`Dowry Prohibition Officer has no jurisdiction to investigate
Over 300 dowry harassment case proceedings had been stayed Commissioner of Police had no authority under the Act to receive any complaint regarding dowry
CHENNAI: Cases relating to the harassment of women by the husband or the husband's relatives can be investigated only by the police and not by a Dowry Prohibition Officer, the Madras High Court has ruled.
The First Bench comprising Chief Justice A.P. Shah and Justice Prabha Sridevan passed the order on a writ petition, after taking note of the fact that more than 300 dowry harassment case proceedings had been stayed by the Madras High Court.
The original writ petitioner had contended that the power to receive complaints, investigate and file charge-sheets should be vested with Dowry Prohibition Officers and not the police. He said the Commissioner of Police had no authority under the provisions of the Dowry Prohibition Act to receive any complaint regarding dowry. Admitting the plea, the then First Bench had stayed all further proceedings in the case narrated therein.
Following the stay order in that case, more than 300 similar petitions were filed and stay orders were granted in as many dowry harassment cases. Taking exception to the trend, two women's organisations, including the All-India Democratic Women's Association, impleaded themselves as parties to the cases. The present Bench said the petition was "wholly without any substance," and added that the offence under Section 498-A (cruelty by husband or his relatives towards a woman) of the IPC could not be investigated by a Dowry Prohibition Officer, who had no jurisdiction to investigate. "Merely because the complaint also contains offences under Section 3 and 4 of the Act, it cannot oust the power of the police to investigate into the offence under Section 498-A of the IPC as well as under Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. The rules framed by the State Government do not exclude the power of the police officer to enquire into the complaints of demand of dowry... ," the Judges said.