Misuse of 498A, Domestic Violence, Maintenance, Dowry Laws

About Beaula Singh: She is a leading lawyer in Bangalore and her expertise is in family related cases. She takes up cases related to Divorce, RCR, Child Custody, Child visitation, Domestic Violence, maintenance, transfer petitions etc. She is having around 18 years of experience in this area. She is very efficient, accessible, capable and trust worthy. She takes up the cases in Bangalore family court and Karnataka High Court.

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 has unfortunately burnt the object of its concern. A bad piece of legislation which came into force despite lot of criticism and apprehensions on its misuse, an embarking on the part of our lawmakers to assuage the fairer sex without any thought process to it. Needless to say, the fundamental principle of every legal system is to enact laws for the ultimate object of punishing the guilty and protecting the victim, but the said act brought more murk than light and left the urban men folk in a dilemma of sorts.

The term ‘violence’ under The Domestic Violence Act should have provided for all kinds of violence in a household rather than only violence against woman. Are women always nonviolent? ? There could be those odd cases where the reverse holds true. Even if cases of violence against men are rare why should they go unprotected and be viewed on a different footing than that of a woman. There could always be the motley few men experiencing the opposite and carrying their predicament without legal remedies. A crime is a crime whether against one or many.

It is true that women in India were oppressed and were treated as a foot rug, but today they have dismantled the confines of their restrictions and come a long way, wielding the batons of power not only at the political, economical and social front but also in their own individual homes where men have become a bone of contention for some of those women, a few of whom who feel that the only way they can quench their so called liberated and emancipated views is by putting into full use such statutes which give them unfettered powers and a few other women who feel that being vengeful and rancorous is the best form of wisdom and hence resort to using such draconian laws as a reprisal tool acting to the advantage of their devious minds and alas the sufferers are those men, at the receiving end who are timid at heart and unable to voice their bruised egos and suppressed chauvinism.

Being the worlds largest democracy, our Constitution provides for equality and dignity of all human beings,. Article 15 of the Constitution guarantees that state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, but on the contrary Sec. 32 (2) of the Domestic Violence Act gives unequivocal powers to a woman who is the so called aggrieved person under the Act which states that "under the sole testimony of the aggrieved person, the court may conclude that an offence has been committed by the accused. Section 498 (a) of the Indian Penal Code was also more misused than used. Such provisions bestowing absolute powers on the fairer sex is more likely to be enormously misused specially in a country like ours where either it take years to procure justice or in one of those rare instances, if at all justice is procured early, there still are other hurdles to encounter such as corruption, muscle power and money which stalls its execution. Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, The Dowry Prohibition Act and now the Domestic Violence Act, all these are being manipulated. Unfortunately such legislations find the light of day because of certain preconceived notions that men are brutal by nature, with a dominating mentality and an irresistible urge to treat a woman like dirt, or just to have a women around to satisfy their biological instincts. But the question is, are all women saintly, perfect soul mates and at the receiving end, Of course not. Sure there are many out there who can be nagging, quarrelsome and scheming with an obnoxious nature all out to derange and totally disrupt a mans sanity and bring out the beast in him.

The question, therefore, is what remedial measures can be taken to prevent the abuse of well intentioned provisions of the legislation. Merely because the provision is constitutional and intravires and well intended to those oppressed women, it does not mean that any unscrupulous person is being licensed to unleash harassment or cause inflictions to gratify his/her personnel vendetta against the other or do away with someone undesirable. There are many cases that are not bonafide and filed under the parasol of this act where an innocent soul is subjected to disgrace and though may be acquitted at the end of the trial, he still faces the wrath of the society, ignominy of the trial, antipathy of his kith and kin and is left scarred for life. Besides the so called accused is presumed to be a criminal even from the inception of the case and that’s how he’s looked at with hostility and aversion. Hence by misusing the act, a new set of legal problems could be encountered opening way to the dawn of an embittered group of those youth/men who end up forming groups like SIFF since they have been victimized by the enactment of such laws lenient to women.

So many legislations have been passed to protect women and their rights but the biggest question one should ask is whether these legislations have been a panacea to any individual because even if some relief is granted by the courts, the ordeal doesn’t end there. There are so many other Pandora boxes opening and paving way for extortion, multiplicity of suits like divorce, custody besides the total breakdown of a family and in many instances husbands resorting to suicides, depression in addition to unleashing a new era of terrorism. To conclude no matter however explicit the relief may seem, it is yet beyond the reach of the victim and the abuser. A legislation such as this primarily focuses only about the vulnerability of a woman to violence but never has contemplated the plight of harassed husbands.

What are we trying to say, should the law take a lenient view when it comes to women and still in other spheres cry out that women should not be discriminated but treated at par with men. Liberation of women does not necessarily imply that she should be propitiously treated in the eyes of law, instead emancipation should mean equality under the law irrespective of gender . The equality of men and women has been accepted as a fundamental principle of human rights since the adoption of the United Nations Charter in 1945. Many international have highlighted the need for countries to take action against discriminatory practices. Why is India not woken up to such harsh realities Legal egalitarianism requires that each person is to be treated equally since all men are created equal.

As far as the said act is concerned, the only remedial measures that can be set in place is that investigating agencies and courts must make every effort to see that complaints are genuine and not maliciously filed with a tenuous motive to make the innocent suffer The Act should be amended so as to be a deterrent to those women who misuse the law to their advantage to get rid of husbands and indulge in infidelity. Sections 498(A) (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty), 304/B (dowry death), 306 (abetment to suicide) of the Indian Penal Code and now The Domestic Violence Act are all, literally weapons in the hands of a woman to strip a man off his sanity and all these acts are in favour of women.

To conclude, we ought to have laws that are not discriminatory and the paraphernalia of equality should be emphasized, fostered and encouraged so that mankind will develop mutual trust and respect for one another irrespective of the gender.

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