Indian women needs protection by IPC498a and from IPC498a
Before rising my voice.... I would like to declare "I hate and condemn the dowry system" being a women I hate violence against women in any form.
For the last couple of years the is a huge debate about the Misuse of the most controversial law in India the IPC 498a (commonly known as dowry law) by women in a failed marriage. The issue of misuse of this provision has been widely denied by women's organizations including NCW (National Commission for Women) and by the government. The misuse of the dowry law (IPC498a) is been recognized by the judiciary including the supreme court of India and by media. Various men’s organizations have come up fighting to stop the misuse of this provision by women. Let me analyze what is happening in reality and why there is such a controversy.
Let us see what is this provision of Indian law says..
498A: Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.
Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
Explanation-For the purpose of this section, "cruelty" means-
(a) Any willful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health whether mental or physical) of the woman; or
(b) Harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her meet such demand
This section is non-bailable, non-compoundable (i.e. it cannot be privately resolved between the parties concerned) and cognizable.
498A was inserted into the Indian Penal Code in 1983 via an amendment. It was introduced to help married women to fight against any harassment by her husband and her in laws. Though this law was written with good intentions, but was rarely used by women who is being rally harasses (as using this provision of law would send the husband to jail and would eventually break her marriage and family). Even her kids may support their abused mother in seeking divorce, most do not support their mothers in getting their fathers sent to jail even if they have personally been victims of abuse because having a father convicted and sent to jail mars and stigmatizes the life of children as well.
Definition of dowry: As per the Dowry Prohibition Act (originally passed in 1961 and amended twice in the 1980s), dowry is defined as “any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly by one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage or by the parents of either party to a marriage or by any other person, to either party to the marriage or to any other person at or before [or any other time after the marriage] in connection with the marriage of the said parties. As per this definition, gifts of jewelry, clothes and cash traditionally given by the groom’s family would also be covered by the anti-dowry law and hence declared illegal.
Cognizable offence: Two amendments enacted in 1984 and 1986 made dowry giving and receiving a cognizable offence. This means, a court can initiate proceedings upon its own knowledge or on the basis of a police report, even if the aggrieved person has lodged no such complaint.
Gifts allowed : As per this law “dowry” is forbidden but “gifts” are allowed. The anti-dowry law cannot be invoked against the giving of presents at the time of marriage to the bride without any demand having been made “provided that such presents are entered in a list maintained in accordance with the rules” as defined under the Anti-Dowry Act.
Presents to the groom allowed: Presents given to the groom are also exempted, provided no demand has been made and they are entered in a list and provided that “such presents are of a customary nature and the value thereof is not excessive” in relation to the “financial status of the person by whom, or on whose behalf, such presents are given.”
Prescribed punishment: A person found guilty of taking or abetting the giving or taking of dowry, invites imprisonment for a term not less than five years and with a fine which shall not be less than Rs 15000 or the amount of the value of such dowry, whichever is more.
This provision of these IPC has inherent flaws as widely recognized by leading women’s rights activists like Madhu Purnima Kishwar as she rightly put as follows….
1. Who decides what is a“voluntary gift” and what is given under pressure of a demand? The very same family that often declares, at the time of marriage, that they only gave “voluntary gifts” to the groom’s family, does not hesitate to attribute all their “gift-giving” to extortionist demands, once the marriage turns sour and is headed for a breakdown. Thus, even when marital troubles may not be connected to tussles over dowry, and the marital strain is due to mutual incompatibility rather than the husband’s violence or abuse, many women’s families tend to seek an advantage in registering cases using the draconian provisions of the anti-dowry law when the marriage heads towards a breakdown.
2. How do you decide what is “excessive” in relation to income by way of gifts when in India no more than 2-3 percent people declare their incomes and those too are grossly under reported? How do you judge the paying status of a family if most of their wealth is in “black” money and property holdings held in bogus names to escape taxes?
3. The bride’s parents rarely want to declare the true value of gifts given because the big dowry givers also put together their daughter’s dowry from black money and, therefore, don’t want it listed.
4. When dowry giving is a crime, why would a groom or bride’s family put their signature on the list of gifts being given?
5. Since a good part of modern dowries consist of expensive jewelry, household goods and high priced clothes, how do you prove whether or not these things were transferred to the bride’s name within three months of marriage? For example, if a family has spent Rs.3-4 lakh on providing new furniture for their daughter’s home, does it mean that all that furniture must be kept in rooms meant for the exclusive use of the daughter?
6. As per the law, even dowry giving is an offence, but there is hardly ever an instance of the bride’s family being prosecuted for giving dowry. The assumption is that only “takers” are guilty while “givers” are hapless creatures yielding to the greed and callous demands of the groom’s family.
7. The campaigners against dowry make it appear as if escalating dowries are solely due to the greed of the groom’s family. The theory that growing greed is the cause of dowry increase would make sense only if our country had two distinct sets of families – those who only produced sons and those who produced only daughters. The “son-blessed” families would thus be permanent gainers as dowry receivers while “daughter-cursed” families would be permanent victims of greed and be always at the mercy of extortionist demands. This is clearly not the case because a family, which gives on its daughter’s wedding, becomes a recipient when its sons get married.
