Anti-dowry law likely to be amended soon

dowryAn amendment bill making offences under the Indian Penal Code’s Section 498A compoundable with court permission will be introduced in the next Parliament session. The section deals with offences of dowry demand and cruelty by husband and in-laws.

TOI had reported on March 22 that the NDA government is working on the proposal to make the section compoundable. This means that the law, if amended, would have the provision of settlement between the warring couple if the court allows it.

Under the section, a man and his relatives can face imprisonment for up to three years as well as fine.

Junior Union home minister Haribhai Chaudhary said his government had accepted the proposal to make the section a compoundable offence with court permission, in accordance with recommendations of the Law Commission and the Malimath Committee, when Pune NCP member and former mayor Vandana Chavan raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha. “A draft note for the cabinet, which inter alia seeks to amend IPC’s Section 498A, making it compoundable, has been sent to the legislative department to draw up the draft bill,” the minister added.

The section, introduced to protect women from dowry harassment, has often been used to settle scores with upwards of 10,000 false cases filed in recent years. At the moment, all offences under Section 498A are cognizable and non-bailable.

“Scores of cases are registered under Section 498A. However, if both parties decide to work towards a compromise, it is not possible to close the case since it is a non-compoundable offence. Under such circumstances, it was felt that several cases would be resolved if the offence is made compoundable,” said the senior official. In 2011, 10,193 false cases were registered, while in 2012 and 2013, the numbers increased to 10,235 and 10,864, respectively.

The bureaucrat said if the complainant and the offender agree on withdrawing the case, there is no need to waste the court’s time by conducting a trial. “Even if the Centre makes a case under Section 498A compoundable, the court’s permission will be required to wind up the proceedings,” he said.

The Centre’s move is in line with steps over the years as concern has been raised about increasing misuse of the law. A Parliament committee investigated the issue of false cases in 2010 while the Supreme Court reviewed how Section 498A was being enforced in 2014. The court issued guidelines against making arrests automatically after finding many cases of unwarranted detention and directed all state governments to instruct police officers accordingly.

A leading lawyer said the Centre’s decision to make Section 498-A compoundable will go a long way in reducing the burden on the judiciary. “In my opinion, in most cases filed under Section 498A, there is scope for settlement or compromise between the complainant and the accused. However, considering the legal provisions, there is no possibility for a compromise,” he said.

Originally Published on TOI