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Dowry Act - A weapon of harassment


Crucial amendments should be brought to IPC Section 498A to prevent misuse of law
April 25, 2010 17:47
Tags : misuse of law |The National Human Rights | The World Health Organisation |The Supreme Court |

 Dowry Act - A weapon of harassmentUma Challa

President, All India Forgotten Women’s Association

It is an established fact that IPC Section 498A is the most heavily misused law in the country. Several authorities have noted that in close to 98 per cent of cases filed under IPC 498A, the accusations are false and that the complaints were only filed with ulterior motives. It is predominantly a tool of blackmail and extortion in the hands of vindictive wives to legally harass husbands and their families.

Women who suppress vital personal information before marriage, women who are forced into marriages due to family pressures, women who have pre-marital or extra-marital relationships, women who are unable to adjust with the husband’s family, women who dislike living with in-laws are getting into the habit of exaggerating every marital discord as ‘harassment and abuse’, threatening the husband and his family, getting them arrested and imprisoned under false allegations of cruelty and dowry harassment, making them run around courts for years, and subjecting them to various hardships by misusing IPC Section 498A.

Several authorities have noted the widespread misuse of this law.

• The Supreme Court of India termed the misuse of IPC Section 498A as “Legal Terrorism”. 

• The World Health Organisation, in its report on India clearly cited Section 498A as one of the major reasons for the “Increasing Abuse of the Elderly in India”. 

• News agencies have also reported many cases where individuals have ended their lives unable to endure the humiliation of being arrested and the trauma of fighting false cases, which typically span 5-7 years. 

• The National Human Rights Commission noted that the Tihar jail is overflowing with people falsely accused under dowry cases.

Noted women’s rights activist Madhu Kishwar acknowledged that IPC Section 498A is heavily misused and that a significant proportion of individuals who approach “Manushi” these days are mothers-in-law and husbands who are falsely accused of marital cruelty and dowry harassment. Renowned IPS officer Kiran Bedi admitted that many poor and illiterate mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, who are falsely charged under anti-dowry laws languish in prison every year. A look at the National Crime Records data shows that every year, over 1 lakh innocent persons (one innocent person every 5 minutes) are arrested under the act. Every year, close to 30,000 innocent women (one innocent woman every 20 minutes) and 4,000 innocent senior citizens (one innocent elderly person every 2.5 hours) are arrested. Every year close to 350 children (one child per day) are arrested under the same act. Numerous families have been broken and are suffering immeasurable economic hardship and emotional trauma. In addition to penalising innocent citizens, a large backlog of false cases pending in courts prevents genuine victims of abuse from obtaining justice. The country has already incurred a huge social cost in addition to the enormous burden imposed on the public exchequer. There is a need to make legal amendments:

1. Ban Police involvement in marital counseling and pass directives to resolve all marital disputes under civil law. Marriage is a civil matter and should be treated as such. Marital issues should be dealt with utmost caution so that harmony is restored between disputing spouses. 

2. Make civil and criminal laws applicable to men and women equally. Spousal abuse is not gender-specific, and the assumption that victims of physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse are always women is wrong. According the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “all are equal before the law, and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law”. Hence, IPC Section 498A should confer equal protection upon men and women.

3. Make Section 498A of IPC bailable. This goes against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law”. 

4. Make Section 498A of IPC non-cognizable. Innocent citizens are being arrested everyday based on mere complaints without requiring evidence or investigation. Even children and senior citizens are not being spared. IPC Section 498A, being a cognizable offence, violates a citizen’s right to due process.

5. Punish those who misuse IPC Section 498A. Misuse of the process of law not only costs the public exchequer dearly but also destroys the personal lives of many innocent citizens. Abuse of the judicial process should be treated as a serious crime, and persons who misuse IPC Section 498A as a weapon for settling personal scores in marital disputes should be severely punished.

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Posted By: AMIT | NEW DELHI | March 17th 2013 | 19:03
My wife went for her sister's marriage in January at her home town Hanumangarh, Rajasthan and my child was also with her. But now she is denying to come back without any reason. I am suffering from great depression these days.Is there any anyone in this world who can help me in free counseling to bring her back and can talk to her and my family. please help me. Thanks

Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017