SC upholds bar on automatic arrests in dowry cases [Governance]
- A Curative Bench, led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur, has upheld a 2014 Supreme Court verdict that men cannot be “automatically” arrested on dowry harassment complaints filed by their wives.
- The four-judge Bench found no fault with the verdict that the dowry harassment law had become a “menace”, more often used as “weapons rather than shields by disgruntled wives”.
- Days before his retirement in 2014, Justice Chandramauli Kumar Prasad led a Bench that lamented that courts were filled with mothers-in-law, sisters-in-law and fathers-in-law and husbands facing prosecution under Section 498 A (dowry harassment) of the Indian Penal Code.
- Dowry harassment is a cognisable and non-bailable offence. If guilty, a person faces up to three years’ imprisonment and fine.
- The verdict pointed to a “phenomenal increase in matrimonial disputes in recent years” even as “institution of marriage is greatly revered in this country”.
- Presenting government crime statistics to show that 1.97 lakh people were arrested in 2012 for dowry harassment, nearly a quarter of those being women.
- Section 498A made up 4.5 per cent of the total crimes charged under different sections of the IPC — “more than any other crimes excepting theft and hurt”.
- Rate of charge-sheeting in cases under Section 498A of IPC is as high as 93.6 %, while conviction rate is only 15 percent, which is lowest across all heads.
- Noting that “arrest brings humiliation, curtails freedom and cast scars forever”, the Supreme Court had directed the police not to arrest unnecessarily and Magistrates not to authorise detention casually and mechanically.