Supreme Court modifies its order on dowry harassment

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The Supreme Court Friday modified its previous order that provided for setting up of a committee to deal with complaints of dowry harassment.

The top court had on April 23 reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas seeking revisiting of a judgement that had reduced the severity of the anti-dowry law on the offence of subjecting a married woman to cruelty by spouse and in-laws.

“We have protected pre-arrest or anticipatory bail provision in dowry harassment cases,” said a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud.

The apex court, while modifying the verdict given by its two-judge bench, said that there is no scope for courts for constitutionally filling up gaps in penal law. “There should be gender justice for women as dowry has a chilling effect on marriage on the one hand.

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On the other hand, there is right to life and personal liberty of the man,” the bench had said while reserving its verdict. A two-judge bench of the apex court in July last year had voiced concern over “abuse” of section 498 A (subjecting a married woman to cruelty) and passed a slew of directions, including that no arrest should “normally be effected” without verifying allegations as violation of human rights of innocents could not be brushed aside.

The bench was hearing a plea filed by an NGO ‘Nyayadhar’, an organisation formed by a group of women advocates of Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district, seeking sharpness in section 498A, claiming that the otherwise “helpful instrument” in the hands of victim women has become “valueless”.