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Not in favour to abolish ‘legal terrorism’

Men’s group want repeal of the section 498A of IPC but lawyers against the move.

section-498A--leadThere has been a huge debate on social media over the abolition of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. The section has been widely misused by women to file false complaint against her husband and in-laws. As a result of this, many innocent men and their parents had to suffer for no fault of theirs. Section 498A IPC is a draconian law under which any innocent can be put in jail (with family) just on the basis of a complaint statement without any evidence. Every news channel is debating the recent Supreme Court judgment restricting immediate arrests of husband and family members under 498A.

IPC 498A – commonly known as the Anti-Dowry law, was passed in 1983 to protect married women from mental and physical cruelty and dowry related demand by husband and his relatives. After 30 years, 498A today is commonly known as the law which is being misused. Men’s rights’ organisations have been fighting for the abolition of these gender based laws where no prior investigation is required and action is taken on the basis of complaint filed by the girl. On the other hand, advocates are opposing the abolition of Section 498A as according them the law was passed to protect women from dowry harassment. Some of them have proposed some amendments in the section which will make it gender neutral as the current provisions are skewed in favour of women.

Abha-SinghAbha Singh, social activist and advocate said, “No. Section 498A should not be repealed and it should continue. Due to this section, there has been a drastic reduction in the number of dowry deaths and cases. The Supreme Court has expressed its displeasure over the section being misused by the police as they accept bribe from the boy and his family and threatens to arrest them. However, the apex court has recently stated that no arrest should be made until proper evidence is provided.”

498A is not a case between husband and wife. It’s a case between husband and state where state fights on wife’s behalf. 498A can be filed any time after marriage – even after 22 years. Since it also considers mental harassment any number of relatives can be named and summoned – even if they have never lived with you, are in different cities or abroad – citing harassment over phone or any incident when they visited India. When 498A is filed, every wedding expense is presented as dowry by the girl’s side.

RohiniSpecial Public Prosecutor Rohini Salian said, “498A was enacted for protection of women from domestic violence and dowry harassment. It is being misused for various purposes. According to me, it is a social problem. Every husband and wife fight over trivial matters but 498A shouldn’t be used. This section should be used if the situation becomes too extreme and unbearable.”

“Criminalisation of social problems make matters worse as both the parties have to go through a lot of legal hassles and the disappointing fact is that children suffer the most when parents fight. We can’t generalise as some women are being tortured a lot in the marital home for various purposes so 498A should not be abolished. It’s an unhealthy trend, can only appeal to women that they should refrain from misusing section 498A ” she added.

The National Crime Research Bureau data shows that out of 1,06, 527 cases registered in 2012, 10,235 – around 10% – were cases declared false on account of mistake of fact or of law.

Advocate Bhatkar said, “There is a vast difference between section 498A and 304B. 408A is cruelty and mental harassment while 304B is for dowry deaths. If there’s an outrage on social media, the people should be knowledgeable enough to know the law and well aware about the difference between the two. Just because the section is being misused doesn’t mean the court has to do away with it.”

Advocate Sushan Kunjuraman said, “The section cannot be abolished. 498A was enacted to prevent cruelty and harassment cases. A person will not marry with the fear of being ill-treated. Just because it is being misused, it should not be repealed; some amendments must be made in order to prevent the misuse of the law.”

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