Demands, Goals, Action Plan, Campaigns
1. To bring dowry act and cruelty laws under civil laws. To make 498a bailable. To replace the word ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ with ‘spouse’ in all related laws, so as to ensure equality in law for men & women.
1. Rational arguments to support our demands:
–Present treatment of dowry and cruelty under criminal laws is not effective. It is destroying the institution of marriage itself.
–Sending thousands including women and children to custody, even though almost everyone agrees that most complaints under 498a are false and 98% result in acquittal.
–Once husband/family have been arrested, the chances of reunion are very low. Thus, even if a complainant realizes her mistake and wants to return later, she usually cannot.
–498a is a potent weapon, which is often misused by women to wreak havoc on husband?s family and by police to make money.
–These laws have not served the purpose of protecting women, as because of a complaint by one irrational woman, several women in in-laws family are put to extreme suffering.
–It will reduce workload on the criminal courts and thus help in speedy trial for all. Government itself and various others are trying to achieve this.
–Protect our privacy by stopping intrusion of police in our homes/domestic affairs. Almost all civilized societies domestic disputes are covered by civil laws.
–Fear of arrest is biggest weapon in hands of police, which they often misuse to earn extra money.
2. To make registration of marriages compulsory.
Rational arguments to support our demand:
–At time of registering declaration will be made that no dowry is taken or given, since dowry taking or giving is against the law anyway.
–A list of gift items will be prepared and signed by both sides.
–Registering marriages also will make sure child marriages are stopped.
–It will also stop tricking someone into marriage by some people.
Will it stop allegations u/s 498a?
–By law, it may not stop 498a cases, as by definition 498a is about cruelty, which does not have to be related to dowry.
— But generally people associate 498a with dowry, so it might help discourage people from filing 498a.
3. Fair and impartial police investigation
–Discourage false complaints
–‘No arrest’ unless absolutely necessary
Rational arguments to support our demands:
–Fear of arrest is the biggest weapon in hands of police.
–When a law-abiding citizen is faced with a probable arrest due to false allegations, he goes through extreme mental agony.
–This fear of arrest is used by complainant to “legally blackmail” the accused and his family.
–Meet police commissioner and other high-ranking police officers
–Invite police officers to group meetings.
–Understanding their approach to investigations and suggesting modifications.
–To keep police within established guidelines for handling dowry cases.
–Action on I/O?s who do not comply with police department guidelines.
–Possibly getting into proactive engagement with CAW cells & police stations.
–Clarify–several people reported that CAW cells are not providing copy of complaint.
4. NRI Issues
–No 498a complaint should be permitted to be filed in India if matrimonial residence is not in India.
–No LOC in dowry cases.
–No denial of consular services like passport renewal, attestation etc by MEA/Consulates abroad.
–Someone who is familiar with NRI issues and understands NRI specific issues should investigate Complaints against NRI?s.
–Exemption from personal appearance in courts. Trial trough video conferencing to be permitted routinely.
–Stop harassment of NRI’s families in India who have hardly ever lived with the married couple.
–Facilitate return of NRI to India to face investigation, trial etc by assuring speedy trial, no confiscation of passport by courts or restriction on travel abroad.
–Maintenance awarded to wife in India should be in accordance with cost of living index in India, not solely based on husbands income in Dollars.
–A NRI cell could be created to handle these investigations.
–A Magistrate could be designated to handle NRI dowry related cases.This court can be equipped with video conferencing so that physical presence is dispensed with. (This is allowed by Supreme Court). It is feasible.
This special court should be the only one authorized to take cognizance for offences under 498a/406 etc.
This way cognizance would be taken (FIR registered) after evidence is recorded in court. Just a baseless complaint will not be enough, like it is now.
Rational arguments to support our demands:
–Seek clarification from MEA regarding LOC, passport services at consular offices and pursue changes in accordance with our demands.
–Develop strategy to put pressure on Indian Government for reform of dowry laws from abroad.
–Stopping FIR’s where couple did not live in India for most part and stopping cases against their families in India.
–Meet Home minister, NRI minister and seek fulfillment of our demands.
–Seek judicial changes, judicial precedents in laws adversely affecting NRI’s.
5. Stop elder abuse
–Only officer above rank of ACP should investigate Allegations against elders.
–Elders should not be unduly harassed during investigations.
–Our mothers and fathers should not be disgraced just because we made a bad choice in marriage.
6.Modification in government service rules
–No compulsory suspension if arrested due to dowry related allegations
–Gender equality, not gender discrimination
–Property Rights for women
–Right to be consulted before abortion
–Equal rights to custody of children
–Justified adultery laws
8.Simplified Divorce laws
–Lot of times women file 498a to get divorce and a favourable settlement
Campaigns Political Campaign: Any changes in law can only be made by the Rajya Sabha/Lok Sabha. Someone who is a member of these legislative assemblies must introduce a Bill for amendment and the bill must be passed by a majority.The Law commission of India can also recommend this Bill to the legislative assemblies.Than it will be notified by the Government and will come into force.
–To get someone to raise the issue and introduce the bill in assembly.
–We must provide information and data to MLA’s/MP?s. We will do this on both local level in the constituencies and than subsequent follow up in Delhi.
Thoughts translated to Actions
A.preparation of pamphlets for distribution
–To local MP’s by people in their constituencies
–Follow up with same MP’s by people in Delhi.
These pamphlets will: –Outline our problems.
–Provide data on misuse & abuse of dowry laws.
–Provide enough material for an MP to be able to raise the issue with confidence in parliament
B. Meet influential politicians:
–Data on misuse
–Create awareness in public about our goals by developing strategies and using media effectively to bring real stories behind 498a and crime against women
–Highlight on breakdown of families specially elders
–Anti-dowry laws are against women
–Sympathy for falsely accused families
–Stigma should be on false accuser.
–Compile news articles.
–Compile past achievements.
–Write action plan/media strategy.
–Counter cases should be allowed by courts liberally against cheating wives. Even one wrong allegation should be enough for judge to initiate an inquiry against the person filing frivolous complaint.
–Speedy, just and fair trial. Courts treat us like criminals, we are only ‘accused’, most likely to be acquitted.
–To get acquittal under honorable acquittal and not under benefit of doubt, as is the case presently.
–This will help us generate realistic statistics as to how many cases were probably false
–Help in filing defamation, counter cases, suits for damages after case is over
–File Public Interest Litigation (PIL)
–Class action suit
–Law of torts
–Sponsor appropriate cases upto supreme court
Individual level help to victims:
Explore judicial actions
–U/s 200 crPC
–Quashing FIR in High Courts
–Counter cases for false evidence, u/s211 IPC
–False information to a police officer u/s 196 IPC
Build support base for our cause
–Identify other associations working for similar goals and enlist support.
–Organizations working in following fields are good candidates–
–Forward thinking women’s rights
Countering feminist women organizations –Identify forward thinking moderate women organizations
–Identify sources of funding of women?s organizations
–Apply to same sponsors on behalf of women victims of 498a