated Investigating Officers of the area. The Court also stated that impounding of passports and Red Corner Notices for people residing overseas should not be a routine.

It further states, "In cases where settlement is reached, it will be open to the district and sessions judge or any other senior judicial officer nominated by him in the district to dispose of the proceedings including closing of the criminal case if dispute primarily relates to matrimonial discord".

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