The Principle of Laissez-Faire: Government and Family

Before starting on the main content, let’s have a look at what is the principle of laissez-faire. Its dictionary definition says,

“The theory or system of government that upholds the autonomous character of the economic     order, believing that government should intervene as little as possible in the direction of economic affairs.”

The principle talks of least possible Govt. interference in economic matters. However Govt. interference is also least warranted in other sensitive areas of socio-economic scenarios as well. One of them is the family structure. Let us first see how Govt. interference the way it is now, harms the family structure.

With laws to govern family problems like,

  1. Section 498A of the IPC for cruelty by husbands and relatives to married woman, 1983.
  2. Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

To name a few lurking like a vulture over the fracas of family, the question is that, is such high level of interference by the Govt. warranted?

Should not the principle of laissez-faire be implemented in family system as well? We will come to the answer after looking at the results of the principle not being implemented.

Section 498A: Section 498A of the IPC allows any wife (read married woman) to file a complaint of harassment (whether true or false) and get her husband and in-laws arrested including pregnant women, senior citizens, small children and distant relatives who might not have even stayed with the couple. The complaint is taken at face value, no investigation is done and the entire family is whisked away to police station, terrorized, threatened, traumatized and forced to accept unreasonable demands under coercion. Extortion amount may tune up to Lakhs or Crores wherein the police, the lawyers, and sometimes even the judge get a ‘cut’ in the settlement.

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.

None of the above situations warrant a Govt. interference and the police should be the last authority allowed to interfere in such matters. However, as Truth is stranger than fiction, police is the first Governmental authority that interferes in such matters and worsens the situation. The entire state machinery is set in motion against the innocent husband.

Domestic Violence Act: While passing this Act, Honorable Minister for Women and Child Development said, this is a Diwali Gift to Indian Women. Really? Let’s have a look. The Act the way it defines Domestic Violence, allows any woman to file a case against her partner as per her whims and fancies. Simple name calling and verbal feuds have been made an offense in Domestic Violence Act. The Act does not require any evidence to be produced and allegations are taken to be prima facie true. The woman can throw the husband out of his own house; restrain him from entering as well. Her sole statement that he has violated orders can land him in prison. Now that’s a real gift I would say. What a weapon these women have to control their husbands.

Again here also, minor disputes and arguments allow a woman to bring in the Government inside the family and break it. Protection Officers often threaten and harass the husband at the instigation of the wife. Any husband, who faces such a treatment, will never be able to resume conjugal relations with his wife. As for Section 498A, similarly a case under Domestic Violence can be filed for any frivolous reason other than actual Domestic Violence and does not warrant Government interference.

We have seen the havoc such unwarranted Government interference, can create and it has actually created, the manifestation of which can be seen from the following figures,

  1. Every year almost double the number of married men are committing suicides as compared to married women and the rate of suicide of married men is increasing by six times every year compared to married women. In the last three years (2005-2007) 165,528 married men have committed suicides as compared to 88,121 women. Suicide rate of married men has gone up by 3.86% as compared to that for women which is 0.65%.
  2. In the last eleven years (1996 – 2007) 156,000 husbands have committed suicide directly due to domestic violence.
  3. In the last four years (2004 – 2007), 123,000 women have been arrested without trial or investigation, on a mere complaint under section 498A.
  4. 98% of such cases are false which are proved only after an arduous trial leading to unnecessary wastage of court time and tax payer’s money as 48% of trials in courts are petty matrimonial disputes overblown out of proportion and converted to dowry harassment cases.
  5. In the year 2007, 40 Lakhs arrests were unnecessary and unjustified.

All this is happening because currently there is a very high degree of Government interference in family matters. One of the most motivating reasons for a false is an immediate fear of arrest and no justification needed for the arrest by the police. And because of this practice a lot of frivolous cases have made their way to the courts which has not only increased the load on courts but has also impeded the path of justice for victims of the system.

Hence we see that how unwarranted Government’s interference in the family due to the absence of the laissez-faire principle has led to the foundations of the erosion of one of the oldest societal structure aka the family.

However with the recently proposed CrPC Amendment Bill 2008 which modifies the section 41-1 of the CrPC by which it will not disallow the police from making unnecessary arrests but will also necessitate the police to justify the arrest with proper investigation. For offenses punishable less than seven years, the police can issue “notice of appearance”, and if the accused does not co-operate then the police can arrest with proper justification.

However many lobbying groups are opposing the move taken by the Government. And in this case, the Government’s interference is definitely warranted and welcome to reduce its own interference on the family and apply the principle of laissez-faire.

Applying the principle of laissez-faire on the family is only going to help retain the already decaying social values where pub culture is promoted and drinkers and smokers are looked at with compassion. Rather Government’s interference is much needed there to see that the youth of the country, its future, does not get dismayed into a life sans responsibility in the name of modernism and openness. The non-application of the principle of laissez-faire in such matters and its application on unwarranted targets like family is what an ideal Government should be doing.

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