SC Modifies Previous Order on Dowry Harassment

The previous order called for the setting up of a committee to deal with dowry harassment cases and now a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra has protected the pre-arrest or anticipatory bail provisions.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday modified a previous order providing for setting up of a committee to deal with complaints of dowry harassment, thereby restoring to the police the power to investigate a case filed under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code dealing with the issue.

The top court had on April 23 reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas seeking revision of a 2017 judgment that had reduced the severity of the anti-dowry law on the offence of subjecting a married woman to cruelty by spouse and in-laws.

“We have protected pre-arrest or anticipatory bail provision in dowry harassment cases,” said a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud.

The apex court, while modifying the verdict given by its two-judge bench, said there is no scope for courts for constitutionally filling up gaps in penal law.

“There should be gender justice for women as dowry has a chilling effect on marriage on the one hand. On the other hand, there is right to life and personal liberty of the man,” the bench said while reserving its verdict.

A two-judge bench of the apex court had in July last year voiced concern over “abuse” of section 498A (subjecting a married woman to cruelty) and passed a slew of directions, including that no arrest should “normally be effected” without verifying allegations as violation of human rights of innocents could not be brushed aside.

The bench was hearing a plea filed by Nyayadhar, an NGO formed by a group of women advocates of Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district, seeking sharpness in section 498A, claiming that the otherwise “helpful instrument” in the hands of victim women has become “valueless”.

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