In India, marriage is considered a religious sacrament; however, this beautiful veil hides evil like dowry. Irrefutably, menace like dowry has become a double-edged sword in the hands for whom specific laws have been made by the lawmakers to protect them. Without a doubt, there are numerous situations where women utilize their privileges in order to extort money from their husbands and in-laws. Unfortunately, lawmakers have failed to address the ferociousness suffered by men at the hands of their wives.
In recent times, legislators have brought some extremist changes in crime against women, which prove to be worsening the existing scenario. These laws include the Domestic Violence Act, Sections 498-A, 406 IPC and so forth. Since these laws are non-compoundable and non-bailable, therefore, the chance of compromise between the parties is on the lower side.
What is Section 498-A IPC?
Under this offence, a wife and her paternal family can blame the husband and his entire family for causing physical or mental harassment for the demand of dowry. Typically, mother-in-law, father-in-law, unmarried or wedded sister of the husband, brother-in-law, uncle, and aunt are charged for this offence.
What are the characteristics of Section 498-A IPC?
Cognizable: – The accused can be taken into police custody without a warrant.
Non-compoundable: – The case cannot be withdrawn by the complainant.
Non-bailable: – The accused cannot seek bail as a matter of right. The concession of bail depends upon the discretion of the court.
Notably, the genuine victims of dowry are the rural Indian women, who are not educated about their rights and are not able to utilize these laws due to a lack of knowledge. On the contrary, some educated women are utilizing these laws as a weapon to nurse individual grudges against their spouses and innocent in-law family members.
The Hon’ble Apex Court as well as different High Courts have time and again articulated concern over this growing abuse of law. The Hon’ble Top Court is of the view that these legal provisions are projected to be employed as a shield, not as a weapon to grab money.
In Sushil Kumar Sharma Versus Union of India, Civil Writ Petition No. 141 of 2005, the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that “the object of the provision is prevention of the dowry menace. But as has been rightly contended by the petitioner many instances have come to light where the complaints are not bonafide and have filed with obligue motive. In such cases acquittal of the accused does not in all cases wipe out the ignomy suffered during and prior to trial. Sometimes adverse media coverage adds to the misery. The question, therefore, is what remedial measures can be taken to prevent abuse of the well-intentioned provision. Merely because the provision is constitutional and intra vires, does not give a licence to unscrupulous persons to wreck personal vendetta or unleash harassment. It may, therefore, become necessary for the legislature to find out ways how the makers of frivolous complaints or allegations can be appropriately dealt with. Till then the Courts have to take care of the situation within the existing frame work. As noted the object is to strike at the roots of dowry menace. But by misuse of the provision a new legal terrorism can be unleashed. The provision is intended to be used a shield and not assassins’ weapon.”
In a case titled Rajesh Sharma v. The State of U.P., Criminal Appeal No. 1265 of 2017, the Hon’ble Apex Court issued directions to prevent the misuse of Section 498-A IPC by the wives. These directions are enumerated below: –
- In every district, one or more Family Welfare Committees will be constituted by the District Legal Services Authorities, which shall comprise at least three members. Every complaint under Section 498-A IPC filed before the Police or the Magistrate can be referred to such a committee for presenting a report about factual aspects. Notably, till the report of the committee, no arrest shall normally be made.
- Complaints lodged under this Section and other incidental offences should be solely examined by an assigned investigation officer of the concerned area.
- If the matter has been compromised between the parties, they will be at liberty to approach the concerned High Court by invoking inherent powers for quashing the proceedings.
- If a bail application is filed within a one day’s notice to the State/complainant, the same can be adjudicated on the same day. Moreover, recovery of disputed dowry articles may not be a ground for refusal of bail if maintenance or other rights of the wife/children can be safeguarded.
- In case the nominated accused ordinarily residing out of India, impounding of passport or issuance of Red Corner Notice should not be a routine.
- District Judge or a designated judicial officer are authorized to club all the connected matters pending between the parties arising out of a matrimonial dispute in