Expressing its concern over the misuse of Section 498A of IPC, the Supreme Court on Wednesday restrained the police from automatically making any arrest under the dubious anti-dowry law. The court observed that disgruntled wives were increasingly using the anti dowry law against their in-laws and husbands.
The court further asked the state governments to instruct police not to go on an arresting spree – the moment such a case is being registered.
The attitude of arresting and then continuing with the rest of the procedure was termed as “despicable” by the court and ordered it to be curbed. Moreover, the police would be required to give valid proof and reasons to a magistrate before taking such an action.
Arrests under anti dowry law
Expressing apprehensions over rampant misuse of Section 498A of IPC, a bench of justices consisting Justice Chandramauli Kumar Prasad and Justice Pinaki Chadra Ghose, said that the law was introduced to combat harassment of women by their husbands and in laws. “The fact that it is a cognizable and non bail able offence has lent it a dubious place of pride amongst the provisions that are used as weapons rather than shield by disgruntled wives”, the bench observed.
The court also added that nearly a quarter of those arrested under the Act were women and most of them were mothers and sisters of the husbands.
The 498-A was added to the Indian Penal Code in 1983 and provides for a maximum imprisonment of three years and a fine. On the other hand, the maximum sentence under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 is two years and a fine.
The court further observed that as an arrest under the Act curbs freedom, brings humiliation and casts scars forever, such an action should not be immediately taken only because it is a non bail able and cognizable offence.
The court also ordered the magistrates to put on record that the reasons given by the police justified detention, failing which would lead to departmental action and even contempt of court.
The apex court order came in the wake of a petition filed by man from Bihar, seeking anticipatory bail in a similar case filed by his wife.