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498-A of Anti Dowry Law being used to terrorise husbands and their families

Author: Nandita Thakur
Publication: News Room Post
Date: July 3, 2014
URL: http://www.newsroompost.com/498-anti-dowry-law-used-terrorise-husbands-families/

In 2005 while delivering a lecture on human relationships to women inmates of Bilodara (Nadiad) jail my attention turned to a middle aged woman sitting in a corner of the room and continuously crying. After the lecture I asked her the reason. With tears in her eyes she told us that she was a victim of 498-A. She was a Christian and was behind the bars because her daughter in law had filed a case of 498-A and she along with her son, mother, father and sister were put behind the bars. Here I have specifically mentioned the religion of the woman because in many Christian communities it’s the boy’s family which gives money to the girl’s family during marriage. So it surprised me that a Christian family should be behind bars for a dowry case. The daughter of the family was to marry one month later but unfortunately was behind the bars before marriage. Family was worried that her in laws will call off the marriage, but luckily with legal help the girl was out of jail and her in laws got her married to their son within a few days.

In one more case a man who had a secret court marriage with his lover paid a heavy price for doing so. The girl’s father came to know about the marriage and opposed it. The girl’s father threatened to have the man put behind the bars under 498-A. Till the divorce happened the guy was paying all his earning to the girl’s father to avoid 498-A. The torture was such that he never ever married again.

Another man who is in a very good position in government is suffering mentally, physically, financially because of fake dowry harassment case. The guy had called off his engagement, unfortunately at the same time he cleared a prestigious govt exam. His ex fiancee’s family filed a case against him and his family claiming they had demanded dowry. Later the man had arranged marriage with another and now has a child. But the case is still on, he has to take leave and attend court proceedings only to hear next date of court proceedings. His promotion has been stopped because of the case, his family life remains disturbed and his savings are going to pay fees of lawyers.

The case which shocked me most was one in which relatives of the groom who had attended the wedding were booked under 498-A by the girl and her family. Men, women and children were put behind bars. Their only crime was they were standing on the dais with the groom and bride with a cover that was handed over to them while doing so by the girl’s parents. In short they had committed the crime of accepting “Shagun” cover which is a custom in Indian marriages.

Recently a police constable committed suicide, and in his suicide note he wrote that his wife who was staying with her parents for last one year was threatening to book him under anti dowry law if he did not agree to stay with her at her parents house leaving his mother alone. The mental harassment lead him to commit suicide.

These are real examples of Legal terrorism. 498 A – Anti Dowry Law is being used as weapon to terrorize husbands and their families. The term “LEGAL TERRORISM” has been given by Trial Court. Court slammed women who in a bid to settle scores, book all family members into a dowry harassment case and called such harassment as “Legal Terrorism”.

Every year more than 50000 men are committing suicide because of laws like 498-A. More and more men are avoiding remarriages because of one bad experience and many women, be they the sisters, mothers, cousins of these men, are behind bars because of false cases of 498 A. Sons are being forced to leave their parents and stay separately or at girl’s parents home. Many families are living under constant fear of 498-A. In laws are scared to say anything to their daughter in law.

Before Supreme Court’s recent observation and directives a case under 498-A was non bailable crime, which was handled under criminal laws instead of civil laws. No investigation or proof was required for arrests. Accused was presumed guilty until proven innocent. Gifts given during marriage ceremonies are considered as dowry.

In 2010 while giving training to police personnel’s I asked them why they arrest old people, women and even children under 498-A while in preliminary investigation they would find family or even man to be innocent and case has been filed with intention of settling scores. I was told that law was such that they had to arrest everyone who were named in FIR pertaining to 498-A. They too wished there should be change in the law.

Finally Supreme Court had observed that this law is being misused by women to settle scores, there is rampant misuse of section 498-A. Supreme Court has ruled no person accused of an dowry offence should be arrested without proper investigation, the magistrate will weigh the preliminary evidences against the section 41 checklist before further detention.

But the menace of misuse of this law will not stop unless and until people who are misusing or who are guiding people to misuse the law are punished severely. It’s high time women stop misusing this law to settle scores so that women who are genuinely facing dowry problems gets justice.

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