The Indian legal system is faced by the contradictory duality of victims fighting desperately for justice on one side, while innocent persons are trapped in the shackles of law by frivolous litigations; and striking the right balance of stringency of law at a level where the innocent are not put in turmoil, while at the same time the wrongdoers do not escape the clutches of law, is a task in itself. In a recent decision, the Supreme Court gave a landmark verdict in relation to S. 498-A IPC which may easily pass off as one of the most misused provisions of our criminal law system, to the effect that now arrest can be made under the section only after obtaining some incriminating evidence against the accused.
Title: Rajesh Sharma and Ors v State of UP and Anr.
Case No.: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1265 OF 2017
- Adarsh Kumar Goel
- Uday Umesh Lalit
The Court addressed the issue of prevalent misuse of S.498-A IPC (Cruelty by husband and family), and examined whether any directions are called for to prevent the same. The amicus curie appointed by the Court conducted a study on the matter, and the Court considered it in addition to the factual circumstance at hand. The appeal was filed by the family of the husband against the Order of the HC to rope in all the family members in the case of dowry and domestic abuse filed against the husband by his wife. The wife had accused the parents, brother and sister of the husband in addition to the husband himself.
Decision of the Court:
The Court ruled that allegations against all family members cannot be taken in face value when in normal course it may only be the husband or his parents who perpetrated the cruelty. The Court observed that misuse of the provision often led to harassment and arrest of even innocent family members including grandparents, minor children, siblings, etc.
The Court passed Directions to:
- Set up Family Welfare Boards under DLSAs in every Distt.
- The Committee is to look into every complaint filed u/s 498-A IPC,
- Report must be submitted by them to the Authority;
- No arrest must be made prior to the Report being received;
- The parties may reach a settlement
- Investigation under the Section be made by a designated Investigating Officer of the area
- But these directions will not apply to the offences involving tangible physical injuries or death.
- Consider bail to the accused on the same day if Notice sent to opposite party at least a day prior, etc.
Relevant portions of the Judgment:
“….accepted that there is a growing tendency to abuse the said provision to rope in all the relatives…on the strength of vague and exaggerated allegations without there being any verifiable evidence of physical or mental harm or injury….”
“…..this results in harassment and even arrest of innocent family members, including women and senior citizens…”