In an effort to curb the menace of false dowry cases, Honourable Supreme Court Of India has passed a landmark judgment today. SC has ruled out that arrests can not be made  now onwards in dowry death/torture cases till the allegations made by the victim are proved. The cases where there is a visible sign of injury or death of the victim are exempted from the decisions.

What is section IPC 498A?
Section 498A of IPC was passed by the Parliament in 1983, looking at the rising cases of killing of brides by burning them,dowry being the reason.It declared the crime cognizable, non-compoundable and non-bailable, which means if accused the person could be arrested by police without any warrant.

How was it getting misused earlier?
A person’s wife/daughter-in-law whose demands were not met could make a written false complaint of dowry harassment at a nearby police station. Then husband, his old parents, and relatives were immediately arrested without sufficient investigation and put behind bars on non-bailable terms. Even if the complaint was false, the person was presumed guilty until  proved otherwise. The responsibility to prove themselves innocent, lied entirely with the accused party.

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Supreme Court of India issued the new set of directives related to the application of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deals with the physical and mental harassment of women by her husband and/or his family with regards to dowry or other material possessions.

Earlier, it was a non-bailable and congnizable offence which often used to be a weapon for some women for framing their husbands.A lot of Men’s rights activists were campaigning against this ruling for years since a large number of false cases were noted by them which ruined the lives of a lot of men leading to mental trauma as well as poor financial conditions.

Referring the National Crime Records Bureau’s 2012 data, the bench said that a quarter of all arrests were those of women — mothers and sisters of husbands — and while charge sheets were filed at an“exponentially high 93.6%” of cases, only 14.4% ended in convictions.The report projected that out of the 3,72,706 cases pending trial in 2012, as many as 3,17,000 were projected to lead to acquittals.

A bench of justices AK Goel and UU Lalit barred the police from making a direct arrest and said the involvement of civil society was necessary “to achieve the laudable object of punishing cruelty at the hands of husbands or his relatives against the wife”.

A Family Welfare Committee (FWC) in every district will scrutinize dowry harassment cases and submit their report to local police. Till the report is received, no arrest should be made, the directives states. After considering the report on its own merit, the police or magistrate will proceed with the further action, the court ruled.

“It is a matter of serious concern that a large number of cases continues to be filed under Section 498A alleging harassment of married women. To remedy the situation, we are of the view that involvement of civil society in the aid of administration of justice can be one of the steps, apart from the investigating officers and the concerned trial courts being sensitized,” the bench said.

This is a welcome decision by SC and will certainly check the number of cases where women or her family members used to frame the innocent husband and in-laws leading to their immediate arrests causing mental and financial woes.

 

 

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