New Delhi: The Supreme Court is likely to pronounce judgement today on a batch of pleas challenging the provision of immediate arrests in dowry harassment cases under Sec 498A of IPC. A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud would be pronouncing judgement at 10.30AM today. The court would decide if, acting on a woman’s complaint, her husband and in-laws can immediately be arrested or not.

Earlier, in 2017, a two-judge bench had said that arrests won’t be made till after preliminary inquiry into each complaint. The court had said the move would prevent misuse of Sec 498A. It had directed for forming of three-member family welfare committees in each district. The court had said that under 498 A (domestic abuse, dowry harassment), if the committee found the complaint to be true, only then could the husband and inlaws be arrested. It was this judgement that was challenged. The petition said the court could not make such changes to the law. It said law is meant to bring justice to women but with the judgement, the number of arrests had come significantly down across the country.

The 2017 judgement by Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and UU Lalit was meant to check misuse of Sec 498A. 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.

In its judgement, the two-judge bench had said that the respondent didn’t need to be present in the court. If a respondent is living abroad, his passport won’t be confiscated and no Red Corner Notice would be given against him. It also spoke about constitution of family welfare committees in each district. The committees would comprise social workers and wives of senior officials. The court said members of the committee wouldn’t be used as witnesses. It said all complaints to police or magistrate under Sec 498A would first go to the committees which would submit their reports within a month. No arrests would be made till reports were sent. The court said the investigating officer or the magistrate would act on the report.