SC to revisit verdict on dowry harassment

Says July 27 order curtails women's rights

SC to revisit verdict on dowry harassment
The Supreme Court on Friday decided to reconsider its own judgement that dowry harassment complaints must be vetted by a district level committee  before arresting the accused.

The top court said the judgement passed on July 27 in ‘Rajesh Sharma Vs State of UP and another’ “curtailed rights of women”.

A three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Dipak Misra decided to re-examine the verdict passed by a bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and U U Lalit.

“We are obligated to state that we are not in agreement with the decision rendered in ‘Rajesh Sharma’ because we are disposed to think that it really curtails the rights of the women who are harassed under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. That apart, prima facie, we perceive that the guidelines may be in the legislative sphere,” the bench said.

The July 27 guidelines intended to prevent misuse of Section 498A of IPC (punishing cruelty at the hands of husband or his relatives of a wife...) had come as a big relief to innocent family members of husbands embroiled in dowry harassment cases. The court had then directed that no arrest should normally take place without examination of women’s complaints by a committee of civil society members.

The top court had also directed formation of one or more family welfare committee by the District Legal Services Authority in each district with civil society members, wives of officers, retired persons and para legal volunteers, to examine complaints made by women to ensure no arrest was made without the welfare panel’s  report.

Termed landmark

The judgement was termed as a landmark as it was meant to check unmindful roping in of all family members of men facing complaints filed under Section 498A of IPC.

Hearing a petition by Maharashtra-based NGO ‘Nyayadhar’ (women lawyers association), the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, issued notice to the Union government and National Commission for Women and appointed senior advocates Indu Malhotra and V Shekhar as amicus curiae to assist the court in re-examining the judgement.

The NGO’s petition filed by advocate Alok Singh contended the position of women in the country was still bad. Hence, the family welfare committee must include two women members.
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