Dr. Brahm A. Agrawal, Member Secretary
LAW COMMISSION OF INDIA, 2nd Floor, The Indian Law Institute Building
(Opp. to Supreme Court), Bhagwandas Road, New Delhi – 110 001.
Sub: Open Letter to the Law Commission of India about amendment of Section 498A
I would like to highlight certain perspectives about Section 498A which are very essential and crucial to be brought forth before we talk about any change in it.
Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code is a non-bailable, cognizable and non-compoundable offense introduced in the year 1983. As your paper already contains the definition and explanation of the same from the Government’s point of view, I am not going to elaborate on the same. Rather I am going to highlight the legal aspects of this section which have probably and unfortunately been overlooked by the Government, either during its formulation and/or its implementation.
Section 498A is an inter-gender and intra-gender biased piece of legislation having its own set in-built assumptions and presumptions. It starts with the onset that this law has been enacted to prevent “Cruelties against married women by their husbands and his relatives”. This assumption that only a “young wife” could be subjected to cruelty in marriage and only at the hands of husbands and relatives is a very dangerous one because it puts all husbands and all wives into a meme called “Criminal Men Victim Women Syndrome.”
- Has the Government of India ever conducted any study to validate the above assumption?
- Has the Government of India ever spent any amount of effort/budget to evaluate the nature of problems that occur in a marriage from a gender neutral perspective?
- Has the Government of India ever conducted single study about the problems faced by Indian men in general and Indian Husbands in particular?
- Has the Government of India ever allocated a single rupee towards the welfare of men in India?
- Is the Government of India aware of the fact that large scales of suicides are committed by men in India especially by married and separated men?
If the answer to any of the above questions is not positive, than on what basis has the Government of India enacted a special anti-male and draconian provision to penalize innocent men and their families merely at the behest of an uninvestigated complaint fueled by stereotypical and perverted social mindsets?
That being said, in wake of the reality that the Indian Penal Code is already well-equipped with provisions to deal with crimes like murder, attempt to murder, abetment to suicide, culpable homicide not amounting to murder, blackmail, threatening, physical abuse, kidnapping, extortion, robbery, etc. etc. in a completely gender neutral manner, the introduction of Section 498A, that merely provides the facility of “Arrest on Demand” sans evidence, is a clear gender bias displayed by the Govt. of India against husbands.
Is the Government of India, by way of introduction of Section 498A and its reluctance to sanitize the law, trying to drive home the fact that until and unless women are provided with a law that does not question them and punishes men blindly, justice cannot be served to them?
The statements issued by the ministry of Women and Child Development Ministry about how Section 498A helps women negotiate in bad marriages clearly enunciates the real hidden agenda behind rallying for such laws. The so-called women’s rights activists do want a law which can be used as a tool to treat the husband as a FREE ATM MACHINE when the marriage does not work, or otherwise.
However, it is sad and unfortunate that the misandrists are allowed to have their way by way of state aided machinery aka the notorious Section 498A. Holding a man and his family under the imminent fear of arrest, blackmailing him into conceding before the demands of the wife, under the tool of fear created by a wrong law, is nothing short of “Legal Terrorism” as aptly pointed out by the Honorable Supreme Court of India.
Such state sponsored legal terrorism leads to disastrous social consequences by creating fringe groups who see no meaning in leading their lives as is corroborated by the suicide statistics mentioned in the next section.
The statement by the Women and Child Development Ministry that women go to the police station as a last resort is again a misleading gimmick as there have been innumerable instances brought to light either via media or via court judgments, wherein women have filed 498A for the flimsiest or silliest grounds, even for the husband incapable of buying a perfume worth Rs. 5000. When women can file false criminal cases leveling allegations as serious as attempt to murder and dowry harassment that can completely ruin the life of a man and his family whereas the truth is something else, there can absolutely be no reason to live under the assumption that a woman goes to a police station as a last resort and allow legal terrorism against husbands to continue unabated under Section 498A.
Section 498A is a legal means of criminalizing the institution of marriage and holds the husband as criminal whereas the marriage might have failed for any reason. It blindly assumes the statements given by the complainant wife as “GOSPEL TRUTH” and puts the burden of proof on the accused which is against the cardinal principles of natural justice and also violates the principle of Human Rights as prescribed by the Amnesty International which says that no individual is to be presumed “Guilty Until Proven Innocent”, however, Section 498A does exactly the same.
