Misusing Section 498A: Supreme Court cracks the whip

Last Updated: Thu, Jul 03, 2014 10:43 hrs

With instances of misusing the dowry law increasing, the Supreme Court on Wednesday told state governments to direct their police 'not to automatically arrest when a case under Section 498A of IPC is registered but to satisfy themselves about the necessity for arrest under the parameters (check list) provided under Section 41 of criminal procedure code'.

A bench of Justices CK Prasad and PC Ghose expressed their concern over the misuse of Section 498A and said that if the accused was arrested, the magistrate should take into cognizance the initial evidence under the Section 41 checklist before allowing or deciding on prolonged detention.

"The magistrate, while authorizing detention of the accused shall peruse the report furnished by the police officer in terms of Section 41 and only after recording its satisfaction, the magistrate will authorize detention," the bench observed.

"The fact that Section 498A is a cognizable 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," Justice Prasad noted while pronouncing the verdict.

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

"The rate of charge-sheeting in cases under Section 498A is as high as 93.6%, while the conviction rate is only 15%, which is lowest across all heads. As many as 3,72,706 cases are pending trial of which on current estimate, nearly 3,17,000 are likely to result in acquittal," the bench said elucidating the misuse of the law.

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