Why IPC 498A is anti-social?
The Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code which deals with cruelty to a wife states- "Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine."
The payment of a dowry gift, often financial, has a long history in many parts of the world. In India, the payment of a dowry has been prohibited since 1961 under Indian civil law. Subsequently, Sections 304B and 498A of the Indian Penal Code were enacted, making it easier for the wife to seek redress from harassment by the husband's family.
Anti-dowry laws have been criticized by men's rights groups and Supreme Court of India, who accuse women and their families of misusing the laws.
There are number of reasons behind as to why IPC 498A is anti-social. It is handled under the Criminal Law for marriage related matters and not under the Civil Laws. Since non-bailable warrant does not require proof before arrest and no investigation is necessary, it exposes the vulnerability of the accused taking away their basic human rights.
Not only this, even those who are not part of the day to-day family life could be named and arrested on one complaint, which can also include pregnant women and children.
The accused is presumed guilty until proven innocent whereas it is nowhere in the eyes of law in the world. There is no clarity as to who decides that the gift exchanged was gifts or dowry and these are misunderstood as dowry.
Another reason for which it is anti-social, is that it is non-compoundable which means that the complaint cannot be taken back that hinders any scope of reconciliation between the couple.
More-over, after a man is accused of 498A, he will not take his wife back later and the old parents who lived with dignity and respect have to live with the stigma of harassing their daughter-in-law for the rest of their lives.
If one is declared accused under 498A, groom's relatives don't find a suitable bride. Most of the cases are also filed because the husband refused to throw his parents out of the house at the wife's demand.
Not only this, the husband's job faces risk when he is accused under 498A. He could even be the only breadwinner of the family!
It is also seen that the health of the old parents dangerously deteriorates after they are arrested under the said law and even some commit suicide for not able to withstand the depression and frustration of being falsely accused.
The terror of the law is so created that old parents after the case become very apprehensive, advice their son not to marry again.
One has to face not only the terror of police, he also becomes often a victim of lawyers who tend to take the family for a ride to extract as much money as possible.
But the possibility of a woman over-reacting on a trivial matter in the family is never considered as a reason of complaint. A woman tries to get divorce proceedings faster by filing a 498A case even if no dowry was demanded.
The witnesses tend to support the woman for not getting into a police case. They even fear of being accused by the woman if they don't support the woman. Some women marry an NRI and slap a 498A case only to extort large sum of money.
The police also try to support the woman and ask the man to settle the case by paying the handsome compensation even after knowing that the complaint could be a false one. Since the case can easily linger in the court for years and only alternative the groom's family has to pay the price.
What else could be dangerous that 498A cases can be filed even after the divorce, which only means that the accuser wants to demand money legally apart from the maintenance? However, there is no prohibition clause in the 498A law that would stop women to misuse it.
It is nearly impossible to file a case of defamation against the accuser because the police will not register the case and it would be hard to prove it.
If we go through the statistics of suicide during 2013, the male victims are much on the higher side in case of married status. Against 64, 098 suicides, there were only 29, 491 female suicides. Similarly, in the case Widowed/Widower, against 2695 of male, 2311 were of females and in divorced cases it was 739 of male and 678 of female. Whereas in separation cases, it was 739 male, against 678 of female.
Frankly speaking, the police don't take any action even if the suicide note of a man states that he was tortured by his wife and in-laws, but in case of a woman's suicide her husband's family is taken into custody without investigation.
There is no reason to say that 498A is anti-social, unfair, biased, inapplicable. If the misuse of laws still continues then the social infrastructure will collapse which will have a direct unfavorable impact on the country's economy. If the law can't curb dowry deaths, can't even stop its misuse, then what is the use of such a law that causes millions of people to suffer?