To deal with Dowry / Harassment cases, section 498a was inserted into the Indian Penal Code. When section 498A was enacted, purpose / Inner meaning were to help the wife to stay with her husband, and at the same time protect her from marital violence, abuse, and extortionist dowry demands.
However, actual implementation of 498a has left a bitter trail of disappointment. National Commission for Women (NCW) may quote any data or facts, but real facts are known to our Judges who deal with such cases. Judges, after examining evidences of such cases, have opined that in large number of cases provisions of sec 498a have been misused. Judges have commented that, these are the offences whose deterrence has proved worse than remedy.
There are any number of cases where even if no dowry was taken / demanded; just because wife was not able to adjust to husband home, in the name of Dowry, 498a have been used an instrument to harass innocent husband, his age old parents and his married / unmarried sisters.
Based on girlâ€™s complaint, police blindly without any proof or enquiry; arrested all those named in the complaint and put them in jail.
There have been instances where the main point of discord between the couple was that the wife wanted the husband to leave his aged parent’s home or an old widowed mother and set up a nuclear family; since man resisted, wife used 498A as a bargaining device. This is one of the reasons, why more and more senior citizens are landing up in old age homes. Although Judges strongly feel that provisions of 498a needs to be changed, but are unable to do any thing since power to amend Law is in the hands of our Politicians.
India is not the only country where family disputes take place, however no country have law which empowers its police to arrest family members without an investigation. In no country people are put in jails, until case has been heard by a judge and person declared a culprit. It is only in India where people implicated with 498a, are put in Jails even before case is heard by a judge.
In India, commissions are formed, and after commission / committee, submits its recommendations, many recommendations are not accepted, why, answer is best known to our political leaders. Justice Malimath Committee recommendation, on reforming the criminal justice system is relevant.
Undoubtedly, we need law against Dowry / Domestic Violence, however law should be such where real culprits are punished, and innocents are not harassed / victimised. Since in many cases 498a have been misused, it is the responsibility of GOI, Judiciary system, and society to salvage and save the institution of marriage.
Following realities are relevant:
1. It is a myth that Sec 498A / Domestic Violence Act protect the women of India. In fact, these Acts are against women themselves, and adversary effecting children / aged people. If one woman is not satisfied with the family or unable to adopt customs / family traditions of her husband, then nearly three innocent women in the family go to jail WITHOUT INVESTIGATION.
2. Boy side suggestion for a simple wedding ceremony is not acceptable to brideâ€™s parents, because they want to show that their richness in society and towards this they try and out perform what other did in their circle. Simple weddings are not acceptable to girls also, because they too want to show type of family they belong.
3. 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 impression that by using this law they will be able to bring her husband and In- laws under their thumb. They were not aware that 498a case once filed cannot be withdrawn without permission of High Court, and result will be divorce.
4. As per police records, women are getting involved in all types of crimes. Thus, presumption of our leaders that, daughter-in-laws are innocent and will not lie is a myth.
5. One-sided laws like 498a and Domestic Violence Act, where it is assumed that daughter-in-laws only are sufferers and innocent, while rest all other in the family are culprits; such laws are forcing senior citizens / innocent family members to suffer silently and live under stress and be suffocated by wilful daughter-in-law and her actions / attitude.
6. There is no law under which senior citizens /innocent family members, who are suffering at hands of daughter-in-laws, can seek protection?
7. Once a family has been sent to jail even for one day; possibility to reconciliation under any circumstances finishes.
8. Judiciary system drags the case for 8 â€“ 12 years and marriage ends in a divorce. This way, both girl and boy waste golden years of their youth.
9. Even in cases where there is lack of compatibility between boy and girl, instead of Mutual Divorce, girl and her parents prefer to use sec 498a, because they want to create pressure of 498a on boyâ€™s family and then bargain on amount of alimony and maintenance.
10. Social science research shows that children of divorced parents pay a high price physically, mentally and emotionally.
11. Mary Corcoran, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan, did a study showing that family income drops significantly after a divorce. Families that were not poor before a divorce, the income plunge can hit 50 percent. Thus, children of divorced parents are likely to live in poverty, have health problems, and become victims of abuse and neglect.
12. The break-up of families leaves one parent trying to do the work of two peopleâ€”and one person cannot take care of family that well as two can.
13. Study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, showed when the divorce occurs before the childâ€™s fourth birthday mortality rates of children increases.
14. Fagan and Rector Study show that High school dropout rates are much higher among children of divorced parents than among children of always-married parents.
15. Three of fourteen suicides occur in single-parent families.
16. Children who live apart from their fathers experience more accidents and a higher rate of chronic asthma, headaches, and speech defects.
17. Eighty percent of the adolescents in psychiatric hospitals come from fatherless homes.
18. 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.
My submission to GOI, Judiciary system, NGOs, society, and Police Department is please make laws, which punish real culprits, and help families to live in a harmony and save marriages. For this, 498a / Domestic Violence Bill need to be suitably amended and existing loopholes plugged. Towards this, followings are suggested:
1. 498a complaints should be first investigated by designated authorities, instead of police blindly arresting all those named in a complaint without any proof.
2. No one should be put in Jail until case have been heard by a Judge and person declared culprit.
3. Burden of proof should be on the person making allegations, family, which did not make any dowry demand how they can prove their innocence.
4. In case allegations are not proved, action is taken against people who made false allegations.
5. Law should be balanced and either of spouses who are at fault should be punished. It is wrong to assume that only husband and his family commit crime or Domestic Violence.
6. If GOI is serious about eradicating Dowry system, then person who gives dowry should be prosecuted, since such person becomes equal partner in crime. Punish both giver and taker of dowry and system of dowry will die automatically.
7. It is a known fact that some NGOs are working towards getting a law enacted where dowry giver should not be treated as a culprit. Plea of these NGOs is groom side forces bride side for dowry. Such one sided laws will lead to more false 498a cases. Will law accept plea of a culprit who says I was forced to commit murder.
Request to women readers:
Please appreciate it is not only men who are affected by 498a / Domestic Violence Act, tomorrow a daughter-in-law with High Ego can falsely implicate you also. For every 498a case, at least two women (mother & Sister) were sent behind bars. Records show that in many cases distant relations, neighbours, friends, even domestic servant became victim of 498a case and were jailed. It is not a gender war. It is WRONG LAW, and we must raise our voice against it. Culprits must be punished. Dowry system and Domestic Violence must be eradicated, as these are evils of society.
To know more about 498a search it on internet. There are Indian groups where you will get free advice on how deal with false cases.
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.