Marriage is considered as one of the most important unions of human life. However, under the beautiful veil of marriage, hide social crimes such as dowry, but this social evil has been used as a tool of harassment, extortion and exploitation also.
Dowry is a practice of the bride’s family paying the groom and his family in terms of money and/or valuable items. Many-a-times dowry is asked expressly and in other times, implied as a “gift” for the married couple.
A substantial amount of victims are directly women. India has likewise passed various laws providing help and security from it. Some of these include, The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005; Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961and other provisions in the Indian Penal Code, 1860. However, these laws grant direct protection only to ‘women’.
While many cases may be genuine, there are also such who use these protective laws to gain unfair advantage. Corrupt brides/wives use this as a tool to devastate grooms/husbands and their families only for the sake of luring money out of them.
Domestic violence is never just against women, it can be against any person, regardless of gender or family role. Likewise, it can be against men as well. But there are no provisions in any law to protect a man. Accordingly, numerous situations where misuse of privileges by women to submit bogus complaints can be seen. Besides, everybody, including the government, has neglected to address the viciousness suffered by men.
How men/ husbands are affected:
The offences mentioned in these laws are non-bailable, thus reducing the chance of bail.
- Section 498-A of the IPC is a an offence, wherein the wife, and her parental family can charge any member or the entire family of her husband for physical or mental cruelty.
- Typically, the relatives in these cases include: Women, of all ages (unmarried, wedded sisters of the spouse, his mother and sisters-in-law, old grandmothers and aunts.) Other maternal and fatherly family members and even kids.
Attributes of 498-A, Indian Penal Code-
- The person blamed can be arrested and imprisoned without a warrant.
- The complainant cannot be withdrawn by the petitioner (thus making chances of conjugal living impossible.)
- The accused cannot be bailed out. An application for bail must be filed before the court for release.
On a single complaint of the wife, her marital family can be confined in a jail. It is estimated that 40,000 allegations are made every year and an average of 5 individuals from the accused family are implicated in cases under Sec.498-A. Thus, around 200,000 individuals are directly affected by these cases.
It is pertinent to note here that, the genuine victims may neglect to utilize these laws for various reasons such as unawareness of laws, fearful of the consequences, or social stigmas and expectations that are built. Be as it may, some Indian women have reversed the situation and misuse these laws as a weapon for feud against their spouses and innocent family members.
In these protective mechanisms, the law assumes the men as a virtual torturer and never considers that even they could fall victims to cruelties. It assumes women to be the casualties. The law discusses verbal, physical, financial and psychological mistreatment of women.
Numerous husbands and relatives, falsely implicated in these cases have committed suicide after being imprisoned, unable to get out of it and unfit to bear the social trauma.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court and different High Courts have on various occasions’ demonstrated worry over the misuse of provisions seeing that “By abuse of the Section 498-A new legal terrorism can be released”. The Supreme Court says, “The section is expected to be utilized as a shield, and not as a professional killer’s weapon. Simply because the section is declared constitutional, it doesn’t permit deceitful people to wreck individual quarrel.”
In the case of Sushil Kumar Sharma V. Union of India and Ors., the Supreme Court held that “the object of the provision is the prevention of the dowry menace. But many instances have come to light where the complaints are not bonafide and have been filed with oblique motives. In such cases, the acquittal of the accused does not, in all cases wipe out the ignominy suffered during and before trial. Negative media coverage adds to the misery. Thus, the question is what remedial measures can be taken to prevent abuse of the well-intentioned provision. Merely because the provision is constitutional and intra-vires, does not give unscrupulous persons a license to wreck personal vendetta or unleash harassment. Therefore, it may become necessary for the legislature to find out how the makers of frivolous complaints or allegations can be appropriately dealt with. Till then, the Courts have to take care of the situation within the existing framework.”
Various opportunities have been given to legislators, law makers, implementation organizations and judges to notice and review these laws in the public interest. This would be to check the abuse of these laws, and help to impart impartial justice and protect the innocent in the broken institution of marriage.
In Arnesh Kumar V. the State of Bihar, (2014), in an endeavor to guarantee that police officers do not capture the charged pointlessly, and Magistrate doesn’t approve detainment nonchalantly, precisely in cases under Section 498-A IPC. The Court gave certain directions which include:
- Police officials are not to arrest the accused consequently when a case under 498-A is registered. They must be satisfied on the necessities to arrest under the parameters moving from Sec.41 Cr.PC. The judgment sets out these given parameters.
- A checklist will be filled by them, containing indicated sub-clauses of Sec.41 (1) (b) (ii) of Cr.P.C. and furnish the reasons and material requiring the arrest.
- The Magistrate will have to approve confinement exclusively after recording its fulfilment on the report submitted by the police. If the police show non-compliance with the directions, they will be at risk for departmental action and court contempt.
- A Judicial Magistrate, failing to comply with the directions will be liable for departmental action by the High Court with the necessary jurisdiction.
Further, in Rajesh Sharma V. The State of U.P., (2017) the Supreme Court offered directions to prevent abuse of Sec.498-A, and were additionally altered in Social Action Forum for Manav Adhikar V. Association of India, (2018). These directions are as follows:
- The complaints under Sec.498-A, and other associated offences may be examined exclusively by an assigned Investigating Officer having the appropriate jurisdiction.