As we have seen above some of the very dangerous aspects of Section 498A legally and socially, it is pertinent to mention here that the notorious and draconian Section 498A has some serious negative psychological impact on the individuals on whom it is targeted especially husbands as is clearly evident from the suicide figures as published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) – a unit of the Union Home Ministry
A brief glance about the figures:
2005: 52483 married men vs. 28188 married women
2006: 55452 married men vs. 29869 married women
2007: 57593 married men vs. 30064 married women
2008: 57639 married men vs. 30224 married women
2009: 58192 married men vs. 31300 married women
Also as per the suicide figures, the rate of suicide is highest and growing amongst married/separated men – a clear indication of the dangers that the institution of marriage brings for men and the expectations that it brings along from them. Yet, the Govt. of India is not ready to recognize this abuse of men.
There have been numerous instances wherein; a mere mention (not even a direct threat) of Section 498A or its related terms like arrest, dowry case, etc. have led to either men resorting to commit suicide or kill their wives with the former being on a much higher scale and a few sporadic instances of husbands killing their wives being reported and the root cause of murder was a threat of a case under Section 498A like Amit Buddhiraja and Satheesh Gupta of Infosys – both of whom killed their wives after being threatened with a false case of Section 498A. Amit Buddhiraja committed suicide himself as well.
This is just the tip of iceberg but if the abuse of men and their families continues unabated, it will only lead to rise in suicide by husbands and spousal violence, which will be fueled by unconstitutional laws like Section 498A and promulgated by the inaction of the Govt. of India on the same.
Some other famous cases of husband-victimization under Section 498A:
- February 2008: Young Pushkar Singh from Lucknow commits suicide unable to bear the torture from his wife and Section 498A.
- August 13, 2009: Young Shubhankar Katyayan ends his life hounded by a greedy and cruel wife and meted out injustice by the insensitive legal system that instead of hearing to his plea subjected him to the threats of Section 498A.
- May 17 2009: Auto rickshaw driver Lokesh commits suicide as the police turn a deaf ear to his complaints against his wife and force him to stay with her else face arrest under Section 498A.
- April 14 2009: Syed Makhdoom commits suicide unable to bear the pressure mounted on him under Section 498A which did not allow him to meet his son who meant the world to him.
These and numerous many such instances have come forth in recent times wherein husbands have not only been subjected to inhuman treatment and taken for granted but have been criminalized under Section 498A despite the fact that they were actually victims of domestic violence at the hands of their wives.
Problems with the way Section 498A is structured
The above mentioned cases and numerous many such instances have happened only because currently all marital disputes are viewed through the single mindset prism called “Crimes against Women” and Section 498A is one such tool which blindly and ubiquitously paints all husbands as criminals and all wives as victims and as such truth is never revealed.
Numerous authorities have raised their voices of dissent against 498A starting from the Honorable Supreme Court of India to the Honorable President of India to the former Chief Justice to Malimath Committee. Even the Home Ministry has issued guidelines asking the police to not to rush to arrest husband and his family in 498A cases. Even the Law Commission of Karnataka had requested Save Indian Family Foundation – a non-profit, non-funded NGO creating awareness about the ill-effects of Section 498A on the society – to present a report on the consequences of Section 498A and the changes sought in it.
And the fact that still today, there is reluctance in the Govt. of India to amend this section, only shows the apathy of a Govt. that has allowed itself to be hijacked by people with vested interests, towards the well-being of its citizens.
The survey sought has no meaning as it is not that Section 498A is a well-intentioned law gone awry due to awful implementation by police and lawyers. Section 498A suffers from a bad definition to begin with and relies on unsubstantiated assumptions to end with. Such a law is either better done away with or at least be made bailable and non-cognizable so that its use as a facility for “Arrest on Demand” and a “Negotiation Tool for failed marriages” can be prevented for the larger benefit of the society.
I will be ending the letter here with a note that any other change in Section 498A would merely be eyewash to pacify voices of dissent by citizens against an unconstitutional law.