It is often said that marriages are made in heaven. In India, it is considered to be a sacred affair. We usually say that through a marriage two families unite. So in one sense, a marriage is an union of two families rather than two individuals.
Now, unfortunately, this sacred bonding is increasingly coming under scanner, for all the wrong reasons thanks to wrong doing of human beings coupled with wrong intentions and various matrimonial laws. Almost everyday, we get to read in the newspaper, stories like either a wife was tortured or murdered for dowry, wife got her husband killed and fled with her paramour, wife filed false cases and put husband and his families behind bar to settle some sort of personal scores … etc etc.
Now, one thing we must admit for sure, not always the man is guilty, or the women. Every time you happen to catch up a debate on these so called male vs. female related topics, [a collection of links can be found here], we always notice that the women group shouting that they still have problems with the present legal system and they want amendments to protect women; and the men group says that these laws are misused and working against men and there should be a punishment part associated with each law to stop misuse, and most importantly, ALL LAW SHOULD BE MADE GENDER NEUTRAL.
So, let me try to make an honest attempt to decipher the laws through a common mans eye and try to find out what is true, and how far it is true ?
The most common problem is dowry harassment. A women a protected under IPC 498A against dowry harassment. So if the husband or any one of his family members harasses or tortures a women for dowry, he or all of them are punishable under this law. In India, dowry is a big problem and it is almost known to everybody that a lot of women are tortured or even murdered for dowry. Hence this law was introduced to protect those women. I must say this is a great initiative and should be supported by all of us. Then what is the problem here ? for that we need to understand a bit more detail about this law. This law is non-bailable. So as soon as a case is registered by the women police gets into action and all the accused person may go to jail, till they manage to secure a bail. After that the trial starts and may be after 4-5 or 7-10 years in some cases, your are either found guilty or proven innocent in court. Now in case you are proven innocent, then also you have gone through ordeal, and there is a high chance that you already have received punishment by going to jail. Till date I am yet to come across an instance where the women is punished after losing the case. NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau), Located at New Delhi as the attached office of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India, maintains a database of crimes taking place in India. According to their data, the conviction rate of 498A is mere 2%. That means 98% of these cases are false. So just imagine, every year how many innocent persons are harassed by this. And who belongs to this innocent persons group ? Starting with the husband, his parents (father and mother), grand parents (grand father & grand mother), married / unmarried sisters, married / unmarried brothers, husbands / wives of married bother / sister, distant relatives of the husband and even in some cases the kids also.
In most cases, while the cases are on, the wife takes shelter at her parents place. Now in case she is not earning, as a husband, you have to pay maintenance to her. There are 5 different provisions available in our legal system through which a wife is entitled to claim maintenance form her husband [read more here].
Moreover, in case your wife feels that she does not have a place to live, she can claim shared residence [under PWDVA 17] in her matrimonial home while the cases going on.
In case you manage to obtain a divorce during or after these cases are over, you have to give her alimony, almost irrespective of the fact whether the cases she has filed are true or false. Currently there is a proposal that wife should get 50% property of the husband in case of any marital dispute reported. It is at present under consideration by the Govt.
In case there is children involved, they are the one who face the worst ordeal during this process.
There are many other laws, which are there to protect your wife. [read more here]
So after marriage as a husband, you might think that you are basically living at the mercy of your wife. Any unscrupulous women, can easily file a false case against you, and to save yourself and your family from this trauma, you often end up in coughing up a lump sum amount, fulfilling their demand.
Few facts related to 498A:
1. A study on 498A was done by CSR [Center of Social Research] observed: “The cases where the accused were convicted had been filed under Section 498A along with section 304B and 302, which are applicable after the death of the victim. There were no convictions in any of the cases registered only under Section 498A.” [Read complete report here]
2. According to NCRB in year 2010, 31754 married women commit suicide!! Shocked???? Let me give you the figures for married men…it’s a more shocking 61453!!! And there is no one, absolutely no one to bother! Some key points that are observed in the report:
- “The overall male: female ratio of suicide victims for the year 2009 was 65:35, however, the proportion of Boys: Girls suicide victims (up to 14 years of age) was 52:48.”
- West Bengal has reported the highest number of suicide victims (accounting for 11.9%) in 2008 & 2009 and second highest in 2010 (accounting for 11.9%).
- The suicide rate in cities (12.7) was higher as compared to All-India suicide rate (11.4).
- 239 Suicides by Male per day
- 130 Suicides by Female per day out of which 69 were House-wives
- 8 Suicides per day each due to Poverty and Dowry Dispute.
