New Delhi: The Central government will in six weeks adduce a report in the Supreme Court on the implementation of a judgment which put an end to automatic arrest of family members in dowry harassment cases.
Additional Solicitor General PS Narasimha told a bench led by Justice Madan B Lokur that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is studying the judgment and it will need some time to monitor how the court's decision has impacted cruelty and dowry-related cases under Section 498A of IPC.
Apprising the SC bench of the order passed by another two-judge bench, the ASG sought at least one month to prepare a formal report on compliance and effect the judgment will have on the anti-dowry harassment law in India.
The submission was made by the officer when he was responding to a PIL, complaining about higher courts whittling down the severity of the anti-dowry harassment law by diluting mandatory FIR and arrest provisions.
According to the PIL by NGO Social Action Forum for Manav Adhikar, the dilution of the penal provisions now compels women to settle their cases rather than fighting it out.
More than 32,000 women have died due to dowry harassment between 2012 and 2015, says the data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). In the same period, 4.61 lakh cases were registered across the country. While in more than 90 per cent cases police filed chargesheets, the conviction remained a third of this number.
Appearing for the government, ASG Narasimha pointed out that a set of fresh directives have been issued by another bench in July and that the MHA, which studies and collates information regarding registration and prosecution of criminal cases, is expected to prepare a status report on the impact of the latest judgment.
Accepting the submission, the bench gave time to the government for reverting with a report.
"Learned ASG has brought to our notice the decision of this Court in Rajesh Sharma & Ors Vs State of UP & Anr. It is requested that he would like to be in touch with the Ministry of Home Affairs to find out the progress in the implementation of the judgment," the Court order recorded.
In July, another bench of SC had ruled that the police cannot arrest husbands or in-laws in such cases without conducting a preliminary inquiry.
The bench comprising Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit cracked down on false dowry harassment cases and said there was a growing tendency to abuse Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code. To check this, the court ordered the formation ‘family welfare committees’ in every district that would look into all complaints.
While dealing with a case from UP, this bench had said the committees – comprising three members – would interact with the complainant and the accused, and submit a report to the police or a magistrate within a month.
The bench added it wanted to see for six months how the arrangement worked and sought a report from the National Legal Services Authority by March 31, 2018, about the need for any change in its directions. The next hearing on the matter has been scheduled for April next year.