Misuse/Abuse of IPC Section 498A in India
In urban India, the majority of families have adequate knowledge regarding the IPC Section 498A, commonly known as the “dowry-law”, which was introduced in an attempt to eliminate DOWRY. As per this law, although both giving and taking of dowry is illegal, the dowry seeker will have more problems. Most cases where Sec 498A is invoked turn out to be false as they are mere blackmail attempts by the wife (or her close relatives) when faced with a crumbling marriage.
Section 498 (A) of the Indian Penal Code makes it mandatory for the police to file charges against the husband, his parents and other relatives/friends (whoever being named on the complaint by the wife or her close relatives) and put them in jail. There is no penalty (even a fine) for filing a false case.
This section is non-bailable, non-compoundable (complaint can't be quashed) and cognizable (arrests without investigation or warrants). There have been instances where, without any investigation, the police have arrested elderly parents and grand-parents, unmarried sisters, pregnant sister-in-laws and even 3 year old children
. Some falsely accused parents, sisters and even husbands have committed suicide after spending time in jail. As per the census statistics on indiastat.com, married/divorced men in India have a suicide rate that is 3.2 times higher than married women, whereas before marriage, it stands almost equal.
Currently, there is no law/ways for the husband and his relatives to escape harassment from the wife, if she looses tolerance and respect for other's emotions. Also, in-laws are deeply resented, and if a bride's drive is affected or is molded by her parents based on her knowledge of this section for their own mundane selfish reasons. It is estimated that about 25,000 dowry cases are filed in India every year, 65% are dismissed by the courts because they are blatantly false and the rest are settled out of court after the wife or her parent’s monetary demands have been met.
There is strong affirmation from several judges and the Malimath committee that this section needs amendments (bailable/compoundable/apply to husband) before it inflicts irreparable damage to the institution of marriage. In the ‘High Court of Karnataka’s judgment, Crl.A. no. 589 of 2003, made on 4-9-2003 (case of M.F.Saldhana & M.S. Rajendra Prasad JJ), the Judge stated that in about 45% cases prosecution is thoroughly unjustified. There are other rulings from different parts of the country where Judges have questioned the Law commission of India’s decision to keep this Section in its same form (eg: MANU/AP/0979/2002, Ms. Saritha vs. Ramachandra).
In most parts of the civilized world, domestic issues are resolved by civil laws. In criminal law, a person is innocent until proven guilty based on evidence. As per the draconian Indian dowry law, the man, his family and his friends are considered guilty without any evidence being required, are jailed, harassed, and subjected to extortion and stigmatization until proven innocent. There is no way that a wife would acquire a part of her husband's property or a lump sump payment from him, when marriage is irretrievably broken within a couple of years. This is the main reason for the misuse of the dowry laws. They are being used as a tool for blackmail to extort money out of the in-laws.
It does not cost anything to file a 498A, and there is no penalty (or even a fine) for filing a false dowry complaint. Some wives and in-laws are resorting to the misuse of 498A if the US citizen is unable to sponsor the entire family to come live in the USA. The US Department of State has already posted a warning for its citizens in the "CRIMINAL PENALTIES"
section, about traveling to India for marriage, retrospectively, to avoid 498A.
- An online Yahoo community is actively trying to oppose and campaign to bring about changes in the act, so that the unscrupulous dont misuse it - misusedowryact
- Sangyabalya - http://victimof498a.tripod.com/id6.html
Sites dedicated to expose the abuse of 498Amost sites contain articles related to the abuse of 498A, compiled from various sources
- Misuse of Dowry Act - http://www.saveindianfamily.com/misuse.html
- Dowry Act Misuse and Lawyer profiling - http://victimof498a.tripod.com
- Dowry Act Misuse and Victims of 498A - http://misuseof498a.clawz.com
- My side of the story - http://gokul.go.to
- http://gender-indian.blogspot.com/ (commentary on various judgments and news article which relate to gender not limited to 498A or dowry abuse)
- Victim of Dowry-Immigration Fraud http://www.irandokht.com/editorial/print.php?area=par§ionID=27&editorialID=844