Report No. 243
10. Response.- an overview
10.1 As many as 474 persons, organizations/institutions and officials (listed in Annexure-III) have sent their responses to the Consultation Paper-cum- Questionnaire. A broad analysis of these replies are given in Annexure III-A. Some of the important and typical responses are compiled in Annexure III-B. As many as 244 Judicial Officers from various States including Registrars and Directors of Judicial Academies and Officials (most of them are Police Officers) and members of legal academia have sent their responses. 100 of them suggested that the offence should be made bailable.
However, 119 of them have clearly stated that it should remain non-bailable. Among the 24 organizations/institutions, 12 of them pleaded for bailability and 5 have expressed the view that it should remain non-bailable. Among the individuals, a vast majority of them suggested that it should be made bailable. Some have expressed an extreme view that the Section should be repealed or it should be made gender neutral. There are three Non-Resident Indians among the representationist.- two of them individuals and the other an organization.
They consider it as a harsh law against husbands and it shall be revisited. The tales of woes and harassment caused on account of false complaints have been narrated in many representations while pleading that the complainant woman should be made accountable for such false and frivolous complaints. Some State Governments and Union Territories also gave their suggestions. Their views are compiled in Annexure III-C.
Most of the respondents including those who are not in favour of change emphasized the need for verification of facts by way of preliminary/initial investigation and not to rush through the process of arrest. The need to facilitate reconciliation through counseling and mediation at the earliest stage has been stressed by a large number of respondents.
The active participation of Legal Service Authorities as a facilitator of conciliation and mediation processes and the need for closer coordination between the police and LSAs in this regard has also been pointed out by many of them. It is also stated that LSAs can play a greater role in spreading awareness in the rural areas.
10.2 The Chairman of the Commission in the company of Vice-Chairman and other ld. Members and officials of the Commission had occasions to interact with Judicial Officers of various ranks (including lady judges). In such Conferences, the general consensus was that the offence under Section 498-A should be made compoundable with the permission of the Court and it should continue to remain non-bailable. At the same time, they expressed some concern over complaints filed with false allegations or over implication and stressed on the duty of Police to act with sensitivity and responsibility in matters of this nature.
So also, the plight of the aggrieved women who go to the Police Stations and who in a state of emotion and confusion tend to file complaints with exaggerated versions has been highlighted. Senior Police Officers in Delhi have stated that the percentage of misuse is minimal and most of the complaints are quite genuine though at times the complaints are instigated to make some exaggerated and untrue allegations. They gave details of the practices that are being followed by Delhi Police especially in regard to conciliation by qualified counselors.
They have also highlighted the problem caused by NRI women filing dual complaints i.e., in Delhi under Section 498-A as well as the relevant laws in force governing domestic violence in the country where they last resided with the accused husband. In regard to misuse dimensions, there were different versions from the Police Officers in some other States.
There was a divided opinion among the lawyers and judges (who attended the Conferences) at Visakhapatnam (A.P.), Chennai, Aurangabad and Bengaluru on the question whether it should remain non-bailable. However, the lawyers, both men and ladies in one voice stated that it should be made compoundable and reconciliation process should be put in place without loss of time. The same was the opinion expressed at the conferences in Judicial Academies in several States.