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SC says ‘no’ to immediate arrests in dowry harassment cases

New Delhi: Due to increasing misuse of the law by women, immediate arrests by the police in dowry harassment cases has been ruled out today by the Supreme Court. The police will now have to conduct a preliminary inquiry before making any arrest, like any other case, the court said.

The court’s latest order came as complaints heaped up over the years alleging misuse of the anti-dowry harassment law. The law was framed in 1983 following a spate of dowry-related deaths, reports NDTV.

The court had given a 41-clauses list in July 2014 and said the police will have to consult it before arresting any one in these cases. The court had even suggested that the law ministry to consider amending the Act to stop its misuse.

However, the bench of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit said the anti-dowry law was enacted with the laudable object of husband’s or his family’s cruelty towards the wife. Especially in the cases where the wife is driven to suicide.

But due to the misuse of the law by the hands of several women, the court said 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 must be referred to the committee, which would look into them.

A procedure to conduct the probe by these committees was also suggested by the court. The couple and their families should be called in and the matter should be discussed. Only then the committee will submit a report to the local Magistrate. Arrests can be made only if the committee report points to foul play by the husband, the court 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.