Welfare panels can’t evaluate dowry complaints, says SC

Modifies its own order setting up citizens’ committees

The Supreme Court on Friday modified its July 2017 order which roped in retirees, wives of “working officers” and social workers to sift genuine complaints of dowry harassment from the frivolous ones.

On July 27 last year, the court had ordered ‘family welfare committees’ to be set up in the districts. These committees, composed of choice citizens, were supposed to act as a vanguard against “disgruntled wives” using the anti-dowry harassment provision of Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as a “weapon” against their husbands and in-laws, young and old, rather than a “shield.” Even the police could register an FIR only after the committee cleared the complaint as valid and not frivolous. Getting rid of these committees, a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra held that such panels had no place under the established criminal procedural law. They are beyond the Code of Criminal Procedure.

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