By terming the misuse of provisions of dowry harassment by women as legal terrorism the court had slammed women who in a bid to settle score drag all the family members into the court for the dowry harassment. 21stcentury’ woman is well educated and well settled so they are taking advantages of section 498A. It can be said that they are taking revenge for misconduct and misbehaviour of the in-laws but section 498A is not to take revenge and seeking recovery or force a divorce. As this section provides the punishment to wrongdoers.
What is section 498A?
Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subject such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3years and liable for fine. This is a non-cognizable, non- bailable and non -compoundable offence. The meaning of non-bailable means that the person has to appear before the judge and get the bail. Non -compoundable mean once a complaint had been issued can’t be withdrawn and non -cognizable means first arrest had been made after that register an investigation is made.
Risk to the society :
Today’s Women are very demanding if the demand of wife /daughter-in-law has not been fulfilled they can register a false complaint of dowry harassment against the husband and all the relatives. Immediately after the false complaint the husband and the old parents are put under the bar. Without any harassment, they are presumed to be guilty until they prove it wrong. With the rise in modernisation, education, financial security and the newfound independence the radical feminist have made 498A a weapon in her hands. Many a hapless husbands and in-laws have become victims of their vengeful daughters-in-law.
Most cases where Sec 498A is invoked turn out to be false (as repeatedly accepted by High Courts and Supreme Court in India) as they are mere blackmail attempts by the wife (or her close relatives) when faced with a strained marriage. In most cases, 498A complaint is followed by the demand for the huge amount of money (extortion) to settle the case out of the court. Like in the case of Savitri Devi v Ramesh Chand & Ors the court held clearly that there were a misuse and exploitation of the provisions to such an extent that it was hitting at the foundation of marriage itself and proved to be not so good for the health of society at large. The court believed that authorities and lawmakers had to review the situation and legal provisions to prevent such from taking place.
Why was this section made?
This section was made keeping in mind protection of the married woman from unscrupulous husbands but is clearly misused by few women and again this is strictly condemned in Saritha v R. Ramachandran where the court did notice that the reverse trend and asked the Law Commission and Parliament to make the offence a non-cognizable and bailable one. It is been a duty of the court to condemn wrongdoings and protect the victim but what happens when the victim turns into the abuser? What remedy does the husband have here? On this ground, the woman gets to divorce her husband and re-marry or even gain money in the form of compensation.
Recent judgement on section 498A:
1. In Kanaraj vs. State of Punjab, the apex court observed as: “for the fault of the husband the in-laws or other relatives cannot in all cases be held to be involved. The acts attributed to such persons have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt and they cannot be held responsible by mere conjectures and implications. The tendency to rope in relatives of the husband as accused has to be curbed”.
2. Karnataka High Court, in the case of State Vs. Srikanth, observed as:“Roping in of the whole of the family including brothers and sisters-in-law has to be depreciated unless there is a specific material against these persons, it is down right on the part of the police to include the whole of the family as accused”
New guidelines on section 498A :
No arrest should be made as the complaint has been issued. First investigation should be made. Supreme Court advice to make Family Welfare Society in each district one or two welfare society can be made. They will be investigating all the matter and within a month they have to submit their report. Until their report had been submitted no arrest, no action can be taken. After the submission of the report to the police and magistrate, the further proceeding takes place.
By misusing this section it had lead to a legal terrorism. This section was made as a shield for the protection of the affected women, not as a weapon. It’s a saying that if the cry of a wolf is often used as a prank then it will be taken for granted when an actual wolf appeared. It is the duty of investigating officer to watch the dog than to bloodhounds. It is the prime duty of the court to look and save the innocent from being harassed by the wrong allegations.