Fake dowry cases: The principle of dowry, as enshrined in Section 498A of the IPC, has long been a source of controversy and scrutiny due to the unfortunate potential for its exploitation. It was introduced with the intent of providing women with a bulwark against the harassment and cruelty that they might encounter at the hands of their husbands or their husbands’ families. Yet, despite this noble objective, some have taken advantage of the provision to file false claims, thereby tarnishing its integrity and purpose.
Dowry Misuse: Separating Fact from Fiction
According to recent data from the National Crime Records Bureau, FIRs of cruelty by husbands or relatives constituted the largest category of crimes against women. In 2021, with 136,234 dowry cases registered across the country. A significant increase of 15% within a year, rising from 56.5% in 2020 to 64.5% in 2021 was witnessed.
Despite these statistics, in some dowry cases, individuals have used this provision for personal vendettas or to extort money. Moreover, accusations are often made without sufficient evidence. It is imperative that steps are taken to prevent the misuse of this important legal protection for women and to ensure that those who exploit the provision are held accountable.
Enforcing Justice in Dowry Cases: Supreme Court Edition
The misuse of this provision has been acknowledged by the Indian judiciary and steps have been taken to prevent its abuse. The court has suggested that the provision should only be invoked in cases where there is prima facie evidence of cruelty and harassment.
The Supreme Court of India has established guidelines to prevent the exploitation of provisions related to dowry harassment under Section 498A and cruelty under Section 479A of the Indian Penal Code.
The safeguards to prevent innocent persons from wrongly being implicated in fabricated cases have been laid down in landmark verdicts such as S. Jagdish v. State of Haryana, (2005), among other relevant cases. These verdicts have been widely cited by various courts and form an important part of the judicial interpretation of these provisions.
The Apex Court has explicitly provided that the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution of India cannot be violated while making arrests under Section 498A or 479A. Further, the Magistrate must consider the requirement of bail and the allegations made before granting bail to the accused in cases under Section 498A or 479A.
Moreover, the Supreme Court has directed that the arrest of family members should not be a routine matter and must be avoided if possible, barring exceptions. Further, the accused should be released on bail if the offense is bailable and there is no likelihood of the accused absconding or tampering with evidence.
The Apex Court has also provides that a Family Welfare Committee must be constituted in every district to consider the grievances of the parties and give its report to the court in cases under Section 498A or 479A. Further, the police must maintain records of all arrests made under Section 498A or 479A, including the reasons for the arrest, and make the records available to the public.
It is imperative for the police that the provisions should only be invoked in cases where there is prima facie evidence of cruelty and harassment and the complainant must provide evidence to support their allegations. Thereafter, the police must consider alternative methods of investigation, such as summoning the accused or releasing the accused on bail, before making an arrest in the matter. These safeguards established by the Supreme Court of India help prevent the misuse of Section 498A and 479A of the Indian Penal Code, and protect individuals from arbitrary and unjust arrests.
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