Supreme Court: In the light of the rising misuse of Section 498-A IPC dealing with dowry deaths, the bench of A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit, JJ gave the below mentioned directions to deal with the menace, except in case offences involving tangible physical injuries or death, and said that the below mentioned arrangement should be tried for at least 6 months or till 31.03.2018, after which the National Legal Services Authority will have to submit a report to the Court.
- Family Welfare Committee:
- Atleast one committee to be constituted by the District Legal Services Authorities in every district, preferably comprising of three members who are para legal volunteers/social workers/retired persons/wives of working officers/other citizens who may be found suitable and willing.
- The constitution and working of such committees may be reviewed from time to time and at least once in a year by the District and Sessions Judge of the district who is also the Chairman of the District Legal Services Authority.
- The Committee members will not be called as witnesses.
- Every complaint under Section 498A received by the police or the Magistrate be referred to and looked into by such committee.
- Report and opinion of such committee be given to the Authority by whom the complaint is referred to it latest within one month from the date of receipt of complaint. No arrest should normally be effected before that.
- The report may be then considered by the Investigating Officer or the Magistrate on its own merit.
- Investigating Officer: Complaints under Section 498A and other connected offences may be investigated only by a designated Investigating Officer of the area. He should undergo training of four months for such duration (not less than one week) as may be considered appropriate.
- Bail: If a bail application is filed with at least one clear day’s notice to the Public Prosecutor/complainant, the same may be decided as far as possible on the same day. Recovery of disputed dowry items may not by itself be a ground for denial of bail if maintenance or other rights of wife/minor children can otherwise be protected.
- NRIs: In respect of persons ordinarily residing out of India impounding of passports or issuance of Red Corner Notice should not be a routine.
- Video Conferencing: Personal appearance of all family members and particularly outstation members may not be required and the trial court ought to grant exemption from personal appearance or permit appearance by video conferencing without adversely affecting progress of the trial.
The Court said that it is a matter of serious concern that large number of cases continue to be filed under Section 498A alleging harassment of married women and that most of such complaints are filed in the heat of the moment over trivial issues & many are not bona fide. The Court said that involvement of civil society in the aid of administration of justice can be one of the steps to remedy this situation, apart from the investigating officers and the concerned trial courts being sensitized. [Rajesh Sharma v. State of U.P., 2017 SCC OnLine SC 821, decided on 27.07.2017]