Section 498A – A law that turns husband into a criminal overnight just on the word of a woman. Not just the man, but his parents and other relatives too, can be charged with cruelty…..once again on mere allegations of the woman. Yet another case from Chandigarh demonstrates how the use of term ‘dowry harassment’ can be used or misused even after several years into marriage.
Irina Brar and Sujjan Singh had got married in November 2010. Brar had filed a police complaint of harassment against Sujjan Singh, alleging physical torture, in November 2018. A resident of Sector 5, Sujjan Singh has also been accused of dowry harassment by his wife, who is herself a former golfer.
On January 15 this year, Sujjan Singh, was booked under charges of dowry harassment at the Women police station in Sector 17. According to sources, Singh who had recently returned from Dubai and joined police investigation last week, submitted the below items to probe officer, Sub-Inspector (SI) Balbir Singh. Among the ’25 dowry items’ submitted to the police by the husband were as follows:
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- Water guns (pichkaris)
- Cone box full with baby toys
- Golf kit containing 15 sticks
- Box of women shoes/slippers
- White coloured racing cycle
- Five iron trunks full with clothes
- Two wooden tables
- Eight candle stands
- Four photoframes
- Four boxes full of clothes
- Elephant show piece
- Computer set
- Empty blue suitcase
- World map
- Blind curtains
Sujjan produced these items before the police, after joining the police investigation in the case at the Women Police Station in Sector 17 on March 3 and Irina Brar received the list of these items the following day.
The woman said,
I am stunned to see the list of these articles. It is stunning. My parents gifted huge diamond and gold jewellery sets to me and Sujjan Singh at the time of our wedding. What he has submitted before the police is out of imagination. Police have called me to accept these items. How can I accept these things? I am being forced to accept these items by the investigation agency.
Sources also said SI Balbir Singh and Station House Officer (SHO) Women police station Inspector Parvesh Kumari had tried to call Irina Brar on her phone, but she did not respond.
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DSP Charanjit Singh Virk said,
Sujjan Singh was asked about the gold and diamond jewellery and other valuables reportedly given to him and Irina Brar by Brar’s parents at the time of their wedding. Sujjan said that a number of items were stocked in almirahs, however, its keys are still with Irina Brar.
According to husband, whenever wife hands over the keys, he will produce all the times before the police. Moreover, we are trying to call Irina Brar to identify these items. If she will say these items do not belong to her, they will be returned to Sujjan Singh.
The problems with the draconian 498A law were completely unanticipated when the law was introduced to protect Indian women in 1983. The elements of the law included:
- A law that may only be used by women against men
- A provision that extends criminality to any of the husband’s allegedly-participating relatives (even if they have interacted with the girl only at the time of marriage)
- A law that in the past allowed for the immediate arrest of the husband and members of his family by the police on the basis of a woman’s complaint
- A provision that the offence was non-bailable
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While Sujjan Singh’s matter is still subjudice and we are not pronouncing him innocent or guilty, however, such instances do highlight the loopholes of Section 498A, where ultimately it is the woman’s allegations Vs claims of Man’s innocence.
Also, one must note how a gold and diamond set ‘gift‘ given to the daughter by her parents at the time of marriage, also gets noted down as “Dowry”. When things are smooth and happy in a relationship, all items pass off as ‘Presents’, but a tiff in the marriage and overnight the same articles turn into Dowry. We leave it to our readers to judge how fair such allegations can be, especially after eight years of living together in the same household.
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