The Supreme Court of India on September 14th, 2018, has modified its previous order issued in the case of Rajesh Sharma v. Union of India
for preventing misuse of Section 498A of Indian Penal Code, 1860
by providing for setting up of a welfare committee to deal with complaints of dowry harassment.
A Bench comprising of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud
acknowledging that there was misuse of the provision leading to social unrest said that the court cannot fill in legislative gaps. The Bench observed that there were inbuilt mechanisms in criminal procedure to check misuse of provisions.
“We have protected pre-arrest or anticipatory bail provision in dowry harassment cases, there is no scope for courts for constitutionally filling up gap in penal law,” the Bench said. Reserving its verdict the Bench said that, "There should be gender justice for women as dowry has a chilling effect on marriage on the one hand. On the other hand, there is right to life and personal liberty of the man." In July 2017, the two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court had issued directives to constitute family welfare committees in every district to look into the complaints under Section 498A of Indian Penal Code, 1860. No arrests could be made in a complaint till the committee submitted its report to the police or magistrate, which was to be within a month. Further, the court also directed that complaints under Section 498A IPC, 1860 can be inquired into only by a designated investigating officer and that a bail application filed by the accused with one day’s notice should preferably be disposed off on the same day.