9. This law does not take into account the rapidly changing forms of marriage transactions and mixes up the tradition of stridhan with modern day marriage transactions. Even the anti-dowry campaigners attribute the problems of the modern day dowry system to the tradition of stridhan, both of which are projected as a hangover of “traditional” patriarchal norms. The present day custom of dowry giving may retain some ingredients of the tradition of giving stridhan (a woman’s own inalienable property) to daughters but the difference between modern day dowry and stridhan is as profound as that between a horse carriage and a motorized truck. Though both move on wheels the power that propels the two kinds of wheels is altogether different.
10. The anti-dowry agitationists do not take these new dynamics into account. They have relied mainly on pious outrage combined with emotive outbursts demanding that the law be made more and more stringent in their attempt to abolish this “social evil”. However, such laws work only if people perceive their own interest in the proposed measure of reform. If a woman believes in taking a portion of her parental wealth at the time of her marriage and if her parents believe this is a necessary investment for her future happiness, how can any law stop such giving and taking?
In the last four years, over 123,497 women have been arrested under IPC Section 498A alone, without evidence or investigation, not for committing any crime under law, but only because they were related to a man. Radical feminists raise a hue and cry about dowry harassment by husbands and in-laws and portray India as a country where brides are routinely burned for dowry. They spread paranoia about how unsafe women are in their marital homes because of the “evil practice” of dowry. The same radical feminists do not oppose extravagant marriages or giving of dowry. Consequently, the ever increasing marriage related expenses in the present consumerist economy are causing mortal fear in the minds of parents about giving birth to a girl. Radical feminists who turn a blind eye to excessive marriage expenditures and giving of dowry, but indulge in alarmism about dowry harassment are, in fact, promoting female foeticide and discrimination against the female child. These very feminists turn around and blame all the problems of their own creation on what they call the “male-dominated society” in order to garner funds from international agencies, and also to lobby for more stringent anti-male laws that aid legal terrorism and violation of basic human rights. In this process the forget to give real importance to issues like:
1.deaths in childbirth
2.access to education
3.access to healthcare
8.child marriages etc.
The process itself is more barbaric than the punishment:
It is not merely a false case that is lodged. But on one complaint the entire state machinery of law and order is set in motion against the husband and his family who are humiliated, terrorized and traumatized by the process and even blackmailed and extorted in the name of ‘settlement and compromise’. The criminal justice system has lent itself to be used as a state sponsored tool in the process funded by tax payer’s money. Even the Honorable Supreme Court in its various landmark judgments has coined the term “Legal Terrorism” to such rampant misuse of dowry laws and urged the Government to take immediate steps to put checks and balances in the system.
Section 498A made it obligatory for the police to take prompt action and arrest all those named by a woman alleging cruelty by her husband and in laws. The bail in such cases could be opposed and delayed. Thus all those included in the complaint are punished even before the trial actually began. Given the corrupt and lawless ways of police, this provision came to be misused and abused widely by the police to extract bribes as well as by unscrupulous women and their lawyers to blackmail the groom’s family even on trumped up charges.
Very recently Honorable Chief Justice of India Shri. K.G.Balakrishnan has expressed serious concern over the growing misuse at a Seminar organized by the National Commission for Women. Added to that, even Honorable President of India Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil has agreed in a recent speech, that there is widespread misuse of the dowry laws by women in the country. Time and again various judges of the High Court and Supreme Court have repeatedly expressed displeasure on the misuse of dowry laws and Domestic Violence Act and have recommended several corrective measures which have fallen on deaf ears so far, sadly enough.
In my case, Me and my whole family was unjustly sent to Jail by my Sister-in-law as part of her plan to take revenge against her husband that is my brother and in an effort to extort money. My family is follow atheistic principals of Periyar. I have been brought up with those ideology of women education, equality, no cast system. Mine and my brothers marriage were inter-cast marriage and no dowry was involved. My sister-in-law who had a bad relationship with her husband due to mere incompatibility, chose to break the marriage and to take revenge on her husband by implicating whole of his family members including me and my husband in a false and fabricated case under IPC 498a and put us behind bars. I am living with my husband on the other side of the globe, far away for my brother and have hardly met my sister-in-law twice. It was a well planned and utterly motivated case which was filed when we visited India for 2 weeks and were put behind bars. We have to delay our trip back to USA for 4-5 months and now facing this false case for the past two years and you can only imagine the amount of mental harassment this false case can cause.
I came across an interesting case during my weekly meeting via phone by a 498a victim group- that an American (white)husband of a Indian women who recently accompanied his wife to India on a 2 week trip to visit her father was been charged along with her for dowry harassment by her sister-in-law and the Police have filed a charge on this innocent white man who till that time have never heard the word dowry. Luckily this couple could leave the country before the police could impound their passport and incarcerate them in jail. Now this poor man is learning about IPC498a and looking forward to fight legally to come out of this case. She told me that her husband was shocked when he came to know that he cannot sue the girl who has put a false case on him.
By the heavy misuse of this law by women like my sister-in-law the whole judiciary is clogged with all these false cases. Because of such a huge misuse occasional/rare genuine cases would not get any justice. Rajya Sabah has asked opinion for amendments to curb the misuse but not to remove this law or to make it weaker. There is no doubt a provision needs to be included to curb misuse of this dowry law, which was designed to protect the women. In fact by this amendment the law will be made stronger, as only the genuine cases will be registered and will get a speedy justice.
Source: Inherent Flaws in the Anti Dowry Legislation by Madhu Purnima Kishwar