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SC: Relative of victim can file dowry harassment complaint; CJI meets SC in-house inquiry panel – Current Affairs

The section 498A of the Indian Penal Code was introduced to protect married women from being subjected to matrimonial cruelty.

May 3, 2019 15:24 IST
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Story 1- Relative of victim can lodge complaint of dowry harassment: SC

The Supreme Court of India in a landmark judgement on April 30, 2019, ruled that any relative of a woman, who is undergoing cruelty and dowry harassment by her husband or in laws, can file a complaint against them.

The judgement was delivered by a bench comprising SC Justices Ashok Bhushan and Justice KM Joseph. The bench stated that Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with matrimonial cruelty against women, does not contemplate that complaint should be filed only by women, who is subjected to cruelty by husband or his relative.

Section 498A of IPC

The section 498A of the Indian Penal Code was passed by the Indian Parliament in 1983. It was introduced to protect married women from being subjected to matrimonial cruelty.

It is a criminal law that states that “Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty–Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.”

When is the section invoked?

The section is invoked when a husband or in-laws indulge in cruelty on a woman or seek dowry.

The Judgement: Key Highlights

  • The bench observed that there is nothing in Section 498A, which may indicate that when a woman is subjected to cruelty, a complaint has to be filed necessarily by the women so subjected.
  • The bench noted that Section 498A of IPC indicates that the provision does not contemplate that complaint for an offence under Section 498A should be filed only by the woman, who is subjected to cruelty by husband or his relative.
  • Hence, the bench stated that it will have to take into consideration the complaint filed by relatives of the victim and cannot deem such complaints as not maintainable on this ground.

Significance

As per the order, any relative can lodge a complaint on behalf of the victim, which will be deemed to be maintainable.

The landmark judgement will help the women victims, who are unable to lodge a complaint against her husband and in-laws.

Background

The court delivered this ruling while hearing the Rashmi Chopra vs. State of UP case. The bench was considering the submission that since the complaint in the case was not made by the woman, but her father, it is not maintainable.

The bench was dealing with an appeal against Allahabad High Court order refusing to quash the summons issued by the Magistrate in the complaint against husband and relatives, filed under Section 498A and Section 3/4 of Dowry Prohibition Act, which also alleges other IPC offences.

The court pronounced that it was of the view that the complaint filed by the father cannot be said to be not maintainable on this ground.

Story 2- CJI meets SC in-house panel on sexual harassment allegations

The Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on May 1, 2019 had a meeting with the three-member in-house Supreme Court committee that was looking into the allegations of sexual harassment leveled against him by a former woman employee of the court.

The meeting took place in response to a letter of request, which was issued to the CJI asking him to meet the committee on the issue.

The move comes after the complainant on April 30 decided to boycott the proceedings of the in-house panel set up by the apex court to inquire into the charges. The complainant declined to participate in the proceedings saying that she felt “nervous” and “intimidated” by the panel and felt that she “won’t get any justice” from it.

The complainant claimed that her decision to withdraw came after the panel refused to let her have a lawyer or a support person with her during the hearing. She also claimed that the committee declined her request to record the proceedings on video or audio. She was also not supplied with copies of her statements made during the panel hearings of April 26 and April 29. Finally, she said that no information was given to her about the procedure followed by Justice Bobde.

Background

The woman's case had been referred to the three-judge panel with the CJI himself sitting on the judicial side on a court non-working day to clarify his position on the issue.

In the full court sitting, Justice SA Bobde, who is the senior-most judge in the Supreme Court after the CJI, was asked to create a mechanism to look into the sexual harassment allegations.

Justice SA Bobde named two other Justices to be a part of the panel besides him, among whom Justice N V Ramana recused himself due to his close relations with the CJI. He was replaced by Justice Indu Malhotra. The third member of the panel is another woman judge, Justice Indira Banerjee.

The severe allegations had come out in the open on April 20, 2019, when few websites published the woman’s allegations against the CJI.

Indu Malhotra part of panel to probe sexual harassment charges against CJI

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