Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!
We have heard ad nauseam about women being harassed by cruel husbands and in-laws. But in the recent past, there are innumerable cases of innocent husbands and their old parents being subjected to abject torture and mental agony by young married women. Such incidents have become ubiquitous especially in the upper and middle strata of Indian society.
Demographically, ladies hailing from elite classes and from so-called upper castes (that includes Brahmins!) are more prone to misuse the provision of Anti-Dowry Harassment Law in India viz: Section 498a of Indian Penal Code.
There are many a horror story of innocent victims of the law. It is a sad state of affairs that the law meant to protect women is misused indiscriminately against men, women and children, who are traumatized for life after being licked by this draconian law. The trauma for the husband’s family can start from the wedding day itself. In fact, it can start even before the shaadi is solemnized!
The controversial draconian law “Section 498a of IPC” was formulated in 1983 for the betterment of Indian Society. At that time, nobody had ever imagined that this law would be mainly used to terrorize and torture old and sick elders, innocent mothers and sisters.
Under Section 498a of IPC, if a woman complains of harassment and cruelty by husband, his relatives (old and sick parents, sisters, even children!) and friends, the accused are all considered “guilty till proven innocent”. They all are arrested without investigation or warrant, as this alleged offense is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable. There is no punishment or even fine for filing a false complaint. This has led to a situation where most case of minor altercations and marital differences are used to issue threats of a false case under sec. 498a to harass the husband’s family and to demand huge sums of money as alimony. Is it not gross violation of human rights to arrest innocent people and send them to jail without evidence or any investigation? It is more virulent than POTA or even Goonda’s act!
Victims of Sec. 498a and certain well-meaning individuals have come together and gathered extensive data of cases of such misuse and victimization and collated the information which can be viewed on their web site at www.498a.org. There are innumerable instances where even ailing and bedridden people being terrorized, jailed and made to run around courts. In one of cases of 498a an 87-year-old grandmother of the man (an NRI) was implicated. In another case of 498a, the mother of a husband burnt herself to death, as she could not face the threats of 498a. There are many cases in their database, wherein every household article was bought out of the husband’s earnings and yet a dowry case was still registered.
A Supreme Court bench comprising by Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice H K Sema gave a judgment on an appeal recently, terming the dangers of “Legal Terrorism” due to misuse of 498a. They said, “Dowry Law is a Shield, not an assassin’s weapon”.
They further add:
There is no prosecution in these cases but persecution. Many instances have come to light where the complaints are not bona fide and have been filed with oblique motive. In such cases acquittal of the accused does not in all cases wipe out the ignominy suffered during and prior to trial. Sometimes adverse media coverage adds to the misery. The question, therefore, is what remedial measures can be taken to prevent abuse of the well-intentioned provision. Merely because the provision is constitutional and intra vires, does not give a license to unscrupulous persons to wreck personal vendetta or unleash harassment. It may, therefore, become necessary for the legislature to find out ways how the makers of frivolous complaints or allegations can be appropriately dealt with. Till then the Courts have to take care of the situation within the existing frame work. As noted above the object is to strike at the roots of dowry menace. But by misuse of the provision a new legal terrorism can be unleashed.
The provision is intended to be used a shield and not an assassin’s weapon. If cry of “wolf” is made too often as a prank assistance and protection may not be available when the actual “wolf” appears. There is no question of investigating agency and Courts casually dealing with the allegations. They cannot follow any straitjacket formula in the matters relating to dowry tortures, deaths and cruelty. It cannot be lost sight of that ultimate objective of every legal system is to arrive at truth, punish the guilty and protect the innocent. There is no scope for any pre-conceived notion or view. It is strenuously argued by the petitioner that the investigating agencies and the courts start with the presumptions that the accused persons are guilty and that the complainant is speaking the truth. This is too wide available and generalized statement. Certain statutory presumptions are drawn which again are rebuttable.
It is to be noted that the role of the investigating agencies and the courts is that of watch dog and not of a bloodhound. It should be their effort to see that an innocent person is not made to suffer on account of unfounded, baseless and malicious allegations. It is equally indisputable that in many cases no direct evidence is available and the courts have to act on circumstantial evidence. While dealing with such cases, the law laid down relating to circumstantial evidence has to be kept in view.
Click here for viewing more videos depicting the sordid plight of innocent victims of abuse of this law.
If this kind of atrocities and misuse goes unchecked, it may result in Indian youth getting disillusioned with the institution of marriage!
Come to think of it, I tend to feel that Muslim community have understood womenfolk better, thanks to the far-sighted tenets enunciated by Prophet Mohemmed PBUH.
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