IPC 498A – The most draconian law ever framed and a provision of the Indian Penal Code highly misused till date has been conferred the honor of breaking Indian families all over the world. From a definition and layman point of view, it seems a very productive and needed law. It has defined HARASSMENT of the MARRIED WOMAN or any of her relatives, herein referred to as harassment, to meet any UNLAWFUL DEMAND by the husband and / or his relatives as a cognizable offence and if proved guilty under trial can lead to imprisonment up to 3 years and / or fine. But all is not said and done with this law. There are gory loopholes in its definition, interpretation and implementation which can have far-reaching consequences legally, ethically, morally, emotionally, socially which are detrimental to the very existence of this society, whose welfare was upheld as the basis in the framing of such a draconian provision. Sounds, strange, ironical, but is surprisingly true as well. Let us have a look at how the law qualifies itself to be placed under the contentious category of DRACONIAN LAWS. We shall start with its definition and loopholes in this article and end with its consequences in the sequel to this one. Remain hooked to this space.
IPC 498A describes the harassment as a
1) Non – Bailable
3) Non Compoundable
offence. Now let us have a look into the details of the above terms. The problems with the above aspects of IPC 498A shall be dealt with shortly.
1) Non – Bailable: As soon as the case is made prima – facie, the accused shall be arrested and kept in judicial custody and bail will be given only by a 1st class metropolitan magistrate, which shall be at the discretion of the magistrate, who shall have the powers to look into the case and decide thereupon.
2) Cognizable: The accused shall be presumed GUILTY until PROVEN INNOCENT. It also puts the burden of proof to innocence on the accused, i.e., if someone has been accused of the UNLAWFUL DEMAND, as described above shall need to prove that such a demand HAS NOT BEEN MADE for acquittal. It also gives the power of arrest to the police without any arrest warrant, who can arrest the accused, if necessary, after proper investigation.
3) Non Compoundable: The complaint, of such a nature, leading to an offence under IPC 498A once made cannot be taken back by the complainant.
Having described the marketable features of this law, we will now proceed to study the loopholes contained therein. But before that let us see, how one can make a case under this law. All it needs is a written / verbal complaint from the MARRIED WOMAN or any of her relatives or any other person on her behalf or any Govt. recognized NGO to the local police against the in – laws of the MARRIED WOMAN. The FIR will be registered by the police after necessary investigation by the police and once the FIR is registered the accused will be required to be arrested and produced before the jurisdictional magistrate within 24 hours.
No where does the law define any provision for verifying the tenacity and genuinity of the complaint made or its nature, nor does it say anything about the penalty of filing a false case under this section and getting innocents arrested and unleashing a mayhem of mental torture on them. These two aspects compounded with the above definitive aspects of this law are the prime deciding factors which have been contributing to its wide and rampant misuse by unscrupulous people looking for an opportunity to make a cut by falsely implicating innocents and bargaining with them for money or other demands.
As it is very easy to file a case under this section, and very hard for the accused to get a bail or avoid the case being filed against them without acceding to the demands of the complainant and all the more hard to get the accused convicted given the loose interpretive definition of a plethora of terms in its definition, the most feasible route to use this law to ones criminalist advantages is to file a false complaint against husband and in – laws and get them arrested and fake a physical injury to deny bail to the accused in order to break them down morally and spiritually so that the fear of a trial in spite of being innocent, subsequent potential conviction and the killing fear of social ostracism drives them to a compromise and then the case is quashed, or settled out of the court. This seemingly lucrative possibility of the out of the court settlement, ending in a monetary transaction from the righteous to the not so righteous, is the most attractive bonanza acting as the lifeblood of the virus called FALSE DOWRY CASE which gives unscrupulous and anti – family elements to get their way ahead legally and be termed as a COMPLAINANT and HARASSED and COMPENSATED after the monetary settlement is executed.
We will now examine the loopholes in this law which has led to such a wide magnitude of misuse of this law spanning geographies, Diaspora and time zones as has been corroborated by statistics and figures by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) which show that 98 % of the cases are false and yet every four minutes a husband is arrested, every day an innocent child is arrested and every three hours a senior citizen is thrust unto jail under this section.
