No Immediate Arrest Under Dowry Harassment Law: Supreme Court of India

With the growing misuse of anti-dowry harassment law, the Supreme Court of India has ordered to set up family welfare committees in every district and arrests to be made only after verifying the authenticity of the claim.

The anti-dowry law was introduced in 1983 to protect the women from abuse by relatives. However, every year more than 10,000 out of 1 lakh complaints of dowry harassment are found to be false (data by NCRB, 2013). This makes the anti-dowry harassment law one of the most abused laws in the country.

Considering the extent of misuse of the law, the Supreme Court has ordered that every dowry harassment complaint should be made under Section 498A of Indian Penal Code and should be referred to the family welfare committees which will be set up in every district. The Supreme Court has given additional procedures to be followed by this committee. This committee will then submit a report to the local Magistrate. If the committee detects foul play by the husband and his family, only then the arrests can be made. However, in cases of death or tangible injury, this process will not be applied.

It was also directed that a designated police officer should be appointed to deal with the complaints filed under Sec 498A. The Supreme Court has granted the states and Union Territories one-month time to appoint such an officer.

It is the first time that the court has brought in civil society in ensuring justice by setting up a three-member committee involving paralegal volunteers/social workers/retired persons/wives of working officers/other citizens who may be willing or suitable for the role.

Moreover, the Supreme Court has also ordered to expedite the bail application of husband and in-laws by trial court (preferably the same day when it is filed). For people living outside, the impounding of passports or issuance of Red Corner Notice should be avoided and insistence of personal appearance of all family members should not be made by the trial court in dowry harassment cases.


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