In developed countries like USA, UK there is no Dowry system, most women are financially independent, follow nuclear family system, and are educated, yet Domestic Violence (DV) is there. It implies that Dowry, economics independence, or level of education; are not reasons for DV; but Ego and Stress are the reasons for DV.
There is some thing fundamentally wrong with thinking of our legislators. As per our law makers, women in the role of Daughter-in- law are always innocent and same women in role of mother-in-law or sister-in-law are culprit. For this reason only in DV Act no provision has been made where husband and his family can seek protection from Wife / Daughter-in- law who is harassing everyone else in the family.
In India a planned propaganda is going on, irrespective of cause of dispute first accusation from girl or her family is dowry demand / mental harassment. I fully support eradication of the Dowry system and domestic violence. However, prudence says that whenever there is a problem, the solution should be something, which does not open bigger floodgates, elsewhere. Unluckily while trying to empower Daughters-in- laws, our leaders did not make provisions to deal with cases where these daughters-in- laws terrorize everyone else in the family. Good laws provide equal opportunity to both sides; promote unity, harmony, and are for the betterment of the whole society. The laws should be such, where if any family member is trying to harass anyone else in the family, the harasser is punished.
To deal with Dowry/Harassment cases, Section 498a was introduced in the Indian Penal Code. When section 498a was enacted, the actual purpose or real intention was to help the wife stay with her husband, while at the same time protecting her from marital violence, abuse, and extortionist dowry demands.
However, the actual implementation of 498a has left a bitter trail of disappointment. Enactment of DV Act is only going to break more marriages and harm to Indian society. The National Commission for Women (NCW) may produce any data or facts, but the real picture is known to our Judges who deal with these cases. The judges, after examining evidences of such cases, have opined that provisions of sec 498a has been misused in a large number of cases. Judges have commented that these are the offences whose deterrence has proved worse than the remedy envisaged.
There are many cases where, even if no dowry was taken / demanded, just because the wife was not able to adjust in her husbandâ€™s home she has, in the name of Dowry, used 498a as an instrument to harass her innocent husband, his age-old parents, and his married/unmarried sisters including those who are staying in other cities or abroad. Based on the girlâ€™s complaint, the police blindly, and without any proof or enquiry, arrested all those named in the complaint and put them in jail.
There are instances where the main point of discord between the couple was that the wife wanted the husband to leave his aged parentsâ€™ home or an old widowed mother and set up a nuclear family; if the man resisted, she used 498a as a bargaining device. The fear of 498a is one of the reasons why more and more sons are moving towards nuclear family system, while their aged parents are forced to live alone or take shelter in old age homes.
Although our Judges strongly feel that provisions of 498a need to be amended, yet they are unable to do anything since the power to amend this Law is in the hands of our Politicians.
The one-sided provisions of Section 498a IPC are responsible for the increase in divorce rates. Recently introduced Domestic Violence Act is also one-sided and it will further accelerate the already rising divorce rate. Indirectly, our leaders are supporting a single-parent system, which is the worst thing for any society especially for senior citizens and growing children. Such systems lead to increase in crime rate, too.
India is not the only country where family disputes take place; however, no other country has laws, which empower its police to arrest an entire family and put them behind bars without an investigation. Even in the case of POTA, only the culprit goes to jail, not the whole family.
In no other country are people put in jails, until the case has been heard by a judge and the person declared a culprit. It is only in India where people implicated with Section 498a are put in jails even before the case is heard by a Judge.
In India commissions/ committees are formed, after which they submit their recommendations, but many recommendations are not accepted. Why? The answer is best known to our political leaders. The Justice Malimath Committee recommendation, on reforming the criminal justice system is relevant.
Undoubtedly, we need laws against Dowry/Domestic Violence. However, the law should be such where real culprits are punished, and innocents are not harassed / victimised. Since the actual implementation of 498a has proved that, in most cases, its provisions have been misused, it becomes the urgent responsibility of the Government of India, the Judiciary system, the Police, and NGOs to amend 498a and DV Act. An amendment will help to salvage and save the sacred institution of marriage.
The following realities are strikingly relevant:
1. It is a myth that Sec 498a / Domestic Violence Act protect the women. In fact, these Laws are against women themselves, and also adversely effecting children and senior citizens. If one woman (DIL) is not satisfied with the family or unable to adapt to the customs/family traditions of her husband, then nearly three innocent women (mother, married, unmarried sisters) in the husbandâ€™s family go to jail WITHOUT INVESTIGATION.
2. It becomes difficult to find a suitable match for an unmarried girl who went behind bars for no fault of hers.
3. After release from jail, lives of married girls becomes hell, since their husbands were also falsely implicated and jailed.
4. More often than not, the suggestion for a simple wedding ceremony from the boyâ€™s side is not acceptable to the brideâ€™s parents, since they want to prove their status in society and with this in mind; they try to outperform what others did in their circle of friends/family. Simple weddings are not acceptable to girls as well, since they too want to show what type of family they belong to, and itâ€™s a big day in their life.
