Rajesh Sharma &Ors vs. State of UP and Anr.

Prachi Rathi

APPELLANT: Rajesh Sharma &Ors.
RESPONDENT: State of UP and Anr.
CITATION: 2017 SCC 821.
NAME OF COURT: Supreme Court of India
NAME OF JUSTICES: A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit
FACTS:
• On 28 November 2012, Rajesh Sharma and Sneha Sharma were hitched, and Sneha Sharma's father gave his dowry to its fullest limit.
• However, the appellants were not pleased with the dowry package, and they started harassing the plaintiff and were beaten and misused by the spouse every day. The demanded was dowry of Rs. 3,00,000/- and a car that could not be arranged by the family.
• Rajesh Sharma (Appellant No. 1) asked and left the claimant at her marital home on 10 November 2013.
• Since her pregnancy was over, the appealing party left the complainant Sneha at her home at that point. Thereupon, under IPC sections 498A (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), via a summon Rajesh Sharma was called by the wife.
• In this case, the wife lodged a lawsuit against the appellant's husband and family. Wife reported that his husband made dowry demands and she was threatened by the appellant and his family members as she was pregnant, resulting in the termination of his pregnancy.
• So, as the prima facie case was proved, the trial court summoned the appellant.
• Respondent No. 2 presented the Additional Sessions Judge with a new petition to include Appellants 2 to 5. The appeal was approved, and a new ruling on the matter was referred to the trial court.
• The appellants asked the High Court to get the summons quashed, but the court rejected the same thing. The appellants objected to the order of summons by the High Court, but the mediation failed and dismissed their petition, finding that there was no basis to intervene with the order of summons.
• The appellants have now lodged an appeal before the Supreme Court against the order of the High Court.

ISSUES:
1. Whether it is appropriate to check the propensity to bring in all members of the family to resolve a marital dispute.
2. Whether there are any guidelines needed to avoid the misuse of Section 498A.

PROVISIONS INVOLVED:
1. Indian Penal Code, 1860, Section 498A: Husband or relative of a woman's husband who submits her to cruelty.
2. Indian Penal Code, 1860, section 323: Penalty for voluntarily causing harm.
3. Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, section 3 and 4: Penalty for giving or taking dowry and Penalty for demanding dowry respectively.

JUDGMENT:
Thus, the following directions were given after careful consideration of the whole problem:

1. (a) The District Legal Services Authorities, consisting ideally of three members, shall constitute one or more Family Welfare Committees in each local. The constitution and activity of such committees may be reviewed by the District and Sessions Judge of the district, who is also the Chairman of the District Legal Services Authority, from time to time and at least once a year.
(b) The Committees may consist of para-legal volunteers/social workers/retired persons/working officers' wives/other civilians who may be deemed acceptable and willing.
(c) Members of the committee would not be named as witnesses.
(d) Any complaint received by the police or by a magistrate under Section 498A shall be referred to and investigated by such a committee. Such a committee can communicate personally with the parties, by telephone, or by any other means of communication, including electronic communication.
(e) The opinion of that committee shall be sent no later than one month from the date of receipt of the complaint to the Authority by which the complaint is referred to it.
(f) The Committee may send a brief report on the factual aspects and an opinion on the matter to the Committee.
(g) No arrest can usually be made before the committee report is issued.
(h) The report can then be considered, on its own merits, by the investigating officer or the magistrate.
(i) Members of the committee may undergo such basic minimum training as may be deemed appropriate from time to time by the Legal Services Authority.
(j) An honorarium may be awarded to the members of the committee as it may be deemed viable.
(k) The District and Sessions Judge shall be open to the use of the expense fund whenever deemed appropriate and proper.
2. Only the appointed Investigative Officer of the region can investigate complaints under Section 498A and other relevant offences. Within one month from today, such designations can be made. Such appointed officers may be expected to attend, as may be deemed necessary, training for such a period (not less than one week). It is possible to complete the training within four months from the day of this judgment.
3. In cases where a compromise stage has been reached, the Judge of the District and Sessions or any other Senior Judicial Officer nominated by him in the district shall be open to terminate the proceedings, including the closure of the criminal case, if the conflict relates primarily to marital discord.
4. Whenever a bail application is sent to the Public Prosecutor / complainant with at least one specific day's notice, the same will be determined on the same day to the extent practicable. Recovery of contested dowry products may not itself be a basis for denial of bail if it is otherwise possible to protect maintenance or other privileges of wife / minor children. Needless to say that individual positions, prima facie truth of the charges, the need for further arrest/ detention and the interest of justice must be carefully weighed in dealing with bail matters.
5. Impounding passports or issuing a Red Corner Notice should not be standard in respect of persons normally residing outside India.
6. The District Judge or the appointed Senior Judicial Officer nominated by the District Judge shall be free to distinguish all relevant cases between the parties arising from matrimonial disputes in such a way that the Court to whom all such cases are entrusted takes a holistic view.
7. Placed greater emphasis on personal appearance, may not be expected of all family members and, in particular, of outstation members and the trial court may grant an exemption from personal appearance or permit video conferencing to appear without adversely affecting the progress of the trial.
8. These directives shall not extend to offences causing physical harm or death which are tangible.

SIGNIFICANCE:
This decision plays a very important role in dowry-related offences in order to avoid the victimization and abuse of innocent husbands along with their families. The Supreme Court has admitted, in the present case, that this clause of the Indian penal code on dowry was misused. The purpose of this legislation is to safeguard the human dignity of innocent people. The purpose of this judgment was to investigate the case submitted to the police and magistrates. Furthermore, this committee's goal was to see the actual cases and to opt out of the fake cases.