Home > Other news > The storm around 498A – The Hindu

The storm around 498A – The Hindu

Feminists say allegations of misuse of law exaggerated

The Union Law Ministry recently launched a countrywide exercise to review provisions of Indian Penal Code dealing with matrimonial cruelty, including cases of dowry harassment. The exercise is particularly aimed at collecting data and opinion from the States to evaluate the perceived “misuse” of the law and the possibilities of changing it.

This is a reflection of the hot debates in the recent years on “misuse” of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deems cruelty to women, including dowry harassment a non-bailable, non-compoundable (not allowing for out-of-court settlement) criminal offence.

There have been demands to scrap it or tone down the provisions of this law by men’s activist groups who argue that it has been used by urban, educated women to settle scores with husbands and their families. Virag Dhulia, an anti-498A activist, claims that complaints under this are treated as “gospel truth” and husbands and his family penalised.

Arguments on these lines have been vociferous, often making more news than dowry death cases which get relegated to crime columns.


Malimath report

The V.S. Malimath Committee on Reforms in Criminal Justice System in 2003 had recommended making Section 498A a compoundable and bailable offence “to give a chance to the spouses to come together”. The recommendation was based on “general complaints”.

In October, 2010, the then Director-General and Inspector-General of Karnataka issued a circular to all police commissioners saying that arrests should not be made under 498A simply because the person’s name figures in the FIR.

Interestingly, the only empirical study available on the alleged “misuse” of 498A is by the Delhi-based Centre for Social Research, which says that 6.5 per cent of the dowry harassment cases they studied were found to be false at the time of investigation. It also said that only 0.1 per cent of domestic violence incidents even reach the criminal justice system.

Three questions

While there is no denying that there are instances of misuse of any law, including 498A, three important questions need to be debated — Is the misuse as rampant as it is made out to be? Are the instances any more than in the case of other legislation? Should we be contemplating change of law or strengthening of the criminal investigation system considering that gruesome cases of dowry deaths and harassment are an undeniable reality?

After all, inclusion of 498A through an amendment to IPC is regarded historic as it was the first attempt to bring domestic cruelty into public domain and make it a criminal offence.

“I would like to ask which law is not misused and if we are really amending them all,” says Vimala K.S. of Janawadi Mahila Sanghatane. “It reflects a mindset that we want to single out women-centric laws and highlighting stray cases of their misuse,” she says.

Pramila Nesargi, advocate and former Chairperson of Karnataka Women’s Commission, says there are several instances of the police adding the section to the charge-sheet under the mistaken belief that it will make the case stronger, while the woman herself is ignorant of its implications. However, as Jayna Kothari, a High Court advocate specialising in women’s issues, points out, conviction only on the basis of Section 498A is almost impossible.

Director-General and Inspector-General of Police S.T. Ramesh believes that one need not be averse to relooking at any law, including 498A. “Conducting an empirical study and collecting data with an open mind should be welcomed,” he says about the ongoing exercise of the Law Ministry.


Categories: Other news
  1. arun
    March 9, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    the simple girl puts up 498a case ageist a husband not because of her father, mother and her relatives that mistake is done from her parents they must have some sickness otherwise no one in this word spoils there daughters life the court has to give the order to shot that parents in the public then only we can stop this punishment of boy and his family

    • Rajat
      March 16, 2011 at 2:07 pm

      A simple punishment and award of the compensation to the husbands should bring a change. Any complaint by the wife and her respected parents should be filed on affidavit. In case of genuine complaints, the precautionary measures can be taken by Police but any legal action should be investigated only after receiving complaint on affidavit. The complainenant should be clearly informed as to what action she and her respected parents could face when the allegations are proved wrong with utierior motives.

  2. Haresh
    March 10, 2011 at 5:26 am

    Wives who take undue advantages of wife-centric biased laws like 498-A, D.V Acts, should be imprisoned.Such draconian laws have destroyed the very fabric of our Family Harmony which existed about a decade ago.Our country is going to dogs & we are no longer living in a Democratic country,but a Hypocrite Country,where the only principle is To The Wife,By The Wife & For The Wife.The judiciary & the Police have made a mockery of our country.The Anti-Dowry Laws which was enacted for the betterment of our society has become an easy tool in the hands of our so called liberated wives.A little dispute between the spouses or a Marital Discord eventually ends up in filing up of false 498-A cases.Such is the irony that in spite of Supreme Court,the Chief Justice of India literally telling Sec.498-A is Legal Terrorism and that Marital Dispute is not a Crime but a family matter, cases are filed in lacs today. Almost 60% of the cases filed are under 498-A,D.V & other Husband & In-law harassment laws.The Apex Court has even said that Filing false cases of 498-A has become a Legal Terrorism in our country in the last 10 years & families after families have lost their peace & harmony.Around 97% cases have proved to be false.But still no provisions/steps are being taken to amend such laws & make it unbiased.What a Country…….More than 12 laws for the welfare of women,2 laws for the Animals……But sadly not a single law for the welfare of Men…….In short Men are worse than Animals. Mera Bharat Mahaan…… This happens only in INDIA.

  3. Rajat
    March 16, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    If the act is amended to include punishment to wiives and her parents filing cases with false allegations and compensations to the husbands, it will definitely deter wives and their parents for false allegations as otherwise this business models would continue.

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