No immediate arrest under dowry harassment law: Supreme Court
The court held that arrests in dowry harassment cases, where the maximum punishment is up to 7 years in jail, cannot be made on a belief that the accused may have committed the offence.
The Supreme Court on 27 July 2017 ruled that the police cannot arrest the accused without conducting a preliminary inquiry under dowry harassment cases.
With this, the court puts an end to immediate arrests in dowry harassment cases, under Section 498A of Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The ruling was made by a bench of Justices A K Goel and UU Lalit.
Highlights of the ruling
• The court held that arrests in dowry harassment cases, where the maximum punishment is up to 7 years in jail, cannot be made on a belief that the accused may have committed the offence.
• There has to be adequate material to show that the arrest was necessary to prevent the accused from committing any further offence.
• However, the bench made it clear that its directions will not extend to cases of tangible injury or death.
• The court directed states to set up a Family Welfare Committees (FWC) comprising 3 members in every district across the country to keep an eye on the uprightness of each complaint.
• As per the reports, social workers, retired persons, wives of working officers, para-legal volunteers and other citizens who may be found suitable and willing, could become committee members.
• However, these committee members will not be considered as witnesses.
• The court also ruled that every complaint under Section 498A received by the police or the Magistrate should be referred to and looked into by such a committee.
• No arrest should be affected till the report of the committee is received.
• The report will then be considered by the Investigating Officer or the Magistrate on its own merit.
• The court also directed that a designated police officer should be appointed to deal with complaints under Section 498A.
The court's order came in the wake of suspected misuse of the anti-dowry harassment law framed in 1983.