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Male ire at Sec 498(A)

August 17: It was intended as a meeting of men supposedly at the receiving end of laws framed to empower women. But the organisers and keynote speakers at the function organised by the Nasik-based Purush Hakka Surakshan Samiti could not resist from the conventional, conservative demonizing of women trying to step out of their domestic problems as greedy wives and home-breaking feminists.

Participants brought together by tales of harassment at the hands of wives and daughters-in-law resorting to Section 498 (a) of the Criminal Penal Code cheered as a reputed criminal lawyer suggested legal remedies to tackle erring wives and their relatives.

The samiti, which recently hit the headlines by coming to the rescue of battered husbands in Nasik, is soon branching into Mumbai. Its entry was heralded more by rhetoric than hard facts. Samiti office-bearers, who criticised the alleged misuse of this section, which aims to empower women hit by violence from husbands and in-laws, were unable to introduce anyone acquitted by the courts under it.

They will come here later in the evening,” promised organiser Prem Singh. But no one turned up even two hours after the function got underway. Instead, the main speakers, advocates Kishore Sutrale and Shrikant Bhatt, cited unsubstantiated instances where aged in-laws and nubile sisters-in-laws were wrongfully persecuted. Citing an instance, Surtale said poor women married into rich families may harass their in-laws for extortion. “If she has an unemployed brother or an ill parent, this law is very useful in wheedling money out of her in-laws,” he alleged.Bhatt demanded that the victims of this section “sue the other party for damages.”

He cited an instance where the daughter-in-law returned when damages worth Rs 1 crore were filed against her family. Incidentally, both Sutrale and Bhatt glossed over the role of their brother lawyers in the misuse of Section 498 (a). Much of their vitriol was reserved for social activists and feminists. Bhatt even went to the extent of calling them femi-fascists.

Copyright © 1997 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

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