Family Welfare Committee – Section 498-A of I.P.C.
Recently the Supreme Court of India issues new guide lines to prevent and misuse of 498-A of I.P.C. in Rajesh Sharma Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh on 27-07-2017. In this case the two judge bench namely justice A.K.Goel and U.U.Lalit stated that, not allowed to automatic arrest in 498-A of IPC and also opines that the involvement of civil society in the assistance of administration of justice can be one of the steps, apart from the investigating officers and the concerned trial courts being sensitized, it is also essential to facilitate closure of proceedings where a genuine settlement has been reached instead of parties being required to move High Courts only for that purpose.
The Supreme court observed, “It is a matter of serious concern that large number of cases continue to be filed under Section 498A alleging harassment of married women. This Court had earlier noticed the fact that most of such complaints are filed in the heat of the moment over trivial issues. Many such complaints are not bona fide. At the time of filing of the complaint, implications and consequences are not visualized. At times, such complaints lead to uncalled for harassment not only to the accused but also to the complainant. Uncalled for arrest may ruin the chances of settlement. This Court had earlier observed that a serious review of the provision was warranted.”
The Bench sought assistance from Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Atmaram Nadkarni and Senior Advocate V Giri as amicus. The Court deliberated the subject of roping in family members to settle a matrimonial dispute.
The Bench stated, “Omnibus allegations against all relatives of the husband cannot be taken at face value when in normal course it may only be the husband or at best his parents who may be accused of demanding dowry or causing cruelty. To check abuse of over implication, clear supporting material is needed to proceed against other relatives of a husband.”
498-A of IPC: Husband and relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty: Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman subject such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be libel to fine.
Explanation : Cruelty means (a) any willful condut which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the women to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman, or (b) harassment of the women where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.
Actually, the main object of insertion of section 498-A of IPC by the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1983 is to “punishing at the hands of husband or his relatives against a wife particularly when such cruelty had potential to result in suicide or murder of a woman”. But, in the recent time this provision is abused. At times, this results in harassment and even arrest of innocent family members, including women and senior citizens. According to Report of National Crime Report Bureau in 2005, for a total 58, 319 cases reported under section 498-A IPC, a total of 1,27, 560 people were arrested, and 6,141 cases were declared false on account of mistake of fact or law. While in 2009 for a total 89, 546 cases reported, a total of 1.74, 395 people were arrested and 8, 352 cases were declared false on account of mistake of fact or law. According to Report of Crime in India, 2013, the National Crime Records Bureau further pointed out that of 4, 66, 079 cases that were pending in the start of 2013, only 7,258 were convicted while 38, 165 were acquitted and 8, 218 were withdrawn. The conviction rate of cases registered under section 498-A IPC was also a staggering low at 15.6%.
The main object behind the enactment of section 498-A IPC and the Dowry Prohibition Act is to check and curb the menace of dowry and at the same time, to save the matrimonial homes from destruction. The husband and his family members may have differences of opinion in the dispute, for which, arrest and judicial remand are not the answers. The ultimate object of every legal system is to punish the guilty and protect the innocents. With those objects the Supreme Court time to time clear guidelines to prevent to arrest and abuse of 498-A IPC. They are as follows:
In Chandra Bhan Case ( (2008) 151 DLT 691), Court direct that, No case under sec 498-A / 406 IPC should be registered without the prior approval of ACP/DCP; and arrest of main accused should be made only after thorough investigation has been conducted and with the prior approval of the ACP/DCP.
In Arnesh Kumar Vs. State of Bihar, ( (2014) 8 SCC 273) Court directed as follows: Police Officers not to automatically arrest when a case u/s 498-A IPC is registered but to satisfy themselves about the necessity for arrest under the parameters laid down under section 41 of Cr.P.C.; all police officers be provided with a check list containing specified sub-clauses under section 41(1)(b)(ii); the police officer shall forward the check list duly filed and furnish the reasons and materials which necessitated the arrest, while forwarding the accused before the Magistrate for further detention; failure to comply with the direction aforesaid the police officers concerned liable for departmental action, they shall be liable to be punished for contempt of court to be instituted before High Court having territorial jurisdiction. The Magistrate while authorizing detention of the accused shall peruse the report furnished by the police officer in terms aforesaid and only after recording its satisfaction, the Magistrate will authorize detention; authorizing detention without recording reasons as aforesaid by the Judicial Magistrate concerned shall be liable for departmental action by the appropriate High Court.
In Lalitha Kumari Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, ( (2014) 2 SCC 1), the Supreme Court direction are- arrest of relative other than husband could only be after permission from the concerned Magistrate; There should be no arrest of relatives aged above 70 years; Power to police to straight away arrest must be prohibited; While granting permission, the court must ascertain that there is prima facie material of the accused having done some overt and covert act. The offence should be compoundable and bailable; The role of each complainant must be specified in the complaint and the complaint must be accompanied by a signed affidavit; The copy of the preliminary enquiry report should be furnished to the accused.
In Rajesh Sharma Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh (Judgment dated on 27-07-2017) the Supreme Court directions are as follows: In every District one or more Family Welfare Committees be constituted by the District Legal Services Authorities preferably comprising of three members; The Committee members will not be called as witnesses; Every complaint u/s 498-A of IPC received by the Police or the Magistrate be referred to and looked into by such Committee. Such Committee may have interaction with the parties personally or by means of telephone or any other mode of communication including electronic communication; Report of such Committee should be given within one month from the date of receipt of complaint; The Committee may give brief report about the factual aspects and its opinion in the matter; Till the report of the Committee is received no arrest should normally be effected; The report may be then considered by the Investigation Officer or the Magistrate on its own merit; The Complaints u/s 498-A and other connected offences may be investigated only by a designated Investigating Officer of the area; In cases where a settlement is reached, it will be open to the District and Sessions Judge or any other Senior Judicial Officer nominated by him in the District to dispose of the proceedings including closing of the Criminal Case if dispute primarily related to matrimonial discord; Personal appearance of all family members and particularly outstation members may not be required and permit appearance by video conferencing without adversely affecting progress of the trial; these directions will not apply to the offences involving tangible physical injuries or death.
Conclusion: All the directions of the Supreme Court in different cases in different times relating to Family disputes with the ultimate object of every legal system is to punish the guilty and protect the innocents.
Dr. Sailaja. Petikam