Dowry law may be amended
In the wake of growing complaints about the misuse of anti-dowry laws by women, the Law Commission is studying the possibility of making section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code a bailable offence for the relatives of the husband.
Currently, the law mandates that any accused will be arrested and jailed during the pendency of the case.
A consultation paper prepared by the Commission seeking opinions from experts and the general public feels that “It is pleaded…that the offence under section 498A should be made bailable at least with regard to the husband’s relation.” But as far as the husband is concerned, the paper notes that “there is a sharp divergence of views on it.”
The move comes after the Supreme Court told directed the union government on two occasions to review these laws following instances of false cases and an abysmal conviction rate of 5 percent, suggesting that most of the cases registered were not genuine.
According to experts, the idea probably is to protect the in-laws of the women who file complaints under this section without any evidence of dowry harassment.
Under the section, offenders, including the husband or his family members are liable for imprisonment without even an investigation. The offence is non-bailable, non-compoundable and cognizable on a complaint made to the police officer by the victim (wife) or by designated relatives. Furthermore, the section does not include any provision for a compromise.
The Law Commission is examining three aspects: whether it is feasible to a. categorise the offence as bailable; b. allow the complainant to withdraw a complaint in case of a compromise with the court’s permission; and c. should the police retain the power to make arrests on their own.
The Law Commission has sought public opinion in this regard and has put up a list of 14 questions to study what people expect from this law, how to make it effective, and prevents its misuse.