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Calcutta HC Introduces Guidelines to Arrests in Section 498-A IPC Cases

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LI Network

Published on: 29 August 2023 at 11:56 IST

In a significant move aimed at preventing unwarranted arrests and detentions, the Calcutta High Court has issued a comprehensive set of guidelines for law enforcement agencies and judicial authorities within the jurisdiction of West Bengal and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

This initiative comes as a response to directives from the Apex Court, emphasizing the strict adherence to the guidelines laid down in the Arnesh Kumar case [Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar and Another], which concern arrest procedures.

The notification released by the Registrar General of the High Court states, “With the approval of the Hon’ble Chief Justice, the following guidelines are framed by the High Court at Calcutta to be followed by the Sessions courts and all other Criminal Courts.”

The primary focus of these guidelines is to curb arbitrary and mechanical arrests, especially in cases registered under Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

The Court underscores the importance of discretion exercised by police officers and magistrates, urging them to evaluate the necessity of arrest based on well-defined parameters.

The key highlights of the guidelines are as follows:

1. Conditional Arrests: The guidelines direct all state governments to instruct their police officers against automatically making arrests when cases are filed under Section 498-A IPC. Instead, officers are required to assess the necessity of arrest based on the criteria outlined in Section 41 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.).

2. Checklist for Police Officers: Law enforcement officers will be provided with a checklist containing specific sub-clauses under Section 41(1)(b)(ii) Cr.P.C. This checklist serves as a reference to assist officers in determining the justification for an arrest.

3. Documentation and Justification: In cases where arrest is deemed necessary, police officers must complete the checklist and provide reasons and evidence justifying the arrest. This documentation will be presented along with the accused when brought before the magistrate for further detention.

4. Magistrate’s Scrutiny: Prior to authorizing further detention, magistrates are required to review the report submitted by the police officer and satisfy themselves about the grounds for arrest. Only upon recording their satisfaction can the magistrate grant detention.

5. Timely Reporting: Decisions not to arrest the accused must be communicated to the magistrate within two weeks from the initiation of the case. The Superintendent of Police has the authority to extend this period if justified reasons are provided.

6. Notice of Appearance: In accordance with Section 41-A Cr.P.C., the accused must be served with a notice of appearance within two weeks from the commencement of the case. This period can be extended by the Superintendent of Police with proper justification.

7. Consequences of Non-Compliance: Failure to adhere to the outlined directions may result in departmental action against concerned police officers. Additionally, they could face charges of contempt of court, which would be pursued in the relevant High Court.

8. Judicial Accountability: Judicial magistrates who authorize detention without recording adequate reasons may also face departmental action by the appropriate High Court.

The notification further emphasizes that “The Hon’ble Supreme Court hastens to add that the aforementioned directions shall not only apply to cases under Section 498-A IPC or Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act but also to 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 a fine.” The notification strictly mandates the adherence to the Supreme Court’s directions.

On July 31, 2023, the Supreme Court directed both High Courts and Director Generals of Police (DGP) of all states to ensure that such guidelines and directives/departmental circulars are issued for the guidance of lower courts and police authorities in each state within eight weeks from the date of the judgment.

The Court stressed the significance of personal liberty and the need for courts to be guided by overarching principles while deciding whether to grant bail.

The Court also issued a set of directions to state governments and high courts to prevent the misuse of Section 498-A of the IPC, which pertains to cruelty against married women by their husbands or in-laws.