Anti Dowry Laws – Use or Misuse

Article for Blog Post Writing Competition 2011 | by Jitendra Gautam


April 10th, 201110:59 pm


Dowry or Dahej  is the payment in cash or / and kind by the bride’s family to the bridegroom’ s family along with the giving away of the bride ( called Kanyadaan) in  Indian marriage .  Kanyadanam is an important part of  Hindu marital rites. Kanya  means daughter, and dana means gift.

Dowry originated in upper caste families as the wedding gift to the bride from her family.  The dowry was later given to help with marriage expenses and became a form of insurance in the case that her in-laws mistreated her.  Although the dowry was legally prohibited in 1961, it continues to be highly institutionalized.  The groom often demands a dowry consisting of a large sum of money, farm animals, furniture, and electronics.

Dowry is one of the biggest social evils facing our country, and no civilized society should tolerate this, and every effort should be made to eradicate this evil. People giving and demanding dowry should be punished so severely that it deters to other such persons. But very often these laws formulated to help sufferer and to save them from guilty ones, are being misused by some unscrupulous wives to wreak havoc on husband and family.

In recent years the criminal law of the land have undergone radical changes to provide protection to women, more teeth 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.

While dealing with this interesting topic first of all I shall be dealing about its usefulness in in the present society and then I shall be dealing about its disadvantages i.e misuse done by the wife or their family member against the husband and his other family members.

Use of anti-dowry laws

The major part of its usefulness and the motive of passing such a law is to save the bride from undue harassment by her husband or other family members for the demand of dowry which is undoubtedly a practice done heavily in most of the parts of India.

The practice of dowry abuse is rising in India. When the dowry amount is not considered sufficient or is not forthcoming, the bride is often harassed, abused threatened or denunciation of throwing out of the house is given by the husband and his family members.Their life is made miserable.  The most severe is “bride burning”, the burning of women whose dowries were not considered sufficient by their husband or in-laws.  Most of these incidents are reported as accidental burns in the kitchen or are disguised as suicide. As per the latest report 8172 dowry death cases have been registered in India in 2008. It is evident that there exist deep rooted prejudices against women in India. Cultural practices such as the payment of dowry tend to subordinate women in Indian society.

Seeing all about this and its ill-effects in society the legislature drafted Dowry Prohibition Bill in 1961 for womenprotection. This law works as a boon for the victims because they get quick response through it. In 1983, Section 498A of the IPC defined a new cognizable offence, namely, ‘cruelty by husband or relatives of husband’. This means that once such a complaint is registered by the victim or any of her relatives, the police have no option but to take action. If a person is charged under Anti-dowry law, a non bailable warrant is issued and the police is bound to take necessary step against the husband and his family.

Misuse of the Anti-Dowry law

When we take into account about the misuse of anti-dowry law a large number of false cases comes into picture against different people along with their family member. Latest case in this regard is involvement of HRD Union Minister Sh.Arjun Singh in a criminal case filled by the wife of his grand son against her husband & his other family members including the said Minister through her father for demanding dowry from them. Although the local UP police has requested that this case is transferred to CBI to do the investigation & conduct its proceedings in the court. Now when a Union Minister is involved in such a case the government doesn’t want to take any risk in its investigation, but what about other cases which concern ordinary citizens in such issues?

The anti-dowry law is more often being misused than used and caution should be exercised by the judiciary in dealing with such cases, Delhi High Court Chief Justice VikramajitSen-“Don’t allow it to happen as the misuse of Section 498(A) of the Act (which allows criminal proceedings against husbands and their relatives) often nullifies the genuineness of the cases. This is a note of caution”. He said this while giving a seminar in New Delhi.

I don’t understand why the women misuses these laws perhaps it may be because of the following reason:-

1) To get money from husband. Extortion rackets doing large scale business based on these laws as a full time profession (In a way you will not find the scam by the time its too late). Many corrupt lawyers and police strongly incite and assist the girl in doing this extortion and typically get 20% of cut. That is usually girl files a false complaint at the behest of individuals interested in money (Typically their own mothers or fathers in addition to others involved in getting a share of the spoils) and puts the guy and his entire family in jail and blackmails for money. If she succeds in say getting 20 laks, police get 4 lakhs and judge gets 4 lakhs.

2) To go with ex-boyfriend, hidden diseases etc. come to be known after marriage. Then they want to get out of marriage with drawing out money spent in marriage and file these false cases to black-mail.

3) Not able to adjust to the new family.

This abuse is so common in India that 98% of the cases filed in India based on these laws have been proven to be false in a court of law. Supreme Court of India has termed the abuse of these laws as “Legal Terrorism”. Still this is not being abolished.

Conclusion

We all know that every coin has its two sides and so is the case with any law. It has its own importance and is criticized also in the same civil society. And when the law is for the sake of a particular section of the society, it is very much probable that the benefitting section may misuse it because no one is ideal in this world. The misuse of law doesn’t held it to be void but yes some amendments can be done to diminish it. But, the main responsibility lies on the women who have to understand that such a law is passed for them and like other women to protect them from harassment and torture. So they should not misuse it to derive wrong benefit from it. They have to retain the spirit of this law for the sake of those who really need it.

Article by-

Jitendra Gautam, student
B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.)
Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya NLU,
Lucknow

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