Misuse of Section 498A (dowry harassment law) has been in discussion since quite a long time. Many courts have accepted the fact about its misuse. Now the Central Govt. also looks serious on this. Law Minister M Veerappa Moily, while answering to a written question raised in Lok Sabha over misuse of Section 498A, told in the Lok Sabha that they have received a lot of complaints regarding Section 498A and they have referred the matter to the Law Commission of India for studying it. Commission will study the misuse of Section 498A, take advice and if needed will also suggest necessary changes in Section 498A. Even the states have been issued advisories to stop the misuse of Section 498A.
Law minister also asserted that the National Crime Records Bureau does not maintain any records about the misuse of Section 498A and as such the Govt. has no official figures about the misuse. However, men’s rights organizations have done various surveys and have raised the issue of misuse of Section 498A from time to time.
In a single district like the Kheeri of Uttar Pradesh, over 1000 minor girls have been arrested under Section 498A in the last 7 years without any investigation / trial. This has come to the notice of international organizations as well. A report on “Elder Abuse in India” by the United Nations talks of a law in India that protects girls from harassment from their in-laws. Some girls are misusing this law to harass their in-laws.
Save Indian Family Foundation, an organization fighting for men’s rights and Gender Equality, has prepared a detailed report on Section 498A on request from the Law Commission of Karnataka. The report recommends Section 498A to be made bailable and non-cognizable. As per figures available more than 94% of people are found innocent of those implicated under Section 498A. Foundation member Virag Dhulia says that the process to decide whether the law is being misused or not has to be made open and also the term “misuse” needs to be defined properly as the misuse is quite widespread. The misuse happens at many levels. It is expected that now the National Crime Record Bureau will keep records of the misuse happening.
498A is a strong law: If husband or his relatives harass for dowry then as per Section 498A they can be subjected to three years of imprisonment. The law engulfs even far-off relatives like husband of sister (whether they have stayed with the couple or not). It is a cognizable offense which means that arrest can happen without court order.