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Public opinion sought on bailability of dowry offences

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - 18:57

New Delhi: Amid divergent views on making
offences under Section 498 A relating to cruelty on women for
dowry bailable, the Law Commission on Tuesday issued a consultation
paper seeking opinion of the public on the vexed issue.

Following observations made by the Supreme Court and
various High Courts and representations received from
different quarters, the Home Ministry had recently requested
the Law Commission to consider whether amendments to Section
498 A were required to check the alleged misuse of the

The Commission, which advises government on complex
legal issues, will use the opinions from public, NGOs and Bar
Councils to firm up its views before submitting the report on
the ticklish issue.

Section 498 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) allows
the police to arrest the husband and in-laws of a woman for
subjecting her to cruelty. The offences under the Section are
cognisable, non-compoundable and non-bailable.

The apex court had recently observed that a serious
re look of the provision is warranted by the Legislature.

"It is a matter of common knowledge that exaggerated
versions of the incidents are reflected in a large number of
complaints. The tendency of over-implication is also reflected
in a very large number of cases," the SC observation has been
quoted by the Law Commission.

According to the paper, the apex court took note of
the common tendency to implicate husband and all his immediate

" misuse of the provision, a new legal terrorism
can be unleashed," the SC had said.

But at the same time, several views have been
expressed in support of maintaining status quo, including that
by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the Commission
has noted.

Those favouring status quo suggest that Section 498 A
has been specifically enacted to protect a vulnerable section
of the society, which has been subjected to cruelty and
harassment. The social purpose behind it will be lost if the
rigour of the provision is diluted.

The misuse can be curtailed within the existing
framework of law. For instance, the Home Ministry can issue
`advisories` to state governments to avoid unnecessary arrests
and to strictly observe the procedures laid down in the law
governing arrests.

Section 498 A was introduced in 1983 to protect
married women from being subjected to cruelty by the husband
or his relatives. A punishment extending to 3 years and fine
has been prescribed.

The expression `cruelty` has been defined in
comprehensive terms to include inflicting physical or mental
harm to the body or health of the victim with a view to coerce
her or her relations to meet any unlawful demand for any
property or valuable security.


First Published: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - 18:57

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