To reduce cases of fake dowry harassment, the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered to set up a Family Welfare Committee (FWC). The committee in every district will look into the cases before the police goes ahead and arrest the accused party. The apex court also laid down the framework to stop misuse of the law by “disgruntled women”.

Indian Penal Code’s Section 498A allows women to complain against their husbands of harassment.

Wherein the husband can straight away get arrested on a cognisable and non-bailable offence. The SC has taken forward the measures to stop usage of automatic arrest by women in the current judgement.

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The bench of justices AK Goel and UU Lalit stated findings from the National Crime Records Bureau’s 2012 data. It said that a quarter of all arrests were those of women — mothers and sisters of husbands. Another key finding is that while charge sheets were filed at an “exponentially high 93.6%” of cases, only 14.4% ended in convictions.

The court said that of the 3,72,706 cases pending trial in 2012, as many as 3,17,000 were projected to lead to acquittals.

It has restricted the police from making immediate arrests. The top court said as in any other case, the police will now have to conduct a preliminary inquiry before making any arrest, reported NDTV.

“It is a matter of serious concern that a large number of cases continues to be filed under Section 498A alleging harassment of married women. To remedy the situation, we are of the view that the involvement of civil society with the aid of the administration of justice can be one of the steps, apart from the investigating officers and the concerned trial courts being sensitised,” the bench said, the Hindustan Times reported.

The judgement determines that the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) will form the committee. This will have three members from para-legal volunteers, social workers, retired persons, wives of working officers or citizens who will be willing to take up the work.

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According to the new rule

  • Once a dowry harassment complaint is made to the police, it will be referred to the committee. The committee will counsel both parties personally and virtually. It will then submit a report to the authority within a month. Only after the report is received and assessed an arrest can be made.
  • The court also added that only a designated Investigating Officer of the area can investigate the cases. This will be done once a month. These officers must undergo a four months long training before taking the cases.
  • It also gave accused the permission to appear for trials virtually. The accused need not be present in person if it does not affect the due course of action.

More Stories by Poorvi Gupta

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