The Supreme Court today said it would hear on Monday the petitions seeking revisiting a judgement that had reduced the severity of the anti-dowry penal law on the offence of subjecting a married woman to cruelty by her spouse and in-laws. The decision came after a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said the orders on the matter cannot be found as the apex court website got “hacked yesterday”. “Somebody tried to hack the website.
All the people worked whole night to fix the problem,” the bench said and assured senior advocate Indira Jaising, counsel for NGO ‘Social Action Forum’, that her plea on the issue would be listed for hearing on April 23 along with other petitions. A two judge bench of the apex court in July last year had voiced concern over “abuse” of section 498 A (subjecting a married woman to cruelty) of the IPC and passed a slew of directions including that no arrest should “normally be effected” without verifying allegations as violation of human rights of innocents cannot be brushed aside.
Later a three-judge bench led by the CJI expressed disagreement with the verdict and appointed senior Advocate V Shekhar as an amicus curiae to assist it in revisiting the judgement. Jaising today said a bench headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel had referred the similar plea of NGO to the CJI for hearing on April 11. She said the order was not found as the apex court website was non-functional. The apex court had issued notices to Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Women and Child Development and National Commission of Women and sought their responses while disagreeing with the July 27 verdict of a smaller bench.
The bench was hearing a plea filed by an NGO ‘Nyayadhar’, an organisation formed by a group of women advocates of Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, seeking sharpness in section 498A, claiming that the otherwise “helpful instrument” in the hands of victim women has become “valueless”. The plea suggested that out of three members in family welfare committees, at least two should be female members and one member should have done Masters in Social Works.
It also suggested recording of facts at the time of counselling and said the committee should also consider the economic status of the parties. The two judge bench, in its judgement, had passed a slew of directions to deal with complaints under section 498A of the IPC and had observed that many such complaints are not bonafide and “uncalled for arrest” may ruin the chances of settlement. It had directed that in every district, one or more family welfare committees should be constituted by the District Legal Services Authorities (DLSA) and every complaint received by police or the magistrate under this provision should be referred to and looked into by the committee.
It had said that such committees may comprise of para legal volunteers, social workers, retired persons, wives of working officers and others who may be found suitable and willing. The bench had also said that if a bail plea is filed in such matter, it may be decided as far as possible on the same day with at least one day’s notice to the public prosecutor or the complainant. It had said that regarding persons residing out of India, the process of impounding of passports or issuance of Red Corner Notice should not be a routine. The judgement had also said that personal appearance of all family members and particularly outstation members may not be required and the trial court ought to grant exemption from personal appearance or permit appearance by video conferencing without adversely affecting progress of the trial. It, however, clarified that “these directions will not apply to the offences involving tangible physical injuries or death”.