5. The majority of girls who used 498a were not aware of implications of this law. They were misguided by agencies, which stand to gain financially in many ways. These girls were under the impression that by using this law they will be able to control their husbands and in-laws. They were not aware that once a 498a case is filed it cannot be withdrawn without permission of High Court, and that the end result will always be a divorce.
6. As per police records, women are getting involved in all types of crimes. Thus, the presumption of our politicians/ NGOs that daughters-in- law will not tell a lie is a myth.
7. One-sided laws like 498a and Domestic Violence Act, where it is assumed that daughters-in- law only are innocent sufferers while other family members are culprits, are forcing senior citizens/innocent family members to suffer silently, live under extreme stress, and get suffocated by the willful daughters-in- lawâ€™s actions/attitude.
8. Is there a law, under which senior citizens/innocent family members who are suffering at hands of daughters-in- law, can seek protection?
9. Once a family has been sent to jail (even for a day), the possibility of reconciliation under any circumstances; finishes.
10. Our Judiciary system drags the case for 8â€“12 years and the marriage ends in a divorce. Both the girl and boy waste many golden years of their youth. Their income/savings are spent on litigation, which otherwise could have been used for better living and education of their children.
11. Even in cases where there is a lack of compatibility between the wife and husband, instead of a mutual divorce, the girl and her parents prefer to file a false case under Section 498a, for the simple reason of creating pressure of 498a on the boyâ€™s family and then bargaining about the amount of alimony and maintenance.
12. Social science research shows that children of divorced parents stand to lose the most, and pay a high price physically, mentally, and emotionally.
13. Mary Corcoran, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan, did a study showing that the family income drops significantly after a divorce. In families that were not poor before a divorce, the income plunged by 50 percent. Thus, children of divorced parents are likely to live in poverty, have mental and health problems, and become victims of abuse and neglect.
14. The break-up of families leaves one parent trying to do the work of two peopleâ€”and one person cannot take care of a family as well as two can.
15. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health showed that when a divorce occurs before a childâ€™s fourth birthday, the mortality rate in children increases.
16. Fagan and Rector Study show that High school dropout rates are much higher amongst children of divorced parents, than those of children with always-married parents are.
17. Three of fourteen suicides occur in single-parent families.
18. Children who live apart from their fathers experience more accidents and a higher rate of chronic asthma, headaches, and speech defects.
19. Eighty percent of adolescents in psychiatric hospitals come from fatherless homes.
20. Compared to girls raised in homes where both parents are present, the daughters of single parents are 164 percent more likely to become pregnant before marriage, 53 percent more likely to marry as teenagers, and 92 percent more likely to dissolve their own marriages.
21. Children have a right to a relationship with both parents and in most cases; there are positive benefits from that. Up to a third of children from broken families lose touch with one of their parents.
My submission to the Government of India, our Judiciary system, NGOs, our society, and the Police Department is to pass and enact laws, which protect both husband and wife equally. Create laws, which punish the real culprits, help families to live in harmony, and save the sacred institution of marriage. In order for this to happen, Section 498a and the Domestic Violence Bill need to be suitably amended, and the existing loopholes plugged.
I support equal rights for women, provided they are for equality and not superiority and definitely not for creating an imbalance. If the existing laws are not modified in time, these laws will do more damage to India and our great society than what terrorists can do. We need to wake up and have a broader outlook.
With this in mind, the following is suggested:
1. 498a complaints should be first investigated by designated authorities, instead of the police blindly arresting all those named in a complaint, without any proof.
2. No one should be put in Jail until the case has been heard by a Judge and a particular person declared the culprit.
3. The existing provisions where the burden of proof, rests on the husband and his family, should be amended; and should rest on the person making allegations. How can the family, which did not take dowry or made any dowry demands, prove their innocence?
4. In case allegations are not proved, strict action should be taken against the person/people who made the false allegations.
5. Laws should be balanced and either of the spouses who are at fault should be punished. It is wrong to assume that only the husband and his family committed a crime or domestic violence.
6. If the Government of India is serious about eradicating the Dowry system, then the person/family who gives dowry should be prosecuted, too, since they become equal partners in crime. Punish both the giver and the taker of dowry and the system of dowry will automatically die.
7. It is a known fact that some NGOs are working toward getting a law enacted where the dowry giver should not be treated as a culprit. The plea of these NGOs is that the groomâ€™s side forces the brideâ€™s side for a dowry. Such one-sided laws will lead to more false 498a cases. Will our laws accept the plea of a culprit who says, â€œI was forced to commit murderâ€?
This is not a gender war. Culprits must be punished. The Dowry system and Domestic Violence must be eradicated, as these are the real evils of our society. However, this is a collective voice against â€œWRONG LAWSâ€. If 498a and Domestic Violence Acts are not suitably amended, then dark days are ahead for our senior citizens, our society, and our future citizens.
Disclaimer : These are my personal views. Your views could be different. I do not hold myself responsible for any consequences, legal or otherwise arising out of use of any such information. Please re-verify legal position with your Advocate.