The Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860, under Section 498A, provides for keeping a check on the acts of cruelty caused to married women by their greedy husbands and relatives, which is either likely to result in their death, grave injury or danger to life, health, etc, or cause harassment with a view to force them to meet their unconscionable and unlawful demands. Although this provision was enacted to safeguard and protect the interests of married women, but there has been a growing tendency amongst them to misuse this provision by filing false cases against their innocent husbands and families including parents of advanced age, minor children, siblings, grand-parents, etc, and thereby, causing them harassment and even arrest without any verifiable evidence of physical or mental injury. Such false cases and allegations may also hamper the possibility of reconciliation between the married couple.
In light of the aforesaid issue, various high courts have issued guidelines to curb the instances where false cases are lodged under Section 498A IPC and human rights of innocent families are violated. The Supreme Court has also, in Rajesh Sharma & ors vs. State of U.P. & Anr. 2017, laid down certain directions to deal with this menace and to ensure that the working of a penal provision is not rendered unjust, unfair or unreasonable:
- Constitution of one or more Family Welfare Committees in every district by the District Legal Services Authorities, who will look into the complaints received by the police under Section 498A IPC and interact with the parties involved. A report may be prepared by this Committee within one month from the date of receipt of such complaint and until such report is received by the police, no arrest may be made.
- Only a designated Investigating Officer appointed for an area within one month from the date of this judgment (27 July, 2017) may investigate the complaints under Section 498A IPC.
- In the event that the parties involved in such dispute reach to a settlement, the District and Sessions Judge or any other senior Judicial Officer nominated by him in the district may dispose of such proceedings.
- While dealing with the bail applications filed, various aspects may be carefully considered and weighed including the prima facie truth of the allegations, any requirement of further arrest and interest of justice, etc.
- In respect of persons ordinarily residing out of India confiscation of passports or issue of red corner notice should not be a routine.
- The District Judge or a designated senior judicial officer nominated by him may club all connected cases between the parties, arising out of their matrimonial disputes in order to enable him to take a holistic view.
- The trial court may allow either personal appearance or appearance by video conferencing of all family members for conducting the trial.
The Supreme Court has held that these Directions will not apply to the offences involving tangible physical injuries or death and that the aforesaid arrangement may be tried for at least 6 months or till 31.03.2018, after which the National Legal Services Authority will have to submit a report to the Court about the need for any addition, alteration or modification of these Directions.