SC Modifies The Earlier Directions Issued To Prevent Misuse Of 498A IPC, Says No To ‘Welfare Committees’

Social Action Forum for Manav Adhikar vs Union of India, Ministry of Law and Justice and others

Supreme Court

14/09/2018

WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 73 OF 2015, CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1265 OF 2017 and WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 156 of 2017

About/from the judgment:

The Hon'ble Supreme Court while disposing of a writ petition related to Section 498-A IPC, modified the directions concerning registration of FIR, arrest and bail under the said section as given in a recent judgment in Rajesh Sharma v. State of U.P., 2017 SCC OnLine SC 821.

 

The writ petition, under Article 32 of the Constitution, was filed seeking directions to the respondents to create an enabling environment for married women subjected to cruelty to make informed choices and to create a uniform system of monitoring and systematically reviewing incidents of violence against women under Section 498-A IPC including their prevention, investigation, prosecution and rehabilitation of the victims and their children at the Central, State and District levels. That apart, prayer was made to issue a writ of mandamus to the respondents for a uniform policy of registration of FIR, arrest and bail in cases of Section 498-A IPC in consonance with the law of the land, i.e., to immediately register FIR on complaint of cruelty and harassment by married women as per the IPC. It is worthy to note here that during the pendency of the instant petition, the judgment was pronounced in Rajesh Sharma. During the course of proceedings, learned Amicus Curiae submitted that the said decision requires reconsideration.

 

The Supreme Court, in order to adjudicate on the petition, perused scheme and object of Section 498-A as well as guidelines laid down in D.K. Basu v. State of W.B., (1997) 1 SCC 416 and also Lalita Kumari v. State of U.P, (2014) 2 SCC 1 wherein the Court opined that the scope of preliminary enquiry is not to verify the veracity or otherwise of the information received but only to ascertain whether the information reveals any cognizable offence. On perusal of directions in Rajesh Sharma, the Court found that it directed constitution of the Family Welfare Committees by the District Legal Services Authorities and prescribed the duties of the Committees. The prescription of duties of the Committees and further action therefor, in Court’s view, were beyond the Code and the same did not really flow from any provision of the Code. It was stated that there could be no denial that there has to be just, fair and reasonable working of a provision. The legislature, in its wisdom, has made the offence under Section 498-A IPC cognizable and non-bailable. The fault lies with the investigating agency which sometimes jumps into action without application of mind. In the aforesaid analysis, the Court declared the directions pertaining to Family Welfare Committee and its constitution by the District Legal Services Authority and the power conferred on the Committee is impermissible. Therefore, it is appropriate to direct that the investigating officers be careful and be guided by the principles stated in Joginder Kumar v. State of U.P., (1994) 4 SCC 260; D.K. Basu; Lalita Kumari and Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar, (2014) 8 SCC 273. It was thought appropriate to direct the Director General of Police of each State to ensure that investigating officers who are in charge of investigation of cases of offences under Section 498-A IPC should be imparted rigorous training with regard to the principles stated by the Court relating to arrest. In view of the aforesaid premises, the direction contained in paragraph 19(i) as a whole was not in accord with the statutory framework and the direction issued in paragraph 19(ii) shall be read in conjunction with the directions given by the Court. Direction No. 19(iii) was modified to the extent that if a settlement is arrived at, the parties can approach the High Court under Section 482 CrPC and the High Court, keeping in view the law laid down in Gian Singh v. State of Punjab, (2012) 10 SCC 303 , shall dispose of the same. The petition was accordingly disposed of.

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