The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a Patna high court order, which had quashed the issuance of provisional arrest warrant by a special court in Bihar in a dowry harassment case against the husband of a Bollywood actress. The woman has accused the husband of mental and physical torture. The court rejected Kumar’s argument that the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) had no provision to seek police protection and security from his wife. (Arnesh Kumar V. Government of Bihar Judgement)
What was the contention by the woman? Kumar’s counsels, arguing in court, said the man and his wife had been living separately for a few months, but the wife had not sought divorce. He also claimed that she was making false allegations.
Key points from the verdict Arnesh Kumar V. Government of Bihar Judgement
In terms of sentencing, the court said courts should be informed of “such acts and such records” in a matter of fact report (“tendering of marriage”). It said a man was entitled to an interim protection from arrest for one year, if he is not the prime accused in a case of rape or dowry harassment but an offence is registered against him. The court also said these women must be informed that their harassment complaints will not be treated as blackmailing.
“In cases of rape or trafficking, courts have been found to be lenient to women and have accepted their claims of trauma and loss of sexual experience as reasons for complaint.” In other words, courts are bound by the victim’s false claims as evidence, an implication that is considered “favourable” to accused women.
The Court noted that there had been an increase in matrimonial disputes in recent years, including pendency before courts.
In particular, it was concerned about dowry-related cases. In the judgement, the court said: The Court held that a wife is entitled to maintenance from her husband to meet her essential requirements and also for that purpose she cannot be denied maintenance. (Arnesh Kumar V. Government of Bihar Judgement)
However, maintenance can be restricted on various conditions under the CrPC, including on various grounds like When and how did the Supreme Court go back on the 2014 judgement? In September 2017, the Supreme Court overturned its 2014 judgement, holding that a husband cannot be denied maintenance by a wife for maintenance reasons. In his verdict, Justice Ashok Bhushan said: “In the instant case, on the face of it, the wife has not done anything wrong in presenting allegations.
The Court’s order was to make Section 498A bailable and compoundable with the permission of the court, and to provide for anticipatory bail in cases where “no arrest has been effected”, as well as to provide safeguards against misuse of law
The Supreme Court stated that the purpose of Section 498A was to protect a wife, especially a young wife, and that in a large number of cases, it was misused by “habitual offenders who consider themselves above the law”. The Court observed that this provision had been introduced in 1983 “during the worst days of domestic violence”. (Arnesh Kumar V. Government of Bihar Judgement)
Why was it banned in 1997? The 1997 verdict was based on the premise that “the number of cases of domestic violence, especially dowry harassment” were on the rise. But, it noted, there were no records to prove that this was so. It said that “with the passage of time, the data and reports based on which such severe and harsh provisions were enacted and then enacted in large numbers became less reliable and trustworthy and thus, sub-judice”.
Conclusion (Arnesh Kumar V. Government of Bihar Judgement)
The Attorney General has been briefed, and it was evident from the four-page response he received, that he did not need any briefing from the Solicitor General on the judgment. Unless he received the same advice orally from the Cabinet secretary,
Arun Jaitley, the Attorney General would have known that at the end of the day, it is only the National Democratic Alliance government that would be benefiting from this. The verdict of the Supreme Court in favour of an accused, against a state, is unlikely to be challenged or overturned by the petitioner, the state government of Bihar. Arnesh Kumar V. Government of Bihar Judgement