Usually, when laws are made, they go through the scrutiny of lawmakers (Legislative & executive) but most of them for sure didn’t even realise that what will be the future implications and uses of it considering Indians are born Jugaadu.
I came across one such law – IPC Section 498A. As my Lawyer sister says & I am quoting, ” Arre kisi bhi family lawyer ke paas maximum cases isi ke hote hai ya 304b dowry death ke ” (Buddy, most of the Lawyers who fight family related cases have cases of either 498A or 304B which is Death due to Dowry).
Being brought up in lawyer family, I have heard a lot about 498A but I decided to dig deeper.Passed by Indian Parliament in 1983, Indian Penal Code 498A is a criminal law (not a civil law) which is defined as follows:
“Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine. The offence is Cognizable, non-compoundable and non-bailable.”
For the purposes of this section, “cruelty” means
(a) Any willful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman;
(b) Harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.
Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code is a criminal offence. It is a cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable offence. Your wife/daughter-in-law whose demands are not met can make a written false complaint of dowry harassment to a nearby police station. 498A can only be invoked by wife/daughter-in-law or her relative.
But in reality , 498A has become an Extortion racket and literally there are gangs including women who marry innocent rich people and then threaten them for money.
Let’s start with the Motives and instigators:
- Money: The greatest of motivators. A 498A can lead to great terms for a fat cash settlement, or help her dad or sibling in their ventures, etc, etc.
- Vengeance: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. She will have her revenge and the family will collectively bear the brunt of it. The 498A wives have a soft corner for their mothers -in-law and sisters -in-law. They may very well see the inside of a prison.
- Guilt: She’s done something wrong, may have committed adultery and got caught in the act. She wants to cover it up with a dowry harassment case to garner sympathy and to provide cover for her guilt. It also puts her in a good position to negotiate a fat settlement and gain custody of kids, if kids are involved. 498A will be filed when paternity is in question. Don’t count on DNA evidence, as the courts do not/ or are reluctant to allow it. Indian law is still ruled by the evidence act from 1872.
- She Is Just Not Into Her Husband: She may not like her husband and 498A is a convenient tool to get out of the marriage.
- She Is A Control Freak: She wants to control her husband in every possible way. She may also want her husband to not support his parents and siblings in any fashion regardless of his ability to do so. She may want her husband to throw his parents out of their house. Her goal is to gain control of all aspects of his life, including finances and to break the bonds and responsibilities that tie him to his family. Her failure to do so will result in a 498A.
- To Marry The Boyfriend: This is a new trend whereby she will file a 498A just to force her husband into settling the divorce with a chunk of cash and then go on to marry her boyfriend. They will use the cash to set up their “Chota Sa Ghar”, or their “Premiyon Ka Mahal” if the settlement is large enough.
Well, laws are made to protect the victim and punish the offenders but do not account for intentions and that is forced upon deciding Judge to find out. Well, I Have met few of them, doesn’t look like they have that in them.
Bhagwan bachaye aisi biwi-yo se (Spare us from evil wives)