The Supreme Court ruling on imposing Section 498A without investigation has come as a great relief for many a husband and even senior citizens.
The relatives of Awadhesh Pathak, a retired schoolteacher, felt elated after coming to know about the Supreme Court guidelines on Wednesday. Pathak, 67, was arrested and lodged in the Barh sub-divisional jail about three months ago after his daughter-in-law Ragini (27) accused him along with seven other members of the family of harassing her for dowry.
The apex court’s ruling has restrained the police from mechanically arresting the accused merely on the basis of lodging of complaints under Section 498A (harassing women for dowry) of the IPC.
Pathak’s relatives have been running from pillar to post to secure bail for the retired teacher and his 62-year-old wife Sunita Devi. The couple, originally hailing from Mahua in Vaishali district, had settled in Patna after their son Manoj Kumar, a software engineer, got a job in a telecommunication company. Manoj was married to Rajini, daughter of an engineer of Barh, about three years ago.
Ragini lodged a complaint with the Barh police station accusing her husband, in-laws, their two married daughters and their husbands. The police conducted a raid at their rented accommodation at Rajeev Nagar in April this year and took Pathak and his wife into custody. The couple were booked under Section 498A of the IPC and Section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
Pathak’s daughter Anamika, whose name also figured in the FIR, said she and her husband had nothing to do with the case but they have been accused of harassing Ragini for more dowry. “We don’t stay in Patna and have not visited my parents’ house after my brother’s wedding. How can we torture her?” she said.
Pathak’s bail petition was rejected from the sub-divisional court and is pending with the high court. “Now it’s our turn to seek bail. Our anticipatory bail has already been rejected,” she said.
Pathak’s son, Manoj had to lose job as he was behind bars for six months.
The story of Shivaji Pandey, a retired engineer of the irrigation department, is more pathetic. Pandey, a resident of Ashiana Nagar, was recently arrested with his wife by a Delhi police team. The couple were charged with harassing their daughter-in-law, Meenaxi. She lodged a complaint against her husband Vivek and other relatives under Section 498A of the IPC.
The couple had to spend about two weeks in a high security jail in Delhi despite the fact that their daughter-in-law had hardly stayed with them in Patna. “Vivek, a software engineer, is working with a telecommunication company in US. He used to send money from there. Yet he has been made accused in the case,” a close relative of Pandey said.
The relative, who requested anonymity, said the couple would hardly forget the humiliation they had to face in the court.
The complainant’s relative is an IPS officer, who allegedly used his influence to get the couple arrested at the earliest. The marriage of Meenaxi was solemnised in 2006.
The family members of Sudarshan Mahto, who too are facing dowry charges, are all praise for the Supreme Court for issuing new guidelines. “We hope that the court would grant bail to us in the wake of the recent directive of the apex court. A complaint has been lodged against Mahto, an employee of a nationalised bank, with the Bihta police station,” he added.