Women all over the world are considered to be victimized whenever there is news of rape, violence, verbal abuse or any sort of assault where two genders are involved. This is probably because of the history of assaults, torture and suppression. Talking about India, it had more versatile suppression like child marriage, sati system, isolation of women from the society, devdasi system, dowry and harshest of all female feticide. With various movements and reforms, the basic necessity and rights like to educate, to vote and to express were given to women. As a result, rituals like sati and child marriage which were from adam’s are almost obsolete. When these ugly evils of the society were getting diminished, dowry death were slowly raising its ugly head, much sooner this social evil became root cause for various other social evils like rape and domestic violence.
Dowry in India was a voluntary ritual, gradually this ritual became a mandate and the amount of dowry in any form of cash and gold were demanded by the groom’s parents, again depending on the position of the family and profession of the son. Post marriage, too many new brides were burnt to death just because their families were unable to satiate the in-law’s lust for money. In early 80’s, dowry deaths became every household’s story, so in order to curb it down in 1983, the Dowry law came to the rescue, Indian Penal Code section 498A, is a criminal law (not a civil law) which is explained as,
“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 is liable to fine.” The offence is Cognizable, non-compoundable and non-bailable.”
Since, the section is non-bailable, one has to appear in court and get bail from the judge, non-compoundable complaint can’t be withdrawn and the complaint will be investigated, although in practice, most of the time arrest happens before investigation.
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Many women in India were enabled to use the given power for their safety whereas over the years due to its empowering tendency and giving only liberties and right to the woman, some even managed to manipulate and use the law for their convenience. The misuse of this law became so prevalent since 2000 that Supreme Court of India had to label it as ‘Legal Terrorism’. Supreme court also mentioned that out of 100 cases under section 498A 98 cases are false. NCRB Data supports the same. Here the question arises why someone would do that?
A wife/daughter-in-law whose demands are not met can make a written false complaint of dowry harassment to a nearby police station. The husband, his parents and relatives are immediately arrested without sufficient investigation and put behind bars on non-bailable terms. Even if the complaint is false, you shall be presumed guilty until you prove that you are innocent.
498a can only be invoked by wife/daughter-in-law or her relative. Most cases where Sec 498A is invoked turn out to be false (as repeatedly accepted by High Courts and Supreme Court in India) as they are mere blackmail attempts by the wife (or her close relatives) when faced with a strained marriage. In most cases 498a complaint is followed by the demand of huge amount of money (extortion) to settle the case out of the court. There have been countless instances where, without any investigation, the police has arrested elderly parents, unmarried sisters, pregnant sister-in-laws and even 3 year old children. In these cases unsuspecting family of husband has to go through a lot of mental torture and harassment by the corrupt Indian legal system. A typical case goes on for years (5-7 years) and the conviction rate is about 2% only. Some accused parents, sisters and even husbands have committed suicide after time in jail. (Source www.498a.org).
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I remember one particular incident in 2003, where a woman called Nisha Sharma sent back her groom Munish Dalal and his family because she claimed that they asked for the dowry at the 11th hour of her wedding, which ticked her off, this incident gave international fame to Nisha Sharma. She was also called the youth icon of India, and role model for Indian women.
As case precede many allegations were made on the Dalal family right from asking dowry to monetarily helping the family and settling their son for future. They also mentioned that groom’s mother Vidya Dalal spat on bride’s father. As soon as the case got highlighted, Navneet Rai her batchmate from college came into the limelight, claiming that they got married secretly. But their marriage was not accepted by Sharma family as Rai was not working then and due to pressure by her parents she forced to file a complaint against him. The court of justice, acquitted all the accused in 2012 as it was proved in each and every proceeding that Sharma were unable to prove themselves and had no concrete evidences to prove opposite party wrong. Even the document which was produced by Navneet Rai in front of the court of law was considered as the original document and nothing was forged in that document.
Meanwhile in those 9 years Nisha Sharma got more than she deserved and for all the wrong reasons. She appeared in world famous Oprah Winfrey Show, she got married for the second time because of the media attention she received and like many, her now husband was impressed by her boldness and quick decision making skill. Some of the states in India were thinking of keeping a chapter in the school text books giving morals to the young girls of India.
Thinking about Munish Dalal his family and Navneet rai?? They were beaten and looked down upon by the society, till date Munish Dalal has to fight at various places to prove his innocence. His family has lost their social esteem and integrity because of one false complaint, as the daughter who was going to be their daughter in law was not willing to get married to their son. A simple no would have worked for both the parties but no they were destined to meet this embarrassment. Analyzing the whole Nisha Sharma case forced me to look at the other side of the coin, and I realized it is pitch dark there as the light (read limelight) is only one side. We all need to resonate, look for both sides and also evaluate ourselves before we start blaming or judging someone be it a man or a woman.
It is easy to fall into the trap of sensationalized feminism, it becomes easier for most of us to believe simply because we logic it with the history of suppression of women. But now the times have changed, women are given more rights than responsibilities. We have various authorities which are fighting for them and their rights. But how many associations, federations or schemes do we have to safeguard men and their rights? We need to come together and tell fathers, sons, husbands, male friends and colleagues of ours that we are there to listen to them, help them and understand them. Also if these laws start considering the bad or the criminal more than the man or the woman most of the misuse of it will automatically stop.
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