1) Case gets registered on a mere complaint. Nowadays it is not very uncommon that girls are forced to marry by their parents to well settled, nicely educated, high profile, wonderfully placed, money minting ATM machines, and these parents of the girls also spend lavishly in the marriage viewing it from a ROI (Returns on Investments) point of view. No sooner after the marriage the girl realizes that she is no longer happy in the marriage because the DREAMS she was shown prior to the marriage by her parents (often to convince her for the marriage) are mere DREAMS never meant to be realized, she starts complaining and the girls’ parents too think it as an opportunity knocking and start planning a case against the guy and his family. This sets the background for the case which gets registered sooner or later on a mere complaint. Since the innocent guy is busy shredding his perspiration giving his best shot at keeping his ATM machine full, he is caught totally unaware when the disaster strikes, let alone his parents who might not have dreamed such an ordeal even in the wildest of their nightmares, and in majority of the cases, the metamorphosis of a happily married man to a legal fighter dies prematurely and the matter ends with a monetary compromise.
2) As a monetary settlement is a very easy way out, even the executors of the legislative and the executive machinery in the law and order scenario, eyeing an opportunity in the available CUT, this misuse is patronized by them leading to its legalization under the false paradoxical sugar coated veil of WOMAN EMPOWERMENT and LIBERATION OF WOMEN. Also the Apex Court has now named this ongoing misuse as LEGAL TERRORISM.
3) Long live the Indian Legal System (still living in the dark ages), cases remain pending for years and are not settled, so the outcome of the trial happens like one in a million, hence conviction being next to impossible, the girls’ side in tandem with the legislative and executive machinery squeeze out the juice from the Man’s purse and have a field day.
4) The reason for initiating such a case as explained in the first point is just one of the many reasons leading to filing of such cases. There can be umpteen number of such reasons like, adultery, extra – marital affair, unwanted pregnancy, incestuous relationship of the girl with some of her family member, unexplained desire for no interference and financial control, extreme greed, leveling of petty marital discords under the devilish influence of false ego, pre-marital undisclosed mental disorders like Bipolar Disease, Borderline Personality Disorder, Delusional Disorder, Extreme mood swings to name a few. Under such scenarios it becomes very handy for the girls and their families to file a FALSE DOWRY CASE and get out of the marriage having made an obnoxious and inauspicious fortune.
5) But whatever be the reason, the undue sentimental balance of the legislative and executive machinery towards a particular class of women, the ease with which the case can be filed, the ease with which, on the basis of mere complaint of a lady, whose character and integrity remains to be questioned, one whole family ranging from small innocent children to pregnant sisters to aged, dependent and ailing parents are held at ransom and made to undergo unprecedented and uncalled for fury, wrath, torture, harassment, humiliation, character assassination, and many more atrocities, is also one of the major contributing factors to the spread of this family breaking disease called FALSE DOWRY CASE.
6) When we are small, we are taught many things by our parents, and other elders in the family. And sometimes it becomes necessary that we are punished as well to ensure that certain forbidden actions are never repeated nor a habit is made out of them. But as they say, TRUTH is STRANGER than FICTION, there is no, absolutely no punishment for filing a FALSE DOWRY CASE committing a crime of such a heinous nature. Rather, on the contrary, our honorable ministers are passing away the misuse falsely as a minor percentage and citing, “Mistake of facts” as the reason for the MINOR MISUSE they say is happening around. Will be covering more on the “Mistake of facts” syndrome in the sequel. This absence of punishment for alleging abuse falsely is the next major factor breast – feeding the monster called FALSE DOWRY CASE. The girls’ side very well knows that they have nothing to loose absolutely and hence they are all the more salivated to taste this piece of cake like a Labrador eyeing a bone.
7) On a brief note, the next reason lubricating the machinery of this racket of legal terrorism and legal extortion is the violation of the basic Human Rights Principle advocated by Amnesty International regarding the presumption of guilt on part of the accused. It says, the accused are to presumed INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY, while this law presumes GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT.
These are just some of the loopholes explained in brief which have cumulatively led to the spread of this disease called FALSE DOWRY CASE. There can be many more such loopholes which I might have missed / overlooked. Rest remains to be seen are the consequences of this misuse which will be covered shortly in the next article arriving at the nearest explorer very soon. Keep watching this space.