Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Anti-dowry law misused, no automatic arrest in such cases: SC

Anti-dowry law misused, no automatic arrest in such cases: Supreme Court

As by PTI Wednesday, July 02, 2014, 22:29

New Delhi: Expressing concern over misuse of anti-dowry law by "disgruntled" wives against her husband and in-laws, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that police cannot arrest accused in such cases "automatically" and it must give reasons for taking such steps which would be judicially examined. 

The apex court said the attitude to arrest first and then proceed with the rest is "despicable" which must be curbed and directed all state governments to ensure that police do not resort to arresting in all offences punishable up to seven- year jail term including dowry harassment cases. 

"We direct all the state governments to instruct its police officers not to automatically arrest when a case under Section 498-A of the IPC (dowry harassment) is registered but to satisfy themselves about the necessity for arrest under the parameters laid down flowing from Section 41 CrPC," a bench headed by Justice CK Prasad said. 

It said that the police officer shall furnish the reasons and materials which necessitated the arrest before the magistrate.

"Section 498-A of the IPC was introduced with avowed object to combat the menace of harassment to a woman at the hands of her husband and his relatives. The fact that Section 498-A is a cognisable and non-bailable offence has lent it a dubious place of pride amongst the provisions that are used as weapons rather than shield by disgruntled wives. 

"The simplest way to harass is to get the husband and his relatives arrested under this provision. In quite a number of cases, bed-ridden grand-fathers and grand-mothers of the husbands, their sisters living abroad for decades are arrested," the bench said. 

The bench said the arrest curtails freedom, brings humiliation and casts scars forever and no arrest should be made only because the offence is non-bailable and cognisable. 

"The existence of the power to arrest is one thing, the justification for the exercise of it is quite another. Apart from power to arrest, the police officers must be able to justify the reasons thereof.

"No arrest can be made in a routine manner on a mere allegation of commission of an offence made against a person. It would be prudent and wise for a police officer that no arrest is made without a reasonable satisfaction reached after some investigation as to the genuineness of the allegation," the bench said. 

Referring to crime statistics, the apex court said 1,97,762 persons were arrested in 2012 for offence under Section 498-A and nearly a quarter of those arrested under this provision were women depicting that mothers and sisters of the husbands were liberally included in their arrest net. 

"Its share is 6 per cent out of the total persons arrested under the crimes committed under Indian Penal Code. It accounts for 4.5 per cent of total crimes committed under different sections of penal code, more than any other crimes except theft and hurt," it said. 

It said the rate of charge-sheeting in cases is as high as 93.6 per cent, while the conviction rate is only 15 per cent, which is lowest across all heads and as many as 3,72,706 cases are pending at trial stage. 

The apex court said that police in the country has not come out of its colonial mindset. 

"It has not come out of its colonial image despite six decades of Independence, it is largely considered as a tool of harassment, oppression and surely not considered a friend of public. The need for caution in exercising the drastic power of arrest has been emphasised time and again by courts but has not yielded desired result. 

"Power to arrest greatly contributes to its arrogance so also the failure of the magistracy to check it. Not only this, the power of arrest is one of the lucrative sources of police corruption. The attitude to arrest first and then proceed with the rest is despicable. It has become a handy tool to the police officers who lack sensitivity or act with oblique motive," it said.


Making wild allegations against spouse could lead to divorce: Supreme Court

Making wild allegations against spouse could lead to divorce: Supreme Court

As by Dhananjay Mahapatra,TNN | Jul 2, 2014, 06.07 AM IST

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has ruled that leveling wild allegations repeatedly by one spouse against the other could inflict mental agony and it would be a ground for the aggrieved person to move court seeking divorce citing "irretrievable breakdown of marriage".

Nearly seven years ago, the Supreme Court had formulated "irretrievable breakdown of marriage" as a ground for grant of divorce to couples and had suggested to the legislature to amend the law to provide statutory backing to this new ground for dissolution of marriage.

On Monday, a bench of justices SJ Mukhopadhaya and Dipak Misra added to that judgment and said leveling of wild allegations inflicts humiliation and affects the reputation of the aggrieved spouse.

Affirming the decree of divorce granted to Dr BV Ravi, an associate professor in a government hospital, the bench said his wife had been making wild allegations which portrayed him to be gender insensitive. The court also noted that she had been, without reason, refusing to go to live with him with their child and making false charges against his relatives.
Writing the judgment, Justice Misra said: "Marriage as a social institution is an affirmation of civilized social order where two individuals, capable of entering into wedlock, have pledged themselves to the institutional norms and values and promised to each other a cemented bond to sustain and maintain the marital obligation."

Justice Misra said different persons react differently to similar situations. "What could be mental cruelty in the life of two individuals belonging to particular strata may not amount to mental cruelty in respect of another couple belonging to a different stratum of society."

Referring to the wife's conduct, the bench said: "From this kind of attitude and treatment it can be inferred that the husband has been treated with mental cruelty and definitely he has faced ignominy being an associate professor in a government medical college. When one enjoys social status working in a government hospital, this humiliation affects the reputation and self-respect."

Despite the breakdown of marriage, the bench kept in mind the interests of the 16-year-old son of the couple and said it was the father's "bounden duty to provide for maintenance and education" of the child. Excluding the amount already paid to the wife, the court asked the husband to pay Rs 25 lakh to her in six months for the purpose of education of the child.

It directed the Bangalore family court to keep the money in a nationalized bank in the joint account of the child and mother, who can draw the interest to spend on her son's education.