Misuse of Dowry Laws

In this paper an attempt is made to answer the questions: whether the dowry prohibition act is misused? What are the reasons for misuse? Firstly, what is dowry? In a nutshell, dowry is a custom performed in marriage, when the bride’s family offers property, assets, jewelry, and cash to the other side. Human beings can be aggressive as well as violent and women are no exceptions for this. Violence by women against men was never a new phenomenon and it has been found out that this has increased after the women getting more powerful and financially established. In many of the forms it has been found out that the dowry act is quite biased towards women.

Introduction

Earlier Anti-Dowry law was made to safeguard the bride from the cruelty of bride groom’s family in the name of dowry. But nowadays it has turned out that it’s a way to harass bridegroom’s side. Since past some years it is in light that the more power given to the bride the more dangerously the grooms are being harassed. In a nutshell, dowry is a custom performed in marriage, when the bride’s family offers property, assets, jewelry, and cash to the other side.

Actually in our society it is in vogue that if it’s given by bride’s parents on their own will that’s an emotion or a way of showing love towards their daughter. But when it is demanded from groom’s family it leads to pressure on brides’ family and that demand is dowry. Dowry is not only demanded at the time of marriage but even after the marriage. Many brides are harassed by the groom and his family in the name of dowry. Brides have been burnt, hanged and killed with poison. Legally after observing these harassments the government introduces the Dowry Prohibition Act and added section 304B and section 498A to the Indian Penal Code for the protection of women.

In the past years the law has being used as a weapon rather than shield. No doubt in saying, women are misusing this for harassing the groom’s family. Thousands of people are being arrested in the case of dowry but very less are being convicted. And the strange part is that the cases get closed without any charges against the bride and her family. The number of false cases has increased rapidly.

It has been said that the law was enacted to help women, but it was being used as “a weapon by disgruntled wives”[1]. It is known that when a complaint is filed under this law it provides permission for the immediate arrest and jailing of the accused persons. But now, a bench lead by CJI Dipak Misra clarified that those arrested under the law can move the magistrate for bail, and the bail petitions will be heard the same day as far as possible. “Law, especially criminal law, intends to control, if not altogether remove, the malady that gets into the spine of the society and gradually corrodes the marrows of the vertebrae of a large section of the society,” the bench said[2].

Things have changed a bit now since Supreme Court has issued various guidelines against the misuse of dowry and domestic violence law. Now, the police don’t immediately arrest the husband and his family, but there is a lot of harassment if the husband doesn’t bow down to wife’s demands.

Relevant Case Laws

There is a case which I have seen in the society through naked eyes, that a bride on a normal discussion with her mother in law burnt herself after dressing up like a newlywed’s bride. And suddenly after this incident the family of bride filed case against the groom and his family after which everyone was put behind the bars. They were in jail for around 10 years and after that they were acquitted. People whom we usually believe uphold the law and protect people from injustice – police, lawyers, judges, army, soldiers – each and every one says that there’s nothing for a man. No matter how innocent the man is if he is trapped, it is difficult to come out of it. The laws are stacked against him and it takes years and years of struggle to prove that he is innocent despite the evidence. It was the agony and the injury as well as total incredulity and stun seeing the framework being exploited conspicuously by ladies.

The judicial recognition of blatant misuse of these laws is not a new thing, way back in 1987, The Hon’ble Court in Balbir Singh v. The State of Punjab [3] observed that misuse of the law is strictly not acceptable.

The latest addition in a women’s legal artillery is The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act – This law is absolutely pro-women and anti-men and considers only women as victims. It is appropriate to note here that, the genuine victims of the evil of endowment; the rural Indian ladies are not sharpened about their privileges, and neglect to utilize these laws. Yet, Some Indian Urban instructed ladies have reversed the situation and are utilizing these laws as weapon to release individual grudge on their spouses and innocent family members as well as relatives.

According to the data, 80% of dowry cases end up as acquittal. Section 498A does not require women to provide evidence of abuse, and there’s a presumption of guilt until innocence can be proven[4]. Those found guilty face up to three years in jail and the trial can take many years.  “In India, I can say that after the case is put to trial under Section 498A, 80 per cent is the acquittal rate. That means it is found that the case is not proved[5].”

Deepika Bhardwaj has been described as ‘the woman fighting for men’s rights’.  The Delhi-based journalist and filmmaker have written extensively on what she calls ‘gender biased laws’ in India and the effect of their misuse[6]. She says, regardless of caste and financial status: “The moment a marriage breaks down charges of dowry and harassment are levelled on the groom.  I have seen cases of incompatibility, adultery, medical problems being turned into dowry complaints[7].”

The case of Sunny; He claims his wife ‘conspired’ with her father and uncle, who worked in the Indian police force, to use Section 498A against him[8].”

In another case of Gurpreet whose wife was asked to leave Australia by the court after their short-lived marriage, his ex-wife was able to file multiple cases against him from India. She is now remarried and living in Canada, yet Gurpreet continues to face serious charges. The Nisha Sharma dowry case was an anti-dowry lawsuit in India that showed how IPC section 498A can be used as a weapon to destroy in laws and husband. It began in 2003 when Nisha Sharma accused her groom, Munish Dalal, claiming that he is demanding dowry. The case attracted not only Indian media but also international media. Nisha Sharma now become the ideal for other women. The case ended in 2012, and all accused had been acquitted. The court observed that she had fabricated the dowry charges and very properly conspired all these things.

Conclusion

There are so many reasons why this law is being misused by women but all reasons are result of their personal grudges and personal greed. For example there can be a need of financial favour from the in-laws and the husband, there can be difficulty in adjustment or there can be extra marital affairs. But this is not the reason why the law is made. It is made for the security of the women and not for the revenge game. Women need to understand that laws are not for entertainment or for any personal grudges. It is for justice to those who are actually suffering.

Cruelty by ladies against men was never new. And it has been observed that this has expanded after women getting more powers and monetary settlement. In many forms it has been found out that the dowry act is quite biased towards women. And men have not been given the proper time to prove that he is clean. It is actually very easy for a woman to present herself as a victim because since the ancient times women are the most exploited ones. But it doesn’t indicate that women empowerment leads to revenge without any fault. In constitution also Article 15 talks about the protection of women which is basically for the upliftment of the women and not for satisfying their personal grudges.   


[1] BBC- India top court orders changes related to anti-dowry law to stop misuse, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-40749636

[2] The Economic Times- Supreme Court modifies its order on dowry harassment. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/supreme-court-modifies-its-order-on-dowry-harassment

[3] 1987 (1) CRIMES – 76.

[4] https://www.sbs.com.au/language/english/the-dowry-trap-the-untold-story-of-male-victims

[5] ibid

[6] https://www.sbs.com.au/language/english/the-dowry-trap-the-untold-story-of-male victims#:~:text=Deepika%20Bhardwaj%20has%20been%20described,of%20caste%20and%20financial%20status.

[7] https://www.sbs.com.au/language/english/80-per-cent-of-all-dowry-cases-in-india-end-in-acquittal

[8] https://www.sbs.com.au/language/english/the-dowry-trap-the-untold-story-of-male-victims

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