Saturday, February 1, 2014

Dowry harassment: Cops go easy on arrests after AP high court fiat

Dowry harassment: Cops go easy on arrests after AP high court fiat

Mahesh Buddi, TNN Jan 31, 2014, 05.08AM IST

HYDERABAD: Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is meant for protection of women from domestic harassment. However, the conviction rate in dowry harassment cases is about 5 per cent, with the police blaming false complaints as the main reason for it. Keeping in view the rampant misuse of the law, the AP high court recently issued certain guidelines to the police following which they are not making immediate arrests in case which comes within the purview of the said section.

In 2012, cops in both the city commissionerates had registered 3,042 cases under section 498-A (subjecting married woman to cruelty). In a recent judgment related to a dowry harassment case where the complainant implicated her mother-in-law's parents, the high court found fault with the victim and directed the police to follow certain guidelines while registering cases and making arrests under sections 498-A as well as sections 3 & 4 of the DP Act.

In another case, a 29-year-old housewife, Rehana Begum from Asifnagar recently approached the Central Crime Station (CCS) sleuths asking them to include the name of a man from her neighbourhood in a dowry harassment case. When the investigators told her that only her husband's immediate family members can be booked in a dowry harassment case, the victim came up with a shocking reply. "The complainant said that her late father-in-law has become a ghost and is harassing her everyday by entering the body of her neighbour," CCS DCP G Pala Raju told TOI.

Another complainant, Suchitra, from Malakpet, approached the police accusing her husband and sister-in-law of harassing her. The complainant said that the two-year-old daughter of her sister-in-law cries at night and therefore disturbs her marital life, police said.

In a separate case, one Sarita Sri, 26, from Secunderabad asked the police to include her Canada-based sister-in-law's name in the list of accused, claiming that her phone calls to the husband were the reason behind discord in her married life.

Police are now hoping that new guidelines would bring some relief to the wrongly accused in harassment cases. As per the HC guidelines, all complainants should be first sent to a professional family counsellor. If the complainant still wants to go ahead with registration of a case and names her husband's family members as the accused, the investigating officer should list the family members as an accused only if they have been living under one roof with the complainant for a considerable period of time. Also, if an investigating officer wants to arrest the family members or the husband after gathering sufficient evidence, he should first obtain permission from the officer of the rank of the SP or above.

Easing the law

Cops have come across several cases wherein women lodged false dowry harassment complaints against husband and in-laws.

Keeping in view the rampant misuse of law, the high court has drawn up guidelines to register cases and make arrests.

All complainants would be first sent to professional family counselor.

Investigators would name family members as accused only if they have been living under one roof with the complainant.

Investigators would arrest family members only after obtaining permission from an SP-rank officer.