A New Direction for Family Welfare Committee
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Family Welfare Committee is recenly in news which can probably be very important for upcoming UPSC exam.
FAMILY WELFARE COMMITTEE
Why in News?
The Supreme Court scrapped its earlier direction to set up local-level committees to look into dowry harassment complaints before arrests are made, saying it cannot fill in legislative gaps. The top court left it to Parliament to make suitable rules to check abuse of the law. (Social Action Forum for Manav Adhikar and another VS Union of India Ministry of Law and Justice and others)
WHAT IS IT?
- Family Welfare Committees are constituted by the District Legal Services Authorities preferably comprising of three members.
- It is constituted out of para legal volunteers/social workers/retired persons/wives of working officers/other citizens who may be found suitable and willing.
In July 2017, the Supreme Court, in a case titled Rajesh Sharma & Ors Vs State of UP & Ors, said that there will be no arrests under Section 498A, unless the District Family Welfare Committee report vets domestic violence by family members. Pending the Committee report, no arrest will be made.
Why this step?
- The apex court observed that large number of cases continue to be filed under Section 498A alleging harassment of married women and most of such complaints are filed in the heat of the moment over trivial issues.
- Such complaints lead to uncalled for harassment not only to the accused but also to the complainant. Uncalled for arrest may ruin the chances of settlement.
THE FUNCTIONS OF FAMILY WELFARE COMMITTEE
- All the dowry harassment complaints to the police or magistrate are referred to this committee which interacts with the parties and submits a report to the concerned authority. Based on the merit of the report, the police or magistrate takes further action.
- The committee may give its brief report about the factual aspects and its opinion in the matter.
- Till report of the committee is received, no arrest could be done normally.
Why the Supreme Court modified its order?
- The Supreme Court observed that a Court cannot frame guidelines for the police regarding registration of FIRs on subjecting a married woman to cruelty for dowry, as the process has to be governed by statutory provisions. The top court left it to Parliament to make suitable rules to check abuse of the law
- The Court observed that there were inbuilt mechanisms (like Section 41A and anticipatory bail among others) in criminal procedure to check misuse of provisions.
What is the status as of Now?
- The Court restored the power of the police to decide whether or not to make arrest under Section 498A after it modified an earlier order of the apex court
What is Section 498A?
Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.—Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
Section 498-A IPC is cognisable and non-bailable offence. A guilty person faces up to three years in prison.