The Supreme Court on Thursday said that an accused in a dowry harassment case cannot be arrested immediately.
The court said that police would have to conduct a preliminary inquiry before making arrests.
A bench of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit said family welfare committees should be set up in every district to look into every dowry-related complaint made under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.
The committee should meet the couple concerned and their families before submitting a report to the magistrate.
If the report indicates foul play, the accused can be arrested, said the bench.
However, the court said that its new orders would not apply to cases involving tangible physical injury or death.
The bench said the number of dowry-related complaints that continue to pour in.
“To remedy the situation, we are of the view that involvement of civil society in the aid of administration of justice can be one of the steps, apart from the investigating officers and the concerned trial courts being sensitised,” the bench said.
The apex court further said that a quarter of all arrests under the dowry harassment law were those of mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, citing data from the National Crime Records Bureau.
It added that while chargesheets were filed in 93.6% of cases, only 14.4% resulted in convictions.