November 30, 2017
“SC’s July verdict wasn’t needed as it amounted to creating an extra jurisdiction by appointing FWCs that weren’t provided under the Indian Penal Code” SC
On Wednesday, the Apex Court said that there was no need for the guidelines framed by it to restrain immediate arrest of a husband & his relatives in dowry harassment cases, without verifying the authenticity of the complaint & agreed to re-examine the previous verdict.
Supreme Court said that the mechanism to screen the anti-dowry complaints through the district-level committees was outside provisions of the IPC & the Code of Criminal Procedure, and needed to be scrapped off. The SC took a 2nd look at the committees it set up as it believed that they might be legally unsustainable.
While expressing concern over misuse of the Anti-Dowry Law by disgruntled wives against their husbands & in-laws, a division bench of the top court on 27th July had directed that no arrest/action be taken on such complaints without ensuring veracity of the allegations.
SC had directed setting up of a Family Welfare Committee (FWC) in every district & entrusted it with the task of examining authenticity of the dowry harassment complaints. It had said such complaints received by the police/magistrate be referred to this committee & no action be taken until the committee gives its report after interacting with the concerned parties.
4 months down the line, a 3-judge bench of CJI Dipak Misra, Justice A M Khanwilkar & Justice D Y Chandrachud said the SC’s July verdict wasn’t needed as it amounted to creating an extra jurisdiction by appointing FWCs that weren’t provided under the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
“Investigations in such cases can’t be handed over to the committee. How can Court frame guidelines for penal provision of Section 498A. It has to be guided as per the IPC & the Code of Criminal Procedure,” the bench said.
The Apex Court agreed to examine this issue after it was told that the police weren’t registering FIRs following the SC verdict. The Court posted the case for hearing in the 3rd week of July, 2018.
Though it’s the primary task of Police & the Judiciary to ensure justice in the criminal cases, the Court had, for the 1st time, brought civil society into the picture by setting up 3-member panels comprising paralegal volunteers, social workers, retired persons & wives of working officers who may be found suitable & willing. These FWCs were to act as an additional layer in administration of justice to check false dowry harassment cases.
“It’s a matter of serious concern that a large no. of cases continue to be filed under S. 498A alleging harassment of married women. Many such complaints aren’t bona fide. At the time of filing of the complaint, implications & consequences aren’t visualized. At times such complaints lead to harassment not only to the accused, but also to the complainant. Uncalled for arrest may ruin the chances of settlement,” the Supreme Court’s July order had said.