By Prarthana Mitra
The Supreme Court on Friday diluted the Anti-Dowry law by offering anticipatory bail to husbands and families wrongfully accused of matrimonial cruelty. Claiming that Section 498A is being misused to harass husbands and in-laws, the top court sought to end social tension by modifying the provisions that were introduced to protect the rights of married women all over the country.
Saying that protection works both ways, the latest amendment seeks to protect those who are not remotely associated with such practices as demanding dowry, or domestic abuse in case of non-payment.
The bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra and comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud announced pre-arrest and anticipatory bail provisions to the existing law. The apex court has also recommended the setting up of a committee to look into claims and complaints related to dowry harassment. The case follows a series of pleas for the Supreme Court to revisit a key judgement diluting the severity of the offence and punishment in cases of dowry-related cruelty on women.
One of the petitioners, a Maharashtra-based non-profit called Nyayadhar, demanded “sharpness” in the legal instrument which was becoming increasingly valueless to victims. Their recommendations included greater representation of women and students of social work in the family welfare committees, taking economic conditions into account while assessing relevant cases, and to allow recording of counselling sessions.
The top court had reserved its judgement on the issue in April, saying, “There should be gender justice for women as dowry has a chilling effect on marriage on the one hand, and on the other hand, there is right to life and personal liberty of the man.”
Last year, an SC bench had objected to the abuse of Section 498A, saying it is alarming how the law was subjecting a married man to cruelty. It passed a lot of directions, forbidding effectual arrests without verifying allegations, calling such complaints “not always bonafide” and “uncalled for arrest.”
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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