Written by Nivedita Choudhuri
It was a mellow evening. I was chatting to a friend I had not seen for ages. He looked a bit disturbed, which was quite unusual for a person who is always full of beans. When I asked him what the matter was, he told me he had read something in the newspaper that morning that had made him uneasy. It was the tragic story of a 71-year-old man who had committed suicide after his daughter-in-law threatened to file police complaints against him and his son under Sec 498A IPC (commonly known as the dowry law).
My friend then told me about another article he had read on the rampant misuse of the dowry law in India. “It makes me wonder if 498A and its related operations should henceforth be referred to as 498A India Ltd,” he mused. “If the government wanted to list 498A India Ltd in any of the stock exchanges today, it would certainly be listed as a Navratna company.”
Asked to clarify, he reeled off statistics he had come across in the story. “Take for instance growth. 498A India Ltd has grown at a faster rate than any industry in India, be it IT or finance. This sector has grown by almost 120 per cent in 12 years and registered phenomenal returns though investment has been practically nil. From just over 28,000 cases in 1995, the number of cases grew to 63,000 in 2007.”
“The company’s organisational activities have touched the lives of almost 10,00,000 people since 1999,” he continued, referring to the hapless men and their parents, siblings and other relatives who have been put behind bars due to the frivolous complaints levelled against them by their wives, daughters-in-law and sisters-in-law. “The average amount needed to apply for bail is Rs 10,000 per person. The revenue generated by the government from the bail amount (simply multiply 10,00,000 by 10,000) would be phenomenal. Add to that the large sums devious wives extract from husbands merely by threatening to lodge Sec 498A against them. It’s a blooming industry.”
I nodded my head as I tried to calculate what the final amount would be, but gave up as there were far too many zeroes for me to handle. “Of course,” added my friend, “the bail amount is to be returned to the persons concerned at the end of the trial. But how many people actually get it back? After doing the rounds of courts to prove their innocence, are they in a fit state to run around once again to reclaim the bail amount? In India, around 30 per cent of bail applications are posted for the 498A accused. 498A India Ltd is a powerful weapon that forces the husband’s family to become the proverbial goose which is then forced to lay golden eggs for all the ‘shareholders’ of the company.”
I was now all ears. The statistics were mindboggling indeed. My friend continued. “The company 498A India Ltd has not changed its product in the last 25 years, but the use of the product has skyrocketed. No tests have been done by the company to study the effects of its products on the people against whom they are applied. The parties using the products get richer by a few crores and the parties on whom the products are used suffer irrespective of age, gender, caste, class or disability.
“The board of directors has total immunity from prosecution and 498A India Ltd prides itself in taking good care of its customers. Now, the products of 498A are so much in demand that more such companies – Domestic Violence Act India Ltd have been started. Looking at 498A India Ltd’s stupendous success, the shareholders – mainly wives – do not want to dilute or modify its products as that will result in diminished returns for the company and its shareholders.”
I was suitably impressed by the economics behind 498A. It was good to know that something was shining in India despite a recession existing elsewhere in the world.