Nyayadhar case: Supreme Court emphasises established procedure for Sec 498A, questions need for guidelines to be issued

On Wednesday (November 29th), the Supreme Court of India took up the matter of Nyaydhar v. Union of India Ministry of Home Affairs and Ors where petitioners have pleaded for the implementing the directions issued in the matter of Rajesh Sharma v. The State of Uttar Pradesh on 27.07.2017 by Justice A.K. Goel with regard to the misuse of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. This petition filed by the NGO Nyayadhar has sought to include two women members in the family welfare committees, directed to be constituted by the Rajesh Sharma judgement. In a previous hearing on 3rd October, the bench hearing this matter comprising of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud mentioned their disagreement with the Rajesh Sharma judgement.

The infamous judgement of Rajesh Sharma arose from a Special Leave to Appeal filed by the husband of the complainant after the Allahabad High Court had dismissed his plea to quash the proceedings under Section 498A of the IPC against his father, mother, brother and sister via order dated 11.01.2016.

In this case a complainant had accused her husband and his family of dowry harassment and filed a complaint under sections 498A, 323, 504, 506 IPC along with section 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act against her husband, Rajesh Sharma, her father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law and sister-in-law in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate. The court of Chief Judicial Magistrate eventually held all 5 accused guilty in the matter. This decision was appealed in the High Court for quashing the order where the High Court directed the parties to settle the matter through mediation. No result came out of the mediation process, as both the parties had appeared before the mediation committee on different dates.

The husband of the complainant approached the Supreme Court of India by a way of Special Leave Petition against the final judgement of the High Court of Allahabad, in which the Supreme Court took into account the NCRB data on conviction and acquittal under Section 498A and reached the conclusion that the low conviction rate indicates that women are misusing the law and filing complaints seeking revenge from the husband and his family on trivial issues.

The Supreme Court bench in its judgement gave a number of guidelines as precautionary measures for arrests under Section 498A, such as setting up of family welfare committees to look into these complaints before it is investigated into by the Investigating office/ Police Officer.

In the hearing on Wednesday, CJI Dipak Misra asked the counsel of the petitioner the purpose of issuing guidelines for implementation of the judgement dated 27.07.2017. It was questioned, if the family welfare committees would have the adequate skills to investigate a cognizable offence. It was stated that Section 498A is a cognizable offence under IPC for which there is an established procedure under CrPC to file, investigate and proceed with the trial.

The matter is now listed for hearing in the third week of January.