Hard act

While the rash of false allegations under Section 498A demand a course correction, interventions could be as problematic

By: Editorials | Published: July 31, 2017 12:05 am
Yash Pal, Yash Pal dead, Yash Pal education, Yash Pal cosmic rays, Indian Express While the principle of fairness demands it, striking a balance may prove to be difficult.

In order to contain violence against women within the family, the operation of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code was weighted against husbands and their birth families, and automatically presumed the complainant to be an innocent victim. Progressive discrimination was deemed necessary in a country which recorded a dowry death every hour, on average, and where violence against women has been regarded as normal. However, both the Supreme Court and the Women and Child Development Ministry have acknowledged that the law has been misused too often to be ignored, and moved to ensure that innocent men and their relations are spared the threat of summary arrest. Minister Maneka Gandhi has asked the National Commission for Women to be accessible to men who claim to be falsely accused, and the apex court has issued fresh guidelines prohibiting the immediate arrest of family members, except in cases involving physical injury or death. The automatic assumption of guilt has been seen as a problem, with police proceedings, seizure of passports and issuing of Interpol notices precluding any chance of a compromise.

While the principle of fairness demands it, striking a balance may prove to be difficult. Both the ministry and the court have recommended a filter to sift grain from chaff. Maneka Gandhi has recommended a more stringent filing process which insists on identity proof, and has warned that while opening a window to the victims of false claims, the NCW should not open the door wide to false counter-claims. The SC wants the establishment of family welfare committees in every district, to which all complaints are to be referred. Its members would have to interact with the complainant and the accused, and submit a report within one month. Police can proceed only thereafter and, given that the woman in question may fear severe bodily harm, the period seems to be far too liberal. Besides, the court has prescribed that bail applications must be decided on the date of application. Since bail is a right, courts may be more inclined to grant rather than withhold, which could again increase the risk to the complainant.

While the working of Section 498A was tilted in favour of women as a progressive intervention, a course correction is seen to be required in the interest of equality before the law and the prevalence of misuse, which is reflected in the data of the National Crime Records Bureau — less than one in five chargesheets filed has resulted in conviction. The law must retain its progressive bias in favour of wronged women, without inadvertently wronging men. In practice, it will prove to be a tough balancing act — an impossible feat, in the absence of police reform.

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  1. S
    Smita Raut-Kale
    Aug 26, 2017 at 11:16 pm
    Everyone should have equal rights and responsibilities, irrespective of gender. In the current social context, there should be similar laws to protect harassed husband and his family members from an unscrupulous wife. Use of the Law as Brahmastra by wives merely to harass her husband and in-laws should be curbed by making amendments to the law.
    1. D
      Aug 5, 2017 at 6:39 pm
      498a is a mockery of human rights.THe law is not gender neutral. People overseas are also aware of its huge amount of misuse and that too without investigations and proof.Whether a girl is highly qualified earns handsome money or can earn fat ry whether she has child or no child she will use this as weapon why ?because this law favors her falsities.still more amendment is required .If an false FIr is filed and it's proved false the complainant should be punished and the innocent husband and family should be allowed to get compensated for causing defamation and mental trauma.Almost 99 of these complaints in urban cities are false and just filed to grab money from inland and husbands.
      1. Anjana Anjana
        Aug 3, 2017 at 5:24 am
        Its sad to see that even most educated Indians are so uncivilized that they have zero concept of due process and basic human rights which should be afforded to any person accused of crime (like right to bail, fair trial etc.). Its even sadder to see people like Indira Jaising who are supposedly world renowned spouting crazy non-sense. Any civilized world country would want to arrest someone only after verifying and investigating a crime. Every civilized country grants bail to person accused to crime. My guess is that Indira Jaising and other lawyers opposing this measure know the standard best practices of any civilized society. But why are they still opposing this? Because they are fraudsters and have been faking concerns for human rights of aam aadmi (common people). For these charlatans outrage politics is what they live by. Otherwise why will a so called human rights activists propose unchecked tyranny of state power in case of 498a. Hope she and her peers rot in special hell