New Delhi: In what would come as a major relief to many battered women, the Supreme Court on Friday amended an older judgement on provisions of Section 498A of IPC that pertains to domestic violence and dowry harassment. The three-judge Bench has removed the rider of a welfare committee and said that if police thought it necessary, they could arrest the respondent who could also apply for an anticipatory bail. (Also read: SC Tells States to Frame Laws For Selling Uninsured Vehicles in Accidents to Pay Victims)

Last year on July 27, a two-judge bench had ruled that immediate arrests won’t be made under 498A. It said every district would need to have a family welfare committee which would probe a complaint from all angles and arrests, if any, would be based on the report of the committee. On April 23, the Supreme Court had reserved its order on plea challenging this earlier judgement.

The two-judge bench had shown concern over the number of cases where women misused Sec 498A to harass their husbands and in-laws. The 2017 judgement by Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and UU Lalit was meant to check misuse of Sec 498A. In October last year, the three-judge bench had said that the court can only explain a law, not make it. CJ Misra had said the guidelines that the two-judge bench had laid out went against women’s rights. Later, the three-judge bench currently hearing the petition challenging the judgement had said on November 29, 2017, that it could not set down instructions for how dowry harassment cases should be investigated but it would look at the judgement of the two-judge bench.

Reviewing the 2017 judgement, the three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud said it wasn’t satisfied with the efficacy of the safeguard put in place. CJ Misra said the court is not there to look at the various aspects of a marital dispute but it would definitely look to fill any gaps in the system. Section 498A deals with husband or relatives of husband subjecting a woman to cruelty. Punishment under the Section is a maximum of three years and was so far a non-bailable offence.