This Case Summary is written by Shriya Jain, a student at Vivekananda institute of professional studies, Delhi
Even as we near the end of the twenty-first century, neither the sophisticated Western world nor traditional Asian and African countries can claim to have a gender-just society. Women, the most vulnerable members of the human species, are the architects of civilization, the nucleus of the family, the guardian of the home, the source of inspiration and power for men on all fronts, and it is women who determine the destiny of the human race as the creator of the Universe. The holy bond of marriage has now devolved into a means of accumulating riches, taking on the darkest shape of a societal evil. Dowry is a tradition related with marriage. Dowry has emerged as a social evil , a true plague that has vitiated and harmed family peace, harmony, and progress. It has impacted people from all walks of life, including the wealthy and the destitute. The dowry issue has devastated a lot of families and produced a slew of unhappy households.
Section 498-A was enacted in 1983 to safeguard married women from cruelty perpetrated by their husbands or relatives. A three-year sentence as well as a fine has been imposed. The word “cruelty” has been interpreted broadly to encompass inflicting physical or mental injury on a woman’s body or health, as well as harassing her or her relatives in order to persuade them to satisfy any unlawful demand for property or valued security. The Supreme Court decision in Rajesh Sharma vs State of Uttar Pradesh comes out with the judges suggesting various steps to prevent the abuse of Sec 498A. Various feminist NGOs and women social activists have criticised the decision once it was issued.
FACTS OF THE CASE
In this instant case, the proceedings were initiated when the respondent 2, Sneha Sharma, filed a complaint. On November 28, 2012, she and her husband, Rajesh sharma, here appellant 1, married. Her father provided dowry to the best of his ability, but her husband and his family were dissatisfied with the amount they received. They began assaulting and tormenting her as a result, as alleged by the complainant. They also demanded a dowry of Rs.3,00,000/- and a car, both of which were beyond her family’s means. The complainant was dropped off at her matrimonial residence by appellant No. 1 on November 10, 2013. She was pregnant at the time and had discomfort as a result of her pregnancy, which was terminated. Furthermore, as she indicated, her stridhan was preserved. He requested 50,000 and a gold necklace after retaining stridhan. He tortured his wife as a result of his displeasure with not obtaining the specified demand. The court summoned him under Sections 498A and 323 IPC based on this memo.
He was declared accountable and found guilty under section 498A, according to the session court. The court admitted sneha’s plea to summon rest of the accused Vijay Sharma, Jaywati Sharma, Praveen Sharma and Priyanka Sharma i.e her parents in law and the brother and sister of the husband. The appellant then appealed the summons order to the High Court under Section 482 CrPC. Despite the fact that it was sent to mediation, no conclusions were reached. The high court found no cause to intervene with his family’s summons, and the appellants’ plea was dismissed and the issue was now in the hands of the Supreme Court.
The main issue in this case was:
- Whether the family of rajesh sharma should be held liable along with him under section 498A?
- Is there a practice of including all family members in resolving a marriage dispute?
- How were the provisions of Section 498a mismanaged and misinterpreted in order to incriminate innocent people?
- And lastly, What are some feasible solutions to the potential of misconception of this section?
The counsel asserted that there is a rising trend to utilise the provision to ensnare all family, including elderly parents, small children, siblings, grandparents, and uncles, based on imprecise and exaggerated charges without any verifiable proof of bodily or mental harm or impairment. The following data from the Crime Records Bureau (CRB)was cited: According to National Crime Reports, this is the case.In 2005, the Record Bureau handled 58,319 cases.A total of 1,27,560 people were reported under Section 498A of the IPC.There were 6,141 arrests and charges filed.Because of a factual or legal error, it has been deemed false.by refering to various case laws it was argued that the clause was being abused.judicially recognised, and there is a need to take steps to address it.This type of abuse should be avoided. A learned ASG proposed that a preliminary investigation be conducted along the lines of the findings in Lalita Kumari vs. Government of Uttar PradeshOnly with the authorization of the concerned Magistrate might a relative other than the spouse be arrested. Relatives beyond the age of 70 should not be detained. The police’s ability to make immediate arrests must be limited. The court must determine that there is prima facie evidence that the accused has committed an overt and covert conduct before giving authorization. Shri V. Giri, distinguished senior counsel, argued that an arrest for a Section 498A offence should only be made when the Superintendent of Police has given his unequivocal assent. In the case of relatives who live outside India, the matter should only be pursued if the IO is confident that arrest is required for a fair inquiry. The impounding of a passport or the issue of a red corner notice should be avoided in such instances. Counseling should be made a required procedure under Section 14 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, before a case under Section 498A is filed.
after analysing the history of the problem and taking into consideration the Law Commission’s 243rd Report as well as previous decisions of this Court The court declared that violations of innocent people’s human rights cannot be overlooked. This Court has addressed several safeguards against unjustified arrests or insensitive investigations. Even yet, the issue persists to a large extent. Apart from sensitising the investigative officials and the concerned trial courts, they were of the opinion that involving civil society in the administration of justice may be one of the approaches. It is also vital to make it easier to conclude proceedings where a true settlement has been reached, rather than requiring parties to go to the High Court only for that purpose.
The court established a committee called the family welfare committee in every district that would hear all dowry cases, giving this body unchecked authority and the ability to act as a justice dispensation system. Every complaint received by the police or the Magistrate under Section 498A must be referred to and investigated by this committee. No arrests will be made unless the committee submits a report to the magistrate indicating that the victim’s justice would be delayed.Members of a committee that acts as a judicial body can be bought and swayed by the accused.
The court also stated that Only an authorised Investigating Officer of the region may examine complaints under Section 498A and any related offences. If a bail application is submitted with at least one clear reason, it will be granted.the Public Prosecutor/complainant is given a day’s notice,As far as feasible, the same can be decided on the same day.further elaborating they emphasized that It may not be necessary for all family members, especially those who live far away, to appear themselves before the court. After observing the aforementioned arrangement for six months, but no later than March 31, 2018, the National Legal Services Authority may provide a report on the necessity for any changes or further directives.
The declining acknowledgement and judicial acknowledgment of women’s rights is a fundamental concern in our legal system. The case of Rajesh Sharma vs. State of Uttar Pradesh demonstrates how women’s rights in Indian society are far from being achieved. The decision itself exemplifies the male-dominated Indian court, which forces women to battle for their rights. The Indian court has to be feminised, and men and women’s rights must be protected equally. Rather than addressing the threat of dowry, the court has exacerbated the problem. Women who speak out against such abuse and protest will be afraid to do so for fear of being kicked out of their homes or being labelled as a “disgruntled” wife by the courts. As a result, the courts should reexamine the effect and purpose of legislation and take appropriate action. The judge, instead of looking at the ground truth of the law, has relied on data to reach his determination, which is a really dismal truth in this case that everyone is talking about. The judges refused to admit even once that the law has decreased physical violence and dowry-related offences to a significant level. The judges did not consider the implications of a diluted dowry regimen.
This was a historic case because it not only acknowledged but also tried to establish a system of checks and balances when it came to criminal laws that were being abused by women. A recent case of social action forum for manav adhikar v. union of india, however, overturned the guidelines for the Family Welfare Committee. Despite the fact that the verdict in Rajesh Sharma’s case had no effect, it was nonetheless a paradigm change in the courts’ attitude and discussion. The verdict has prompted the creation of a blueprint for preventative measures that may be debated and investigated by parliament in order to curb dowry law abuse.