Prelims level : Indian Polity Mains level : GS-II (Indian Polity and Governance)
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Why in News:

  • The Supreme Court of India modified its July 2017 order in dowry harassment case for preventing misuse of Section 498A of Indian Penal Code (IPC). The Section 498A (dowry harassment) of IPC protects gender justice and rights.


  • The CJI headed three judge bench of the Supreme Court, may shortly decide whether a case of cruelty on account of dowry harassment punishable under Section 498A of the IPC can be registered, investigated and ‘punished’ (prosecuted) in a jurisdiction different from the one from which the aggrieved spouse has been forced out on account of such harassment.
  • July 2017 ruling of Supreme Court in Rajesh Kumar case The Supreme Court on July 27, 2017 ruled that the police cannot    arrest    the    accused   without    conducting   a preliminary inquiry under dowry harassment cases. The court had put an end to immediate arrests in dowry harassment cases, under Section 498A of Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • The ruling was made by a bench of Justices A K Goel and UU Lalit.
  • The court held that arrests in dowry harassment cases cannot be made on a belief that the accused may have committed the offence. There has to be adequate material to show that the arrest was necessary to prevent the accused from committing any further offence.
  • However, the bench made it clear that its directions will not extend to cases of tangible injury or death. The court directed states to set up Family Welfare Committees (FWC) comprising 3 members in every district across the country to keep an eye on the uprightness of each complaint. However, these committee members will not be considered as witnesses.
  • The court also ruled that every complaint under Section 498A received by the police or the Magistrate should be referred to and looked into by such a committee.
  • No arrest should be affected till the report of the committee is received.

Family welfare committee (FWC)

  • The Supreme Court directed all states to set up family welfare committee (FWC) in each district and tasked them with testing the veracity of every complaint.
  • The bench ruled that all such complaints received by the police or the magistrate must be referred to the family welfare committee and no action should be taken against the husband and the in-laws till the committee gave its report after interacting with the parties. Report of such committee be given to the authority by whom the complaint is referred to, latest within one month from the date of receipt of complaint. The court also said bail applications of husband and in-laws should be decided expeditiously by trial courts, preferably the same day it is filed. The court further said impounding of passports or issuance of Red Corner Notice against person living abroad should be avoided and personal appearance of husband’s family members should not be insisted upon by trial courts in dowry harassment cases. It also directed that a designated police officer should be appointed to deal with complaints under Section 498A.
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