Saturday, January 31, 2009

Men In Terror Of Wives: Telkha News

Men In Terror Of Wives: Telkha News

The law that protects women from dowry harassment and domestic violence is often being abused by them, reports SHOBHITA NAITHANI


Victimised men? Save Family Foundation protests the misuse of dowry harassment laws
Photo: VIJAY PANDEY

AT A POPULARDelhi park, a gathering of men swells as the sun is about to set. Brochures and banners are everywhere; the air is filled with slogans and a certain steadfast earnestness that at first brings to mind the words ‘male ego’. Claiming that they are tired of being at the receiving end of marital oppression, this flock of ‘harassed’ husbands is planning their next protest. Their demand: revise Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which relates to dowry harassment. “There are many women who are harassed and are being killed for dowry. But there are an equal number of men who are beleaguered by their wives and in-laws,” says Swarup Sarkar of the Save Family Foundation, an NGO working for the cause of men. “We have had our family members, women included, arrested on false charges. The law has to be made gender-neutral.”

According to Section 498A, “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 offence is cognisable, non-compoundable and non-bailable.”

WHAT IS THE LAW

Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code defines the offence of matrimonial cruelty

Offenders are liable for imprisonment and a fine

The offence is non bailable, non-compoundable and cognisable on a complaint made to the police officer by the victim or by relatives

Official allegation of‘misuse’ of the section were made by the Malimath Committee and the Shinghal Report

Most in the gathering are reticent but the stories gradually tumble out. A Delhi police officer plays a mobile phone video recording of his wife — also a cop, assigned to the Crimes Against Women Cell (CAWC), which has charge of dowry cases — threatening to make him “dance in and around court”. Today, the man does precisely that as he fights a dowry harassment case. A father narrates how arguments with his wife over the health of their ailing son landed him on a charge. Another man explains how his wife’s family accused him of demanding dowry two years after he and his wife had split.

The case, however, of Amit Kumar (names changed) holds hope for the falsely implicated. Three-and-a-half years into their marriage, as Amit and his wife Sapna sat at a relative’s house to take a last shot at mending their damaged relationship, three armed policemen walked in and whisked Amit and his 68-year-old father off to the lockup. Sapna had alleged that Kumar and his parents had demanded Rs 5 lakh from her. “In the First Information Report (FIR), Sapna also alleged that when she didn’t comply with our demands, we went on February 14, 2001, to her parents’ house in Jhansi and browbeat them into giving us the money,” recalls Amit. At court hearings, Amit, who at that time was on deputation to the US from his Kuwait-based chemical company, was able to pick out the holes in Sapna’s claim. On February 14, the couple was at the American Embassy in New Delhi, being interviewed for Sapna’s US visa and Amit’s father had gone to the bank to get a draft made for the same. “How could we have then reached Jhansi (about eight hours from Delhi) the same day?” he asks.

The stress of the legal proceedings led Amit’s work performance to plummet; he lost his job and returned to India to hop jobs for the next three years. He continued, though, to fight to prove that the charge against him and his parents was bogus. In January 2007, the lower court in Uttar Pradesh quashed all charges. But deliverance came only after Amit, now 39, had paid Rs 3 lakh to the girl’s family as a settlement amount.

Thirty-five-year-old Raj Kaushal had a similar experience. Raj, a senior manager with a telecom company, married his colleague Neelam in 2000. The couple left for Germany soon after their wedding. Almost immediately, spats over a common income savings account became frequent. Things stabilised after an independent account was made for Neelam, but soured again when Raj decided to return to India in November 2002. Neelam was reluctant; the arguments returned. “She clearly didn’t want to live with my parents but I couldn’t have deserted them,” says Raj. Neelam finally walked out on the marriage. Shortly thereafter, a CAWC notice landed on Raj’s doorstep and in August 2004, the Kaushals were charged under Section 498A. “In hindsight,” Raj says, “she must have gone through as much pain or maybe even more pain than I did, but she could have ended this cordially. Slapping a false case, from which there is no way out for at least the next five years, was totally uncalled for.” In April 2006, his brother-in-law and parents were acquitted for lack of evidence. Relief for Raj came in April 2008, after the couple’s divorce came through.


Not guilty Relief came to Raj Kaushal in April 2008 after he won a four-year-long legal battle
Photo: TRILOCHAN S KALRA

The clamour for the amendment of Section 498A began in May 2003, after a judgment of the Delhi High Court made note of the abuse of the law and suggested that offences under it be made bailable. Supreme Court lawyer Pinky Anand concurs, observing how, in our enthusiasm to correct an antiwoman bias, we brought in a law slanted against husbands and their families.

Taking a cue from the Delhi HC judgement, YS Dadwal, the Chief Police Commissioner of Delhi, issued a circular in June 2008 stating that no arrests would be made in cases of alleged dowry harassment without prior investigation. According to the circular, only the main accused would be arrested, instead of the earlier practice of booking all the kin of the accused.

HOWEVER, SUDHA Sundararaman, General Secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, believes the problem is not with the law but its implementation. “This is a question of power. Any person, it can be the man or the woman, who has access to power and money can twist the law in their favour. And the police functions on behalf of the better party,” she says, pointing out that a large number of women, who are actually victims, are still not able to access justice.

Women’s organisations take issue with the very premises on which NGOs such as the Save Family Foundation advocate the cause of men. “The way they operate is highly patriarchal and conservative,” points out Sundararaman, “Action should be taken on a case-tocase basis rather than doing away with a law that has some teeth.”

As tempers flare for and against amending the law, the only immediateterm solution to this complicated concern seems to lie in the fact that, for now, all parties agree in blaming the lawyers, the administration and the police for advising them wrongly. Let’s begin from there.

WRITER’S EMAIL
shobhita@tehelka.comThis email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it


From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 5, Dated Feb 07, 2009

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We wonder whose life is in More Danger in India: Men or Women.

· Crime Bure data 2005 : Married Men Sucide : 52k vs Married Women Sucide 28K.Still there is no LAW to Protect Men why?
· 2006 Crime Bure Data : Married Men Sucide:55452 vs. Married Women Sucide:29869.

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Review Gender Biased LAW to Promote Family Harmony and Stop Legal Terrorism

Review of the Domestic Violence Act and other related laws
Proposed Domestic Harmony Act , 2005 ( For review)
NCW’s recommendations to address “unnatural deaths” of married women are Unreasonable
Maintenance for live-in partner? or Legal Extrotion?
Woman throws acid on husband-Kolkata -Cities-The Times of India
NCW'S False/fabricated Claim exposed regarding 70% women denied maintance on alleged adultrity ground in CRPc125.
STOP Women Sexual Harassment!!
Recommendations on Modifications to the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
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