- If a settlement is made between the parties, a complaint under Sec.482-A can be quashed by approaching the appropriate High Court.
- If a bail application is filed, the same can be decided as quickly as the same day, after giving such a notice to the Public Prosecutor. Such a bail cannot be refused for a mere reason of disputed dowry items, or other rights of wife and children.
- When it comes to individuals living abroad, appropriating passports or issuance of Red Corner Notice was not to be made a practice.
- The one exception to these directions was occurrence of tangible physical injuries or death in dowry/ domestic violence cases.
In the case of Ram Kumar Nanki V. State of Madhya Pradesh the Supreme Court acquitted a man caught in a dowry death case who was earlier convicted by the Trial Court and the High Court. In this case, the wife died by setting herself on fire. The dying declaration indicated that the reason for which the deceased committed such an act was a household fight with her husband. The Trial and the High Court considered the dying declaration along with certain witness statements to convict the accused under Sec.304- B and 498-A of IPC. He was sentenced to ten years of imprisonment.
Upon appeal to the Supreme Court, it was shown that the dying declaration revealed that the deceased herself poured lamp fuel oil upon her and set herself burning. The testimony of the concerned doctor very much upheld the declaration. It was contended that vague claims against the accused by certain witnesses couldn’t be taken as adequate proof of dowry-related harassment. The three-judge bench, comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Vineet Saran and S Ravindra Bhat, held that the dying declaration showed the deceased’s immediate cause to set her afire was a domestic quarrel with the husband. The declaration gave details as to how the deceased suffered burn injuries and disclosed the immediate cause for her to take the extreme step. There was nothing on record to indicate that the declaration was obtained by fraud or misrepresentation or that the statement was not correctly recorded. It was recorded by a doctor, an independent person and satisfied all the requirements. Thus, the accused was acquitted by the Apex Court.
Remedies available to falsely accused Husband:
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In case of a false complaint , two choices are available:
a) To defend their case and wait for the judgment
b) File a counter case against the complianant.
Given a false complaint, any accused can get protection through the understated alternatives. It is important to keep in mind a basic principle of law here, that the law protects the one with a bona-fide intention.
- Recording all conversations (voice, chat, email, letters, etc.), and keeping the originals in a protected place without producing them before anyone. These can be used as stong evidence in court.
- Having evidence to negate the accusation of demand/ acceptance of dowry.
- Evidence to show that the wife has ceased conjugal rights without a plausible explanation. This evidence can be productive at the time of anticipatory bail or notice bail from the Court.
- File RCR (Restitution of Conjugal Rights)- A husband can file for RCR, compelling the wife to resume cohabitation with the husband.
A counter case can be against the wife to present a stronger defense and expect an earlier settlement. The following sections can be used in order to reinforce the case.
Under the Indian Penal Code:
- Sec.120 B: Punishment of Criminal Conspiracy – A case can be filed alleging criminal conspiracy by the complainant against the husband and his family.
- Sec.167: Public servant outlining a wrong document to cause injury – If the husband believes that a police officer is helping the wife to submit a false complaint and framing false documents, he can file a case against such police persons claiming false framing of documents.
- Sec.191: Giving false evidence – If the husband thinks that his wife or anyone is introducing false evidence against him in the Court of law or police headquarters, he can file a case asserting that the evidence which is being utilized to prosecute him is false, thus consequently making the total charges against him also false.
- Sec.500: Defamation – In case that false complaint has been filed against a husband, such complaint is a direct harm to his reputation. Thus, he may by all means drag them to Court for the harm endured by him due to the complaint. Monetary compensation can be granted against such defaming acts.
- Sec.506: Punishment for Criminal Intimidation – The husband can file a case against his wife, claiming that she threatens him to hurt himself or his family or property. Yet again, the evidence is the only thing which can uphold his case.
- Sec.227: If the husband believes that the complaint filed by his wife is false, he can file a complaint under this section expressing that the 498-A case filled by his wife is bogus. In case that he has enough evidence, or on the off chance that the wife needs more proof to substantiate the charges, the chances are that the judge will excuse the 498-A case as it is a framed one.
- Sec.9 Damage recovery case – If the wife breaks into the husband’s home, makes a scene, and goes to ‘protection official’ and falsely claims that the husband tortured her ’emotionally, physically or monetarily’, the husband can file a damage recovery case under this section against his wife. Legitimately, he should give notice around the same time or the following day. The suit will proceed for quite a while.
False objections against men are increasing each day. It is a significant issue as it disregards basic fundamental liberties. It is not negated that women suffer and go through various hardships on much larger scales, but the fact that there are many who negatively use the law can also not be blindsided.
The mentality that domestic violence only affects wives and not husbands, or that only husbands can perpetrate such violence needs to be changed. While the ill-use of protective laws by women has been seen, it has been shifted to the side. The Supreme Court is additionally working hard on bringing amendments to laws protecting Indian men.
At the same time, the social expectations of being “masculine” need to change. A hope is always for more gender-neutral and gender-inclusive laws, wherever applicable.
Rajat Rajan Singh
Editor in Chief at Law Trend
Advocate at Allahabad High Court Lucknow
Sai Kulkarni- Intern