SUPREME COURT: A LAW CANNOT BE INVALIDATED ON POSSIBILITY OF ITS MISUSE

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The Supreme Court has held that a law cannot be declared invalid simply on the ground that it is likely to be misused.

A bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat and M K Sharma while upholding the conviction of a husband under section 498-A IPC (Cruelty for dowry) noted ‘It is well settled that mere possiblity of abuse of a provision of law does not per se invalidate a legislation.’ ‘It must be presumed, unless the contrary is proved, that administration and application of a particular law would be done 'not with an evil eye and unequal hand.’ The apex court also took note of the fact that the object of introducing Sec 498-A IPC was to check dowry as the increase in the number of dowry deaths was a matter of serious concern.

The court, however, reduced the sentence of appellant Satish Kumar Batra, the husband, from two years to 13 months imprisonment which he has already undergone.

Other accused in the case were let off by the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Supreme Court also upheld their acquittal. Batra was married to Santosh Kumari on October 21, 1985 and the case was registered at Sonipat at the behest of the wife.

Writing the 15-page verdict for the bench, Justice Pasayat while rejecting the argument that Sec 498-A is being abused and therefore should be declared unconstitutional, said, ‘The principle in India as well as in the United States of America appears to be well settled that if a statutory provision is otherwise intra-vires, constitutional and valid, mere possibility of abuse of power in a given case would not make it objectionable, ultra-vires or unconstitutional.’ In such cases, ‘action’ and not the ‘section’ may be vulnerable.

If it is so, the court by upholding the provision of law, may still set aside the action, order or decision and grant appropriate relief to the person aggrieved.

The apex court further noted ‘It must be remembered that merely because power may sometimes be abused, it is no ground for denying the existence of power. The wisdom of men has not yet been able to conceive of government with power sufficient to answer all its legitimate needs and at the same time incapable of mischief.’

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