The dowry system prevalent for centuries still remains a serious social problem. On one hand, there are those people who leave no stone unturned in bargaining in the name of matrimonial bond, while on the other hand, a selfish class is growing in the society which does not hesitate in misusing the anti-dowry law. Recently, taking strict cognizance of a similar false case, the Delhi High Court termed the allegations of false dowry, harassment and rape made by a woman against her in-laws as ‘gross cruelty’ and unforgivable.
In fact, the misuse of Section 498-A established for the abolition of dowry has started taking a worrying form in the last few years. Rape is a terrible atrocity but there have also been cases where false allegations were leveled against someone related to the in-laws due to a property dispute or other family reasons. During the hearing on the case of Arnesh Kumar vs. Government of Bihar, the Supreme Court had expressed serious concern about the ever increasing cases of false accusations under the guise of 498-A, which is not at all baseless.
Undoubtedly, dowry system is a curse for the entire society, due to which many daughters have to suffer mental, physical or social suffering. With the aim of strengthening the general provisions of IPC-1860, Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code was added to it in the year 1983. Under this, a woman can file a complaint against cruel behavior or mental, physical or other torture by her husband or in-laws. If convicted, the offender may face imprisonment of up to 3 years and a fine under Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code or imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of up to Rs 15,000 as per the Dowry Act, 1961.
Perhaps, if this law is misused, the husband and his family may get affected. Due to lack of sufficient evidence and not getting quick bail, one may have to spend months in prison despite being innocent. During the legal process from trial to acquittal, not only the entire family has to suffer financial loss but it also has a negative impact on the social reputation including physical and mental condition.
It is known that 45-year-old Rajesh Jaiswal, a resident of the capital Delhi, who suffered mental pressure for two years due to his wife filing a dowry harassment case, committed suicide after releasing a video in this regard. Vikas of Barabanki also lost the battle of life due to being booked under section 498-A of IPC and not being able to bear the torture given by his in-laws.
If a person who is hurt on an emotional level starts turning towards suicide, then it becomes a very serious question for the entire society and system. However, there is no specific law in the Indian Constitution through which a wife can be punished for filing a false dowry case, but according to the Dowry Cases Rules, 2023, the court can do so using its understanding and power. Providing relief to a South Mumbai businessman in a dowry harassment and criminal case, the Mumbai High Court asked his wife, who had filed a false case, to pay a fine of Rs 50,000. The demand for divorce put forward by the husband was also approved.
Although it is not easy to face any kind of terror, whether social, mental, physical or economic, it is completely inappropriate to resort to suicide due to fear of adverse circumstances. To face the situation firmly, it is necessary that the threat given by the wife regarding being implicated in a false case should be kept safe in the form of chatting, audio recording or messages etc. Solid evidence can be helpful in filing a complaint and getting quick bail. If the wife leaves the house under the threat of being implicated in a dowry case, under Section 9 of Substitution of Marital Rights, a petition can be filed in the court to summon her. This will be strong evidence in favor of the husband that the wife left the house as per her wish.
Undoubtedly, strict implementation of dowry abolition laws is necessary to ensure the respect and safety of women, but using the legal provision as an attack due to personal interest or animosity is completely unethical. If the aim of the law is to punish criminals, then ensuring the protection and honor of the innocent also comes under its responsibility. The law may not be able to give appropriate punishment to a criminal or under its cover an innocent person may have to suffer punishment; Both situations are hindrances in social development. When the section of the law, which is supposed to be used to protect one class, becomes a weapon and starts attacking the other class, then how is the concept of overall social upliftment possible?
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