ARNESH KUMAR V. STATE OF BIHAR

By – Gunjan

  NAME OF THE CASE    Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar
  CITATION    (2014) 8 SCC 273
  DATE OF THE CASE    2 July, 2014
  APPELANT    Arnesh Kumar
  RESPONDENT    State of Bihar Sweta Kiran  
  BENCH/JUDGE    Hon’ble Justice Chandramauli Kr. Prasad and Hon’ble Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose  
  LEGAL PROVISIONS    The Indian Penal Code, 1860: Section 498-A The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961: Section-4 The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973: Section 41, 41A, 57,167 Constitution of India: Article 22(2)  

INTRODUCTION

Dowry system was started in the ancient times as a gift to the bride during marriage but nowadays dowry and business are two peas in a pod. The bride parents are burdened to give more money and even properties as dowry and if the demands are not fulfilled the marriage is abruptly axed or the bride is tormented   after the marriage. In Asia, especially in India it is widely practiced. Therefore, the Indian Government has made many legislations such as The Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 which prohibits the dowry system.

However, every coin has two sides. The laws and legislations which proves to be propitious to the women is on the other hand squandered by them. The present case put forward the same issue. In this case, the petitioner’s wife alleged that his parents demanded dowry and the petitioner was arrested. The petitioner denied all the claims and applied for the anticipatory bail which was rejected. Then he appealed to the Supreme Court by the way of Special Leave Petition. The Special Leave Petition was accepted by the Supreme Court of India.  

The Court stated that: “Arrest brings humiliation, curtails freedom and cast scars forever.”[1] Therefore, the Court issued the guidelines directing all the states to truncate the misuse of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The Court also beseech the police officers to investigate while arresting a person for cognizable offense and follow Section 41 of CrPC.

BACKGROUND

In India dowry is labeled as ‘Streedhan’ which means money, property, or gifts exclusively for the bride bequeath by the parents. Although the original meaning of the custom is dismantled and the bride is now considered as a pot of gold who brings riches to the groom’s family. With the increase in dowry deaths the government has enacted laws such as the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 which prohibits ‘giving, taking or demanding of dowry.’[2] The brutality which is evident in the dowry cases were criminalized by the Indian Parliament by amending the Indian Penal Code.

Nevertheless, these laws and legislations are used by the women as a weapon for their personal vengeance. Women resort to false dowry demands and aggravation. Moreover, the husband and relatives are arrested and harassed by the police officers. In the case of Dr. N.G. Dastane v. Mrs. S. Dastane, 1975[3] the cruelty towards the husband was evident and the law was misused by the wife to torment the husband.  In yet another case Preeti Gupta v. State of Jharkhand[4], the Supreme Court repudiated the criminal proceeding against married sister-in-law and unmarried brother-in-law on the ground that there was no specific allegation against them in the complaint and they resided in separate States.

In the case of Arnesh Kumar v. the State of Bihar also the Court gave its landmark judgment on Arrest and the misuse of dowry laws. The marriage of Arnesh Kumar and Sweta Kiran was solemnized on July 1, 2007. The wife accused her in-laws of demanding eight lakh rupees, a Maruti Car, AC, etc., and the husband also supported his family and threatened to marry another woman. She also alleged that she was driven out of the matrimonial house because of the non-fulfillment of the demand. The husband denied all the accusations and filed for anticipatory bail which was rejected by the Session Court and the High Court. Therefore, he knocked on the gate of the Supreme Court through Special Leave Petition which was accepted by the Court.   

FACTS OF THE CASE

The marriage of Arnesh Kumar and Sweta Kiran was commemorated on 1st July 2007. After years of marriage Sweta Kiran alleged that her in-laws demanded eight lakh rupees, a Maruti Car, an Air Conditioner, a television set, etc., and when the issue was put in front of her husband, he too supported his family and brow-beat to marry another woman. Further, she also accused that she was thrown out of the house due to the non-fulfillment of the demand of the dowry.  

The husband, Arnesh Kumar was arrested under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 which states that “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.”[5]  He was also apprehended under Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 which states that “Penalty for demanding dowry: If any person demands, directly or indirectly, from the parents or other relatives or guardian of a bride or bridegroom, as the case may be, any dowry, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months, but which may extend to two years and with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees. Provided that the court may, for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of fewer than six months.”[6]

Arnesh Kumar denied all the complaints lodged against him by his wife and applied for anticipatory bail. The bail was rejected by the Session Court and the High Court. He was not satisfied by the decision of the Courts and appealed to the Supreme Court of India by the way of a Special Leave Petition which was accepted by the Court.

ISSUES RAISED BEFORE THE COURT

  1. Whether Section 498-A of the Indian penal Code, 1860 can be rectified?
  • What are the remedies if the provisions of section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 is misused by a woman?
  • Whether the Petitioner should be granted the anticipatory bail?
  • What are the rights of the accused before and after the arrest?

CONTENTIONS

Arguments from the Appelant Side:

  • The petitioner argued against the complaints lodged by his wife for the dowry demands.
  • The petitioner also contended that Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act was misused by his wife in order to accuse him and his family.    
  • He believed that he has been arrested on the accusation of committing a non-bailable offence. Therefore, he moved to the Session Court and the High Court for the anticipation bail where his bail was rejected.
  • The petitioner then appealed to the Supreme Court through Special Leave Petition as he was not satisfied with the decision of the Session Court and the High Court.

Arguments from the Respondent Side:

  • The respondent accused the petitioner and his family for demanding dowry.
  • It was also reiterated that the petitioner not only demanded eight lakh rupees, a Maruti Car, an Air Conditioner, etc. but also threatened to marry another woman if the demands are not fulfilled.
  • Furthermore, the respondent argued that she was thrown out of the matrimonial home because of the non-fulfillment of the demands of the dowry.
  • It was also contented that the petitioner should not be granted anticipatory bail as the case includes Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 which a cognizable and non-bailable offence.

PROVISIONS RELATED TO THE CASE

  1. Section 498A in The Indian Penal Code

The section states that “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.”[7]

  • Section 4 in the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

It states that “If any person demands, directly or indirectly, from the parents or other relatives or guardian of a bride or bridegroom, as the case may be, any dowry, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months, but which may extend to two years and with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees.”[8]

According to Section 22(2) of the Indian Constitution, “Every person who is arrested and detained in custody shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of twenty-four hours of such arrest excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court of the magistrate and no such person shall be detained in custody beyond the said period without the authority of a magistrate.”[9]

  • Section 41 of states that “Any police officer- may without an order from a magistrate and without a warrant arrest any person who has committed a cognizable offence, who is in possession of stolen property, or is a state offender, who obstructs a police officer in discharge of his duty, who attempts to escape from lawful custody, who is declared as a deserted from any of the Armed Forces of the Union, who is a released convict and breaches his contract of release etc.”[10]
  • Section 41A defines the notice of appearance before police officer. (1) The police officer shall, in all cases where the arrest of a person is not required under the provisions of sub-section (1) of section 41, issue a notice directing the person against whom a reasonable complaint has been made, or credible information has been received, or a reasonable suspicion exists that he has committed a cognizable offence, to appear before him or at such other place as may be specified in the notice.[11]
  • Section 57 states that “Person arrested not to be detained more than twenty- four hours. No police officer shall detain in custody a person arrested without warrant for a longer period than under all the circumstances of the case is reasonable, and such period shall not, in the absence of a special order of a Magistrate under section 167, exceed twenty- four hours exclusive of the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the Magistrate’ s Court.”[12]

JUDGEMENT

The landmark judgment on arrest in the case of Arnesh Kumar v. the State of Bihar where the petitioner was arrested on the apprehension of committing a cognizable offense under Section 498A of The Indian Penal Code, 1860 and under Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. The petitioner, in this case, denied all the complaints of dowry lodged by his wife and in turn appealed for anticipatory bail which was rejected. Then the petitioner approached the gate of the Supreme Court by the way of the Special Leave Petition which was accepted by the Court. Furthermore, the Court laid down the guidelines and rights of the accused before and after the arrest.

The Court recapitulates on the increasing matrimonial altercations. The Court said that Section 498-A of the IPC was set in motion to protect women of India from the evil of the dowry system. The fact that Section 498-A is a cognizable and non-bailable offense has lent it a dubious place of pride amongst the provisions that are used as weapons rather than shields by disgruntled wives.[13] The wives nowadays harass their husbands and their relatives by getting them arrested under this provision. Therefore, the Court held that ‘No arrest can be made in a routine manner on a mere allegation of commission of an offense made against a person. It would be prudent and wise for a police officer that no arrest is made without a reasonable satisfaction reached after some investigation as to the genuineness of the allegation.’[14] It was also recorded in the case of M.C Abraham v. State of Maharashtra[15], the honorable Supreme Court of India reiterated that arrests must be made very cautiously and by following the correct procedure. It is mandatory for the police to make such arrests and is able to justify the accused is likely to commit the further offense, can alter the evidence, etc.

The court further ordered the police to follow some guidelines while arresting a person for cognizable offenses:

The Court concluded its decision on the case by ordering these directions to be followed not only to the cases related to Section 498A of IPC and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 but also to the cases where the offense is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may be less than seven years or which may extend to seven years; whether with or without fine.  

CONCLUSION

In the leading case of Arnesh Kumar v. the State of Bihar, the petitioner was accused and arrested for a cognizable offense to which he denied. His attempt to secure anticipatory bail was failed and he approached the Supreme Court through SLP which was accepted and the Court elucidate that “Law Commissions, Police Commissions and this Court in a large number of judgments emphasized the need to maintain a balance between individual liberty and societal order while exercising the power of arrest.”[18]

In my opinion, this case is a light of hope as it highlights the malicious side of the Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code,1860 and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 which was in fact established for the welfare of the women and to protect women from dowry system. The case also laid down the guidelines for the state government and police officers to be followed in the case of a cognizable and non-bailable offense.


[1] Law Insider https://www.lawinsider.in/judgment/arnesh-kumar-v-state-of-bihar [last visited on January 15, 2022]

[2] The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.

[3] Dr. N.G. Dastane v. Mrs. S. Dastane 1975 SCR (3) 967

[4] Preeti Gupta v. State of Jharkhand (2010) 7 SCC 667

[5] Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

[6] Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

[7] Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

[8] Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.

[9] Article 22(2) in The Constitution of India 1949.

[10] Section 41 in The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

[11] Section 41A in The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

[12] Section 57 in The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

[13] Indian Kanoon https://indiankanoon.org/doc/2982624/  [last visited on January 15, 2022]

[14] ibid

[15] M.C Abraham v. State of Maharashtra (2003) 2 SCC 649.

[16] Indian Kanoon https://indiankanoon.org/doc/2982624/   [last visited on January 15, 2022]

[17] ibid

[18] Supra note 10

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