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India
28 Jul 2017

Misuse of anti-dowry law: SC directs proper investigation before arrests

The SC has directed the District Legal Services Authorities to ensure dowry complaints are investigated properly before making arrests.

This is to check misuse of anti-dowry laws and facilitate amicable settlement of matrimonial conflicts.

The bench noted many times, such complaints are filed in the heat of the moment.

However, these would only apply in cases where there is no physical injury or death.

In context

Section 498A and misuse of anti-dowry law
Section 498A and the wide scope for its misuse

498A

Section 498A and the wide scope for its misuse

Section 498A of the IPC deals with cases of cruelty by the husband or in-laws, not specifically dowry cases.

If found guilty, one may be jailed for upto three years.

However, offences under 498A are non-bailable and cognizable, putting the onus of proving innocence on the man. The accused is often arrested immediately.

Such a stand turns 498A into a weapon for disgruntled wives.

Over 10% of dowry cases filed are false

In 2015, the government investigated about 1,00,000 dowry cases; 10,000 were found to be false. Figures are often similar: in 2011, 10,193 of 99,135 cases were false, and in 2012, 10,235 of 1,06,527, making it one of the most abused laws in the country.

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Menace

The real-life implications of 498A misuse

Firstpost reports the case of Navin, a US-based engineer, who sent his wife back during the recession. But when he landed in India, he was arrested at the airport due to a case of 498A. He was put in jail for five months.

Preity Zinta's cousin Nitin Chauhan shot himself to death; he blamed his wife and in-laws for driving him to suicide.

'Martyrs of Marriage'

Filmmaker Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj made a documentary called 'Martyrs of Marriage': a first-person account of victims who suffered due to abuse of 498A. It questions "the efficacy of laws" that protect one gender and "abuse of the same with the help of the state".

How does the judiciary plan to correct the situation?

Rectification

How does the judiciary plan to correct the situation?

According to the SC's directives, the DLSA would form a three-member committee to review dowry complaints on a trial basis for six months. The National Legal Services Authority would examine the results and file a report by next March.

The government has also suggested imposing stricter penalties for false dowry cases.

Earlier, the SC held that false dowry case is valid ground for divorce.

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