Dowry harassment cases: SC restores police power

New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Friday restored the police power to act on complaints of dowry harassment under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Chief Justice Dipak Misra on behalf of the 3-judge Bench that included Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud struck down its earlier verdict on constitution of the family welfare committee by the District Legal Services authorities to scrutinise the complaints before police registers the case. It held that the IPC dies not permit such a committee.

The CJI, who wrote all the four judgments, agreed with the Social Action forum for Manav Adhikar (human rights) that the last year’s ruling in Rajesh Sharma versus State of UP dilutes Section 498-A inserted in the IPC for immediate FIR registration on complaint of cruelty and harassment by a married woman.

The petitioners had sought the top court’s directions for uniform policy on registration of FIR, arrest and bail under Section 498-A to ensure uniformity in prevention of the crime, investigation, prosecution and rehabilitation of victims and their children at the central, state and district level.

“There are statutory provisions and judgments in the field and, therefore, the directions pertaining to constitution of a (family welfare) committee and conferment of power on the said Committee is erroneous,” the Court held. While restoring the Police power to arrest, the court asked it to act with caution, it said: “The legislature in its wisdom has made the offence under Section 498-A IPC cognizable and non-bailable. The fault lies with the investigating agency which sometimes jumps into action without application of mind.”

Restoring police power to arrest, the court however said that police will act with caution in these cases. “We think it appropriate to direct the Investigating Officer to be careful in dealing with the complaints of dowry harassment.”

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