The Supreme Court and several other High Courts in India have repeatedly termed Section 498-A IPC as a weapon rather than a shield by disgruntled wives. In some cases, the misuse of this criminal law by motivated wives has also been termed as “legal terrorism”.
In one of the media reports published in 2015, Navin (name withheld), an engineer from Tamil Nadu, got married in 2007 and flew to the United States, where was working for a long time. Things went horribly wrong when the recession struck. On the verge of losing his job, he asked his wife to go back to India along with their two-year-old daughter. After returning to India, his wife pressed charges under Section 498A of the IPC (dowry harassment and domestic violence) on him. He was arrested at the airport and got bail after five months.
In another case, 46-year-old Alam (name changed) would love to get back to his village in Bihar’s Darbhanga district given half a chance. But he has been stuck in the Gulf country he is in now for eight years; he cannot come back home because he is wanted in a dowry case and also one of domestic violence, both of which he claims to be false.
Both the men wanted to speak to their estranged spouses and in-laws and try to settle the matter amicably, but the law does not allow them to do so. Despite a significant reduction in the number of domestic violence cases registered in the country over the years, thousands of Alams and Navins get thrown behind bars over petty domestic disputes, many of which have nothing to with dowry.
2015 – Modi Government 1.0
The Modi government was mulling to make Section 498A compoundable, which means the couple would have provision of reconciliation and settlement, if the court allows, as suggested by Malimath Committee. At present, the offence is non-bailable and non-compoundable. Husbands and in-laws are immediately arrested once a case of dowry harassment or domestic violence is filed against them.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, under Rajnath Singh, had sent a draft note for the Union Cabinet to amend Section 498A of the IPC to the Law Ministry for drawing up a draft bill. Under the amended law, there will be a penalty provision of Rs 15,000 as against Rs 1,000 now if the case is found to be false.
Opposed by Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi
The same was then opposed by Maneka Gandhi and other women’s rights activists. They argued that any dilution of the law will affect millions of women whose cases may be genuine. Gandhi then said,
I don’t think the law should be changed. I feel that this is the only law that gives women protection. It should stay as it is.
Kiren Rijiju As Minister of State for Home Affairs in 2015
Government in 2015 officially said that it had made up its mind to make the cases of cruelty or harassment of women (Section 498-A) at the hands of husband and in-laws a compoundable offence. The then Minister of state for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju in an oral reply in Rajya Sabha said, that the home ministry was merely waiting for an opinion from the law ministry on the issue to take the step.
Currently, the offence is non-bailable and non-compoundable leaving no chance for a husband and wife to reach a compromise after the case has been filed. Rijiju while speaking in the Rajya Sabha then said,
This is a family issue. If it can be resolved within the family, such a window should be available under the law. For this we have sought an opinion from the law ministry. As soon as we get it, we will bring the amendment.
Expectedly, some women MPs protested saying that harassed women had nowhere to go, to which Rijiju said,
Section 498A, which deals with the offence, was very stringent. So stringent that it is being misused.
However, he also assured that there would be no compromise on protecting women who are harassed. He said,
Our proposal is only about Section 320 of CrPC which makes the offence compoundable. Just focus on that.
Now, since the government is in the process of amending IPC, CrPC and Evidence Act, and as Kiren Rijiju is on the hot seat as Law Minister of India, all Men and their families look up to him and his ministry to bring in a balanced law, which will protect genuine victims, but also ensure that disgruntled wives and their families do not misuse the same to legally extort money from husbands, by threatening them with false police cases.
Leave your comments for our Prime Minister, Home Minister & Law Minister on the tweet below:
"Section #498A Is So Stringent That It Is Being Misused" | Kiren Rijiju As MoS Home In 2015— Men’s Day Out (@MensDayOutIndia) April 13, 2022
Dear @narendramodi @AmitShah @KirenRijiju
Millions of Men & their families look up to you to bring in balanced laws, which will stop legal extortion of husbandshttps://t.co/rzd9zYIEYO
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