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SC reserves verdict on reviewing order banning prompt arrest in dowry cases

In July 2017, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court had stopped immediate arrest of accused under the stringent anti-dowry harassment law saying the law was being misused by women.

india Updated: Apr 23, 2018 22:47 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Supreme Court,Dowry case,Review petition
The Supreme Court is hearing a plea to reconsider a July 2017 order banning immediate arrest of accused under the anti-dowry harassment law.(HT PHOTO)

The Supreme Court on Monday reserved its verdict on a plea to reconsider a July 2017 order that banned immediate arrest of the accused under the stringent anti-dowry harassment law. The apex court, however, said that dowry has a “chilling effect on marriage”.

“The law protects gender justice and there should not be any kind of cruel treatment on women. Dowry has a chilling effect on marriage,” a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said on Monday, while agreeing to have a relook at the verdict that came under severe criticism for diluting the anti-dowry harassment law. The July 2017 judgement was delivered by a two-judge bench comprising justices AK Goel and UU Lalit.

“We will go by the criminal procedure code and lay down a procedure on how to arrest so that liberty of the accused is also protected and women are saved from cruelty. Liberty of the husband and a woman’s right needs to be reconciled,” the bench said during the hearing.

The court also clarified that it will only determine whether the July 2017 verdict was passed to fill gaps in the law and if it takes out the spirit of section 498A (provision to deal with dowry harassment) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Additional solicitor general PS Narasimha, representing the Centre, said the order was not “practical”.He pointed out that the National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA) report, prepared as per the July 2017 judgement, says it was impractical to set up family welfare committees and impossible to monitor them. The law officer submitted that the intent of the judges was probably to fill the gap, although the directions are improbable.

Justices Goel and Lalit had said women were filing “frivolous dowry complaints” against husbands and in-laws. The series of directions including no arrest of accused until family welfare committees — set up by NALSA — vet the complaint. It allowed settlement of criminal proceedings, subsequent to which the accused could get bail.

Senior advocate Indu Malhotra, who is the amicus curiae, said the court could not have barred issuance of red corner notice against the accused. She submitted that investigation of a crime is the police’s job and not that of a family welfare committee comprising non-legal persons.

First Published: Apr 23, 2018 22:47 IST