SC dismisses need for family welfare committees in dowry harassment cases

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The Supreme Court on September 14 struck down the need for “family welfare committees” to look into complaints by women before arresting the husband and family members in dowry harassment cases. The judgment is modification of its previous order that provided setting up of a committee to deal with complaints of dowry harassment.

The SC’s three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and comprising of Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, said that the law is being misused by some individuals, and added that the court’s role is not to fulfill gaps left in the legislation.

“We have protected pre-arrest or anticipatory bail provision in dowry harassment cases.” SC bench said.

The court reportedly said that though Section 498A was enacted to protect women from cruelty in matrimonial houses, its misuse to harass the other side too is causing social unrest.

The SC Bench also directed that cases under 498A should only be investigated by designated Investigating Officers of that area.

“We think it is appropriate to direct the Investigating Officers (IOs) to be careful and follow the principles stated in Joginder Kumar case and certain other judgements. We direct the DGP of each state to ensure that the IOs who are incharge of investigation of cases of offences under section 498-A (Dowry Harassment) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) should be given rigorous training with respect to the principles stated by this court relating to arrests,” court order reads.  

CJI added, “The courts remain constantly alive to the situation that though no war takes place, yet neither anger nor vendetta of the aggrieved section should take an advantage of the legal provision and harass the other side with influence or espousing the principle of sympathy.”