Women Protection in India
Women Protection in India
In recent years the criminal law of the land have undergone radical changes to provide protection to women, more emphasis have been provided to existing laws (DP Act, 498A, 406 IPC etc) and new enactments have been made (DV Act), but unfortunately the remedy is becoming worse than the ailment, which is now a well known fact as the stringent dowry laws have failed to stop the gruesome crimes for dowry/dowry deaths.
The henious nature of these laws (498-a, 406) does nothing but to sometimes result in the unlawful implementation. As these laws are non compoundable & non bailable, the chances of reconciliation between the spouses after litigation are next to nil.
The biased nature of these laws is evident from that fact that unlike almost all laws in INDIA the burden to prove innocence lie on the accused. This means as soon as the complaint is made, whichever persons are named in the complaint are accused in the eyes of law. When we go through Section 498 A which is:
Section 498a of the IPC is a criminal law in which the wife and her parental family can charge any or all of the husband’s family of physical or mental cruelty.
This law is unique to India, it not only discriminates based on gender (man vs. woman), but also discriminates against women based on their relationship with the husband. Typically, the charged family members in these cases include:
· Mostly women of all ages (unmarried, married sisters of the husband, his mother and sisters-in-law, elderly grandmothers and aunts)
· Other maternal and paternal relatives and even young children in the family.
· For every complaint filed by a woman, there are at least twice as many or more women are accused although the married couple may have never lived with any of the people mentioned in the criminal complaint.
Characteristics of 498-a, Indian Penal Code:
· Cognizable – The accused can be arrested and jailed without warrant or investigation
· Non-Compoundable – The complaint cannot be withdrawn by the petitioner (chances of living together again are lost)
· Non-Bailable – The accused must appear in the court to request bail
On a single complaint of the wife, the husband and his entire family can be packed off to behind the bars, with an estimated 40,000 such accusations per year and an average of 5 members of the husband’s family implicated in each of these 498-a cases, about 200,000/- people are directly affected by these cases.
The judicial recognition of blatant misuse of these laws is not anew, way back in 1987, The Hon’ble Court In Balbir Singh Vs. The State Of Punjab, observed:
“Though the amendments introduced in the penal code are with the laudable object of eradicating the evil of Dowry, such provisions cannot be allowed to be misused by the parents and the relatives of a psychopath wife who may have chosen to end her life for reason which may be many other than cruelty. The glaring reality cannot be ignored that the ugly trend of false implications in view to harass and blackmail an innocent spouse and his relatives, i.e. fast emerging. It Is The Time To Stop This Unhealthy Trend Which Results In Unnecessary Misery And Torture To Numerous Effected Persons.”
In Jasbir Kaur v/s State of Haryana, the Punjab & Haryana high Court rightly observed that an estranged wife will go to any extent to rope in as many relatives of the husband as possible in a desperate effort to salvage whatever remains on an estranged marriage.
In Kanaraj vs. State of Punjab, the Hon’ble Apex Court observed:
“For the fault of the husband the in-laws or other relatives cannot in all cases be held to be involved. The acts attributed to such persons have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt and they cannot be held responsible by mere conjectures and implications. The tendency to rope in relatives of the husband as accused has to be curbed”
Karnataka High Court, in the case of State Vs. Srikanth, observed “Roping in of the whole of the family including brothers and sisters-in-law has to be depreciated unless there is a specific material against these persons, it is down right on the part of the police to include the whole of the family as accused.”
The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Mohd. Hoshan vs. State of A.P. observed “Whether one spouse has been guilt of cruelty to the other is essentially a question of fact. The impact of complaints, accusation or taunts on a person amounting to cruelty depends on various factors like the sensitivity of the victim concerned, the social background, the environment, education etc. Further, mental cruelty varies from person to person depending on the intensity of the sensitivity, degree of courage and endurance to withstand such cruelty. Each case has to be decided on its own facts whether mental cruelty is made out.”
Justice Malimath Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System, Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, 2003 observed the following and gave the recommendation to amend the law immediately:
“In less tolerant impulsive woman may lodge an FIR even on a trivial act. The result is that the husband and his family may be immediately arrested and there may be a suspension or loss of job. The offence alleged being non-bailable, innocent persons languish in custody. There may be a claim for maintenance adding fuel to fire, if the husband cannot pay. She may change her mind and get into the mood to forget and forgive. The husband may realize the mistakes committed and come forward to turn a new leaf for a loving and cordial relationship. The woman may like to seek reconciliation. But this may not be possible due to the legal obstacles. Even if she wishes to make amends by withdrawing the complaint, she can not do so as the offence is non compoundable. The doors for returning to family life stand closed. She is thus left at the mercy of her natal family. It is pertinent to note here that, the real sufferers of the evil of dowry, the rural indian women are not even sensitized about their rights, and fail to make use of these laws.”
Despite the various guidelines/recommendations of the Supreme Court of India and Justice Malimath Committee that the working of these laws should be reviewed and reformed with change in time, so that innocents are protected, and false complaints made with malafide intention are not registered, the suggested amendment to the law has been largely ignored. Unconstrained, this social evil is threatening the foundation of the Indian Family system. Feminists are now demanding even more teeth to the existing women laws, and more & more laws are being enacted for women. But the real sufferers are not sentisized enough to make use of these laws, and these laws are getting misused in the hands of some clever Indian wives.