On a day the Supreme Court set aside instant triple talaq among Muslims, civil society groups petitioned the National Commission for Women (NCW) alleging dilution of the provision prescribing jail term for cruelty against women. Around 150 women’s organisations and other groups submitted today a signed petition to the NCW chairperson against a recent apex court judgement on section 498A (domestic violence) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), saying the court raised the issue of false cases being filed under the law, a statement by the groups said.
The Supreme Court, by a majority verdict, today set aside the practice of instant triple talaq among Muslims, saying the practice was void, illegal and unconstitutional.
Under the provision on cruelty against a woman, the husband or a relative shall be punished with a jail term which may extend to three years and a fine. The petition is also against Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi’s directive to the NCW to set up a window for men who allege registration of false cases against them.
“The NCW is founded upon the recognition that in a patriarchal society, women face far greater degree of vulnerability and, hence, any effort to reform any law cannot go against this well-evidenced fact and reality and now argue that men are equally if not more vulnerable than women,” All India Progressive Women’s Association secretary Kavita Krishnan said.
Activist Kusum, representing India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW), went on to emphasize that even with the existing law, and free legal aid being available, a large section of women find it difficult to raise their voice within the family, let alone go to the police or any law enforcement official.
“It is necessary to delink the emotional issues being raised on misuse of Section 498A and argue for its effective use on purely legal logic and rationale,” said NCW Chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam in response to the petition. The groups said that the top court verdict gave “credence” to the unsubstantiated allegations that “a large number of women are misusing the laws, and filing false complaints against men. “There is no evidence, no data referred to in the judgement to substantiate that sectio 498 A the IPC is being misused.”
The petition said, “Judicial decisions regarding the right women to a violence-free and dignified life free of violence, both physical and mental, in the matrimonial home, cannot be premised on hearsay, and anecdotes echoing embedded prejudice,” the statement said.
Citing National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data of 2015, they said there were 14,725 women who have been murdered or driven to commit suicide since that year. They also sought that a study be conducted on the penal provision to “substantiate women’s experiences and bust the myth of misuse”.