New Delhi, Nov. 6: The law commission has suggested raising the fine for false dowry and domestic violence complaints and advocated a 30-day cooling-off period before arrests except in the most serious cases of assault.
The accused are now arrested as soon as complaints are lodged under the domestic violence act, Section 498A (cruelty by husband or relative) of the Indian Penal Code and similar “matrimonial dispute laws”. Some men’s organisations have complained that these laws’ implementation is now too one-sided.
The commission has recommended these laws be amended along with Section 358 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), raising the maximum penalty for false complaints from Rs 1,000 to Rs 15,000.
The penal code already has a law against false complaints that provides for two to seven years in jail but, for this to apply, a separate case has to be filed and proved against the complainant. The acquitted husbands and in-laws rarely do this.
However, the fine is levied by the court in the original case while acquitting the accused after deciding that the complaint was false.
“This amendment is necessary to check to some extent the false and irresponsible FIRs and complaints in general, not merely confined to Section 498A,” the commission said.
It has also recommended an amendment to Section 41 CrPC making it mandatory for police officers to set in motion steps for reconciliation and wait 30 days for results before making arrests, unless it is a case of aggravated assault under Section 498A.
Its suggestions will be drafted into an amendment by the law ministry, without or without changes, which will be placed in Parliament if the cabinet approves it.
National Commission for Women chairperson Mamata Sharma agreed partially with the recommendations.
“There are a lot of instances of women filing false cases, so I believe the law should be amended. The raising of the penalty will be a good deterrent but I feel the 30-day window should not apply to the husband. Only the in-laws and other relatives should get that benefit,” she said.
The commission believes the 30-day period will give the husband a chance to explain himself to the authorities and the wife time to rethink her allegations.
“The abuse of the provision by resorting to the power of arrest indiscriminately should be checked…. Section 498A admits of various degrees of cruelty, broadly categorised as ‘less serious’ and ‘more serious’,” it said.
“Uniformity of approach in exercising the power of arrest is bound to result in undue hardship and unintended results.”
A man acquitted of dowry harassment this year told The media he was arrested two months after his marriage, the day after his wife filed a complaint.
“I spent a month in jail and did the rounds of the courts for five years. I was acquitted after the court realised my wife had filed false charges because she didn’t want to live in a joint family. I lost my job and my mother passed away because she couldn’t take the stress,” said the 35-year-old, who didn’t wish to be named.
“I don’t know if these recommendations will help. Mindsets need to change but there should be flexibility in the law to take into account both sides of the story.”
The commission has also advised against automatic court seizure of the passports of NRI husbands accused in dowry cases, citing “irreversible damage” to the accused, who will be “exposed to the risk of losing (his) job and the visa being terminated”. Instead, it has suggested imposing heavy bonds and sureties and a fast trial.
The maximum fine for false dowry and domestic violence complaints should be raised from Rs 1,000 to Rs 15,000
Police officers must take steps for reconciliation and wait 30 days for results before making arrests, unless it is a case of aggravated domestic assault. Arrests are now made immediately after a complaint is lodged