Misuse of Section 498A: SC modifies earlier order, says welfare committees not needed in dowry cases
The top court had in 2017 ordered the constitution of the committees in every district to look into cases filed under the section.
The Supreme Court on Friday modified its earlier order on setting up family welfare committees to look into cases of dowry harassment, Live Law reported.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra withdrew the court’s direction from July 2017 that said family welfare committees would scrutinise such complaints before the police take any action. The committees would have a month to look into these complaints and only a designated investigating officer can conduct inquiries, it had added. The Supreme Court had also directed bail pleas of those accused to be disposed off on the same day.
The judges on Friday accepted that such a committee would create an extrajudicial entity not envisaged in the Code of Criminal Procedure. They also decided to remove another guideline that gave a district judge the power to dispose of proceedings if the parties in a case reach a settlement. Such a power in a non-compoundable provision such as Section 498A exclusively belongs to the High Court, the top court held.
“A criminal proceeding which is not compoundable can be quashed by the High Court under Section 482 CrPC,” the bench held. “When settlement takes place, then both the parties can file a petition under Section 482 CrPC and the High Court, considering the bonafide of the petition, may quash the same. The power rests with the High Court.”
The court’s order came during the hearing of a case filed by petitioner Rajesh Sharma in 2017 to prevent the alleged misuse of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. The law prescribes a maximum three-year prison term for a woman’s husband or his relatives if they are found guilty of harassing her and subjecting her to cruelty. Justice AM Khanwilkar had reserved the judgement on April 23, Live Law reported.
In Sharma’s case, the top court had said: “The object of the provision is prevention of the dowry menace. But as has been rightly contented by the petitioner that many instances have come to light where the complaints are not bona fide and have been filed with oblique motive.”