Dowry case judgment against women’s rights: SC to revisit its ruling banning automatic arrests

Chief justice-led bench said July judgment, delivered to restrict false dowry cases, goes against women’s rights
The July order said all dowry harassment complaints had to be vetted by a committee before the accused could be arrested.(HT file photo)
The July order said all dowry harassment complaints had to be vetted by a committee before the accused could be arrested.(HT file photo)
Updated on Oct 13, 2017 11:06 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

The Supreme Court said on Friday it will reconsider its own three-month-old ruling restricting automatic arrests in dowry cases, terming the July judgment detrimental to women’s rights.

Women rights activists had slammed the verdict which, they said, diluted the anti-dowry law by barring police from arresting the accused without verifying allegations.

A bench headed by chief justice Dipak Misra said it did not agree with the earlier verdict.

“We think it’s dilution of woman’s rights...We are not in agreement with the view taken as it is liable to affect the rights of woman,” the bench said while hearing a petition seeking modification to the July order laying down guidelines on complaints under section 498 (A) of the IPC. The section deals with subjecting married woman to cruelty.

“We can’t write law. We can only interpret the law,” added the bench, also comprising justices DY Chandrachud and AM Khanwilkar.

India outlawed dowry in 1961 but the practice of the bride’s family gifting expensive items – and even cash – is widely prevalent in many states, especially in north India.

Delhi Police data show dowry harassment allegations almost doubling in five years, rising from 2,046 cases in 2012 to 3,877 last year. As many as 54 women died between January and June this year in Delhi after allegedly being bullied for more dowry.

Across India, hundreds of women are allegedly killed every year by in-laws over dowry, activists say.

Men’s rights activists, however, say the law was being increasingly misused by women for settling grudges.

To tackle the problem of false complaints, the court had earlier empowered a three-member family welfare committee panel to examine the allegations before the police could arrest the accused.

The court on Friday said a larger bench will hear the matter though the petitioner had – NGO Nyayadhar – had only prayed for inclusion of two women in the family welfare committee suggested in the July 27 judgment.

The bench also asked senior advocates, Indu Malhotra and V Shekhar, to assist the court on the matter and issued notice to the Centre for its response.

The NGO said the general complaint that the law was subject to gross misuse was not supported by any data to indicate how frequently it happened. Its lawyer, Alok Sen, said one of the two female members in the committee should be a master in social work.


    Bhadra is a legal correspondent and reports Supreme Court proceedings, besides writing on legal issues. A law graduate, Bhadra has extensively covered trial of high-profile criminal cases. She has had a short stint as a crime reporter too.

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