NFHS strongly opposes One Hundred and Fortieth Report on the Committee on Petitions of Rajya Sabha under the Chairmanship of Shri Bhagat Singh Koshyari, regarding 498A Amendments
Subject: NFHS strongly opposes One Hundred and Fortieth Report on the Committee on Petitions of Rajya Sabha under the Chairmanship of Shri Bhagat Singh Koshyari, regarding 498A Amendments
About National Family Harmony Society®: “National Family Harmony Society®” NFHS is a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) promoting the cause of “family harmony” and “gender equality”. It is registered under “The Karnataka Societies Registration Act, 1960” and is based in Bangalore. We have branches in more than 16 states and in abroad too. We have approximately 16500 members all over India. To know more about us please visit http://www.family-harmony.org / http://www.498a.org.in.
The Committee on Petitions of Rajya Sabha under the Chairmanship of Shri Bhagat Singh Koshyari, M.P. presented its Hundred and Fortieth Report to the Rajya Sabha on 7th September, 2011 on the petition praying for amendments in Section 498A of Indian Penal Code, 1860. The Petition was submitted by Dr. Anupama Singh, a resident of New Delhi.
The committee has given some recommendations to Rajya Sabha regarding 498A IPC. Before discussing merits or demerits or expressing our opinion on them, we would like to present different perspective of this issue because the committee has deliberated and recommended some ways and methods to “Stop the misuse of 498A IPC”.
There may not be difference of opinion in this country if the subject matter to be discussed is “protection of women”. No doubt, 498A IPC was framed to prevent cruelty on women and act as a deterrent against cruelty on women. If that is the case then the petition is submitted by Dr Anupama Singh who herself is women. The fact that the law has failed and has not solved its purpose and has been seriously misused and abused by greedy women to settle score with husband and his family members is not in dispute.
The problem is the committee has given a very technical and legal opinion to an issue which is entirely social and matrimonial in nature and has limited its scope of discussion. E.g.
In the para 13.8 of the report the committee acknowledges that measures are required to “check on false complaints”. The committee recommends that “The Committee feels that the Government should consider providing legal remedies for preventing filing of false complaints or complaints with ulterior motive to harass the husband and his relatives under Section 498A. The Committee recommends that Section 498A be amended so as to provide for specific penalty in case the complaint is found to be false or with some other ulterior motive.”
So when the misuse and abuse of the law is very clear and it is acknowledged that husbands and their family members are also victims of violence, cruelty and false cases then the scope of the discussion should not be limited to “Stop the abuse the 498A IPC”. The larger issue is “Abuse and misuse of Gender biased laws” and “Protection to husband and his family members”.
There are many laws and Acts to deal with matrimonial disputes and most of them are NOT “Gender Neutral”. Some of them are 498A IPC, Protection of women from domestic violence Act, 125 of CrPC, Hindu marriage Act, Hindu adoption and succession Act, Guardian and wards Act etc. All these Acts and IPC/CrPC section deals with “Protection to women”, “Alimony and maintenance to women”, “Divorce and child custody” etc. It is well known that all these laws are being heavily misused by greedy women to settle score and to harass the husbands and his family members.
The argument of women faces e.g. that of Ex-WCD minister Smt Renuka Chowdry that “women has been suffering from ages and now it is the turn of MEN to suffer” (In one of her TV interviews) OR that “Abuse and misuse is in small number so it is ok” OR to say that “Any law for that matter is being misused” has only aggravated the issue.
Unless the government looks at the this grave issue in its entirety and makes serious attempt to solve it by simplifying the laws rather than duplicating the laws this issue will never be solved. We think now the time has come so that Government should look at the larger issue wrt the matrimonial disputes. In view of the above discussion we strongly oppose the report which is nothing but half hearted attempt by Government which is not going to solve the issue. Hence we demand following.
- Misuse and abuse of Laws: Heavy punishment by the way of imprisonment should be introduced in case of misuse of any matrimonial laws.
- Make matrimonial disputes “Gender biased”. Government is completely ignoring the pain, harassment and torture of husband and his family’s members which they suffer at the hands of greedy women. Thousands of husbands have got divorce from wife on the ground of cruelty. This proves that women also can be cruel. Hence matrimonial laws should be made “Gender neutral” to provide protection to husbands and his family members.
- Duplication of Laws: Just to deal with the maintenance for wife there are 6 different laws. This is due to the mindset of our law makers to make a new law if there is complaint regarding old law. When Hindu marriage act was already there to deal with the maintenance of the wife then there was no need to bring CrPC 125, or Domestic violence act or HAMA.
- The definition of women is “Newly married young women”: Even though it is matter of common knowledge that daughter-in-law’s treat their mother-in-law with cruelty even then “Matrimonial laws” are only meant for “Newly married young women”. This must be amended to given protection to all without any consideration of gender or age.
- Protection to Husband and his families: Currently Husband and his family members do not have any protection from the cruelty of daughter-in-law. Laws should be made gender-neutral for their protection.
- Child custody issues: Government should bring in amendment for “Shared Parenting”.
- Never ending litigations: The litigations are so lengthy that by the time a father files for child custody and by the time matter is decided by Supreme Court, the child is ready to have his own child. And similarly once a divorce is filed by spouse, and by the time Supreme Court decides it couple are at the verge of retirement. The litigation in case of matrimonial disputes should be finished in a time bound manner of 1 year.
- Simplification of Divorce laws: What the relatives and the social circle cannot achieve is sought to be achieved that too by an over burdened presiding officer. Divorces are denied in a routine manner even when criminal cases are pending. Law should be modified keeping in mind the changed social structure.
- Try all matrimonial disputes under civil law: Involvement of police breaks any possibility of re-union between the couple.
Attempt by Government to do some temporary, ad-hoc and stop-gap arrangement by fixing some loop holes in the 498A IPC is neither going to stop the misuse of “Gender biased” laws nor it is going to provide any “protection to husband and his family members” from potential misuse and abuse of law. Government instead of taking ad-hoc and temporary steps should constitute a committee for overhaul of overall matrimonial laws rather than approaching the issue piecemeal basis which will aggravate the issue rather than solving it.
P Suresh, President, M Mahesh, General Secretary,