Report No. 243
(1) (a) What according to you is ideally expected of Police, on receiving the FIR alleging an offence u/s 498-A of IPC? What should be their approach and plan of action?
(b) Do you think that justice will be better meted out to the aggrieved woman by the immediate arrest and custodial interrogation of the husband and his relations named in the FIR? Would the objective of Section 498-A be better served thereby?
(2) (a) The Supreme Court laid down in D.K. Basu (1996) and other cases that the power of arrest without warrant ought not to be resorted to in a routine manner and that the Police officer should be reasonably satisfied about a person's complicity as well as the need to effect arrest. Don't you agree that this rule applies with greater force in a situation of matrimonial discord and the police are expected to act more discreetly and cautiously before taking the drastic step of arrest?
(b) What steps should be taken to check indiscriminate and unwarranted arrests?
(3) Do you think that making the offence bailable is the proper solution to the problem? Will it be counter-productive?
(4) There is a view point supported by certain observations in the courts' judgments that before effecting arrest in cases of this nature, the proper course would be to try the process of reconciliation by counselling both sides. In other words, the possibility of exploring reconciliation at the outset should precede punitive measures. Do you agree that the conciliation should be the first step, having regard to the nature and dimension of the problem? If so, how best the conciliation process could be completed with utmost expedition? Should there be a time-limit beyond which the police shall be free to act without waiting for the outcome of conciliation process?
(5) Though the Police may tender appropriate advice initially and facilitate reconciliation process, the preponderance of view is that the Police should not get involved in the actual process and their role should be that of observer at that stage? Do you have a different view?
(6) (a) In the absence of consensus as to mediators, who will be ideally suited to act as mediators/conciliator.- the friends or elders known to both the parties or professional counsellors (who may be part of NGOs), lady and men lawyers who volunteer to act in such matters, a Committee of respected/retired persons of the locality or the Legal Services Authority of the District?
(b) How to ensure that the officers in charge of police stations can easily identify and contact those who are well suited to conciliate or mediate, especially having regard to the fact that professional and competent counsellors may not be available at all places and any delay in initiating the process will lead to further complications?
(7) (a) Do you think that on receipt of complaint under Section 498-A, immediate steps should be taken by the Police to facilitate an application being filed before the Judicial Magistrate under the PDV Act so that the Magistrate can set in motion the process of counselling/conciliation, apart from according interim protection?
(b) Should the Police in the meanwhile be left free to arrest the accused without the permission of the Magistrate?
(c) Should the investigation be kept in abeyance till the conciliation process initiated by the Magistrate is completed?
(8) Do you think that the offence should be made compoundable (with the permission of court)? Are there any particular reasons not to make it compoundable?
(9) Do you consider it just and proper to differentiate the husband from the other accused in providing for bail?
(10) (a) Do you envisage a better and more extensive role to be played by Legal Services Authorities (LSAs) at Taluka and District levels in relation to Section 498-A cases and for facilitating amicable settlement? Is there a need for better coordination between LSAs and police stations?
(b) Do you think that aggrieved women have easy access to LSAs at the grassroot level and get proper guidance and help from them at the pre-complaint and subsequent stages?
(c)Are the Mediation Centres in some States well equipped and better suited to attend to the cases related to S,498-A?
(11) What measures do you suggest to spread awareness of the protective penal provisions and civil rights available to women in rural areas especially among the poorer sections of people?
(12) Do you have any informations about the number of and conditions in shelter homes which are required to be set up under PDV Act to help the aggrieved women who after lodging the complaint do not wish to stay at marital home or there is none to look after them?
(13) What according to you is the main reason for low conviction rate in the prosecutions u/s 498-A?
(14) (a) Is it desirable to have a Crime Against Women Cell (CWC) in every district to deal exclusively with the crimes such as Section 498-A? If so, what should be its composition and the qualifications of women police deployed in such a cell?
(b) As the present experience shows, it is likely that wherever a CWC is set up, there may be substantial number of unfilled vacancies and the personnel may not have undergone the requisite training. In this situation, whether it would be advisable to entrust the investigation etc. to CWC to the exclusion of the jurisdictional Police Station?