Official Statistics (Source: NCRB) Males Females Suicide of MARRIED persons (2005-2010) 342,812 181,399 SUICIDE Rate (Married) 65.93% 34.07% One SUICIDE in Every 8.55 Mins 16.7 Mins Number of MURDERS 26467 7952 One Murder in Every 19Mins 66Mins No of 498a cases in 2006-2009 by N/A 1,39,058
Statistics Courtesy: http://www.saveindianfamily.org/index.php
3. “Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System” by Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs – A report submitted by Dr. Justice V.S. Malimath made following observation on 498A:
- “16.4.3 If the woman victim lodges an F.I.R alleging commission of offence under Section 498A, her husband, in-laws and other relatives of the husband would be arrested immediately. If she has no independent source of income she has to return to her natal family where also support may not be forthcoming. Her claim for maintenance would be honoured more in default than in payment especially if the husband has lost his job or suspended from his job due to the arrest. Where maintenance is given, it is often a paltry sum. (Thus the woman is neither here nor there. She has just fallen from the frying pan into the fire.) Even when there is a divorce, or reconciliation, the criminal case continues as Section 498A is non compoundable.
- 16.4.4 In less tolerant impulsive woman may lodge an FIR even on a trivial act. The result is that the husband and his family may be immediately arrested and there may be a suspension or loss of job. The offense alleged being non-bailable, innocent persons languish in custody. There may be a claim for maintenance adding fuel to fire, if the husband cannot pay. She may change her mind and get into the mood to forget and forgive. The husband may realize the mistakes committed and come forward to turn a new leaf for a loving and cordial relationship. The woman may like to seek reconciliation. But this may not be possible due to the legal obstacles. Even if she wishes to make amends by withdrawing the complaint, she cannot do so as the offense is non compoundable. The doors for returning to family life stand closed. She is thus left at the mercy of her natal family.
- 16.4.5 This section, therefore, helps neither the wife nor the husband. The offense being non-bailable and non-compoundable makes an innocent person undergo stigmatization and hardship. Heartless provisions that make the offense non-bailable and non-compoundable operate against reconciliations. It is therefore necessary to make this offense (a) bailable and (b) compoundable to give a chance to the spouses to come together.” [read the report here]
4. In a Project Report submitted by two students of IIM, Bangalore in the year 2007, on Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 following observations are made:
- ” 4. Basic Flaws and Ambiguities in the Law
On perusing the Act document, one can raise a variety of questions against the intention of the design of the Act. To list a few,
1. Definition of Dowry
As per this definition, gifts of jewelry, clothes and cash traditionally given by the groom’s family would also be covered by the anti-dowry law and hence declared illegal.
2. Legalizing the illegal
After declaring that giving or taking of dowry is illegal, the Act adds a curious rider that ‘where any dowry is received by any person other than the woman in connection with whose marriage it is given, that person will transfer the dowry to the woman within three months after the date of marriage or within three months after the date of receipt.
3. Bail provisions for ‘dowry crimes’
It is quite simple to accuse someone with a dowry crime as the „Burden of Proof‟ will be on the accused and hence the non-bailable provisions can be misused. Merely stating that the case cannot be withdrawn by compromise will not discourage people from using this as a quick and desperate move to inflict immediate burden on the accused. So there will then be a ironical situation of the accused becoming the victim.
4. Feminine Bias
Though the Act treats the case of a bride and bridegroom in the same intensity, the IPC 304B, 498A etc, specifically and exhaustively address the crimes with a feminine bias. Hence, the law itself is incomplete in terms of treatment of cases where the husband, might become the victim. As per the law, even dowry giving is an offence, but there is hardly ever an instance of the bride’s family being prosecuted for giving dowry. The assumption is that only ‘takers’ are guilty while ‘givers’ are hapless creatures yielding to the greed and callous demands of the groom’s family.
5. Who decides what is a “voluntary gift”
The act excludes voluntary gifts from the provisions. In cases where a gift has been given, it is almost impossible to ascertain the voluntariness of the act of giving the gift at a time of conflict that happens much later. Hence exclusions are not defined in concrete terms.
6. Lack of Holistic approach
In spite of the provisions for an Anti-Dowry officer, there are not many of them appointed by the states. Also the level of awareness is so low (owing to illiteracy and other socio -economic factors) that the Act does not reach the victims from the various strata of the society. Though laws are necessary to provide basic rights and punish offenders, what is required is a more
holistic approach to effectively implement the same.
7. Disturbs Social Fabric
Since the Act discourages withdrawal by means of compromise, although the intention may be noble and aims at removing evil practices in society, it may give a spark to rise in criminal activities where the victim may be inflicted with more harm and even loss of life in a bid to get rid of the legal obligations. It may also lead to social isolation of the complainant as the Indian society treats such complainants with contempt. “
- “According to data obtained from the Ministry of Home Affairs, in the year 2005 alone, 58,319 cases were registered under charges of cruelty by husband and relatives (IPC 498A), and resulted in the arrest of 1,27,560 individuals including 339 children, 28,579 women and 4,512 adults over the age of 60.” [Read complete report here]
And this is only about one law, and there are few more, namely PWDVA, DV Act, CrPC 125, 406 etc. etc. [read more about them here]
So what is the final point? The more this scenario continues, more and more people will be worried, and will think 2-3-4 times before getting married. Slowly, the sacred system of marriage will be under danger. Parents of a daughter will find it difficult to marry off their daughters, and men will not be easily ready to marry. It will be a complete social unrest. We are leaving in a country where there is ministry for animals but nothing for men.