Court concerned over
misuse of dowry laws
New Delhi, October 8
Expressing concern over misuse of penal provisions for harassment to women for dowry and subjecting them to cruelty, a Delhi court has counselled women to get out of the sour marital relations rather than being revengeful.
The court’s concern and advice found a place in a ruling by Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau upholding the acquittal of a man and his three family members from the charges of harassing his wife. She expressed concern over the misuse of dowry laws citing a Supreme Court verdict which termed it as “legal terrorism.”
“I may observe that Section 498A (subjecting woman to cruelty) of the IPC in the recent years has become a consummate embodiment of gross human rights violation, extortion and corruption and even the apex court had acknowledged this abuse and termed it as legal terrorism,” ASJ Lau said.
The court counselled women to get out of discordant marital relations, quoting Sahir Ludhianvi.
“Taaruf rog ho jaaye to usko bhoolna behtar; Taalluk bojh ban jaaye to usko todna achcha; Wo afsaana jise anjaam tak laana na ho mumkin; Use ek khoobsoorat mod dekar chhodna achcha,” the court said.
The court gave the order upholding a magisterial court order which acquitted woman’s husband Sanjay Kumar, his father Vijay Kumar, mother Beena Devi and brother Ranjeet of the charges of subjecting his wife to cruelty for dowry. – PTI
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A rethink has been initiated for
Section 498 A of IPC by the Law Commission of India’s ‘Consultation
paper-cum-Questionnaire.’ The law meant to protect married women from the abuse
of dowry and cruelty has been misused by some women.
Rethink on ‘Legal
What is 498 A— Section 498A was introduced into IPC by the Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, 1983 to prevent cruelty to a woman by her husband or his relatives that was reportedly rampant. In order to make the impact of this section deterrent in nature, the crime was made punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three years and also liable to fine.
A rethink on 498 A— After witnessing an unprecedented hue and cry over the use and misuse of Section 498 A, The Law Commission of India has come out with a document, “Consultation Paper-cum-Questionnaire regarding Section 498A of Indian Penal Code (IPC),” at the initiative of the Supreme Court through the Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India to elicit ‘informed public opinion.’
In scores of cases across India, the courts have witnessed misuse of section 498 A, while deciding disputes of domestic nature. The law, designed to help women regain social and economic empowerment in a highly patriarchal society, has been misused in several cases, as is observed even by the apex court. As was in the case of Preeti Gupta v. State of Jharkhand ( 2010) and Sushil Kumar Sharma v. UOI (2005), where not only the husband but all his immediate relations were implicated under false charges.
Such acts of ‘over-implication,’ are often resorted with the sole motive to wreck personal vendetta, unleashing a sort of ‘new legal terrorism.’
What should be done to rein this tendency of ‘abuse’, ‘over-reach’ or ‘over-implication’, which of course cannot be the justifiable purpose of criminal law? To find a solution, The Law Commission in its consultation-paper has crystallised at least two different views. One view, which finds support from the observations of the apex court and also the recommendations of Malimath Committee’s report on Reforms of Criminal Justice System, is in favour of ‘relieving the rigour’ of section 498A of IPC by making the offence under the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) as compoundable and bailable instead of non-compoundable and non-bailable.
The other opposite view echoed, inter alia, by the Ministry of Women and Child Development is in favour of maintaining the status quo. In their view, the provisions of section 498A of IPC have been specifically enacted to protect vulnerable married women, who are the victims of cruelty and harassment at the hands of their husbands and their close relatives.
The consultation paper also brings to the fore a third view with some variants, which seem to cut across the two extreme positions as mentioned above. One variation is that the offence under section 498A of IPC should be made ‘compoundable’ with the permission of the court, as has been done by the State of Andhra Pradesh. However, there is sharp difference of opinions on the second variant, namely, whether the offence under this section should also be made ‘bailable’, at least with regard to husband’s relations.
Moreover, while the Commission is appreciative of the need to discourage unjustified and frivolous complaints, ‘it is not inclined to take a view that dilutes the efficacy of s. 498A to the extent of defeating its purpose- to protect women against atrocities.
However, having adopted this clear stance, the Commission has hastened to add : ‘A balanced and holistic view has to be taken on weighing the pros and cons. There is no doubt a need to address the misuse situations and arrive at a
rational solution – legislative or otherwise.’
The Commission is in search of a ‘rational solution – legislative or otherwise’ through its questionnaire. It has suggested that there is a dire need to create awareness about the penal provisions of the section amongst the poor and hapless rural women ‘who face quite often the problems of drunken misbehaviour,’ by having ‘easy access’ to the Taluka and District level Legal Services Authorities and/or credible NGOs. The Commission has also reminded the lawyers and the police, what is expected of them ‘morally and legally.’
Perhaps the more pragmatic point that the Law Commission has made relates to the linkage of section 498A of IPC with the provisions of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Such a linkage is evident at least in two respects. Firstly, in the exposition of ‘domestic violence’ under section 3 of the Act that encompasses the situation set out in the definition of cruelty under section 498A of the Code. This implies that there exists commonality of objective between the Code and the Act in terms of providing protection to married women from ‘domestic violence’ or ‘cruelty’.
Secondly, there is also a ‘functional-linkage’ as is found in the provisions of the Act itself that makes the Magistrate play pivotal role in protecting the married women.
The critical question still remains to be answered is, how to prevent the abuse of section 498A without diluting its deterrent effect? To answer this central issue, we need to remind ourselves that women seek defence outside home only under duress, and the protective umbrella of section 498A offers it.
The problem is essentially civil in nature and, therefore, is required to be handled by the civil court under the cognate provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, and not by the criminal court under penal provisions of section 498A. This would enable the civil court to sort out matters of over-reach and over-implications with the added advantage of exploring the possibility of matrimonial reconciliation.
In the event, the Magistrate decides that a particular case falls in the realm of criminal law without the possibility of resuscitating the matrimonial relationship, he may pass an appropriate order for its trial by the criminal court.
The writer is Director (Academics), Chandigarh Judicial Academy, Chandigarh.
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Top cops to be just an SMS away
Manish Sirhindi /TNS
Panipat, July 21
Harassment of the crime victims at the hands of police
personnel will soon become a thing of the past as the Haryana Police has
introduced an SMS-based complaint system through which the complainants will be
able to reach the top functionaries of the department by just sending an SMS.
The latest initiative that has been introduced in all districts falling under
the Rohtak range, was the brain child IG V Kamaraj, who said that his office had
been receiving a number of complaints against police personnel for not
registering FIRs or harassing the victims of the crimes. He said keeping this in
mind, it was decided to set up a computer-based complaint management system that
the general public can assess through an SMS.
The IG said a number 999600777 had been made public on which the complainants
could send an SMS if they had any issues with the Police Department. He said
following the SMS, the SHO concerned would have to submit a written reply to his
office explaining as to why no case was registered on the complaint filed by the
The system has been put in place in Rohtak, Jhajjar, Sonepat, Panipat and
Karnal districts. Any SMS sent on the said number will be received directly in
the IG office, who assured that prompt action would be taken on it. Kamaraj said
the system would provide the much-needed relief to the crime victims.
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Put all new FIRs online: Delhi HC
The landmark order, passed by a division bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Manmohan, said it’s the duty of the police to provide information and the accused does not need to move court to get a copy of an FIR.
“Fair and impartial investigation is a facet of Article 21 of the Constitution and presumption as regards the innocence of an accused is a right. Therefore, a person booked under criminal law has a right to know the nature of allegations so that he can take necessary steps to safeguard his liberty,” the bench said.
Earlier, additional solicitor general A S Chandiok and amicus curie Arvind Nigam submitted their suggestions on the matter.
The counsel had said that recording of an FIR was an official act of a public official in discharge of his or her official duties and, therefore, it was a public document within the meaning of Section 74 of the Evidence Act, 1872.
The court said an accused was entitled to get a copy of the FIR earlier than what’s prescribed under Section 207 of the Criminal Procedure Code (which says the FIR would be supplied through a magistrate’s order after the accused moves court).
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