In a bid to prevent casual and mechanical detention of accused, the Supreme Court on Wednesday directed States to instruct police officers not to make any arrests in dowry harassment offences without first ascertaining viability under parameters laid down in Section 41, Code of Criminal Procedure.

Acting on a special leave petition, in which Arnesh Kumar challenges registration of FIRs against him and his family for alleged dowry harassment, the Bench advised against automatic arrest under Section 498A.

The Bench said police should issue notice of appearance to the accused in terms of Section 41A of the Cr.PC within two weeks from the date of institution of the case, which might be extended by the district’s Superintendent of Police for reasons that must be recorded in writing. Failure to comply with the directions would render the concerned police officers liable for departmental action as well as contempt of court before the High Court having territorial jurisdiction.

The Bench said: “The Magistrate, while authorising detention of the accused shall peruse the report furnished by the police officer; only after recording its satisfaction, the Magistrate will authorise detention. Authorising detention without recording reasons by the judicial Magistrate concerned shall be liable for departmental action by the appropriate High Court. The directions shall… apply [also in] such cases where offence is punishable with imprisonment for [up to] to seven years. We direct that a copy of this judgment be forwarded to the Chief Secretaries as also the DGPs of all States and UTs… for ensuring its compliance.”

Writing the judgment, Justice Prasad said that there was a “phenomenal increase in matrimonial disputes in recent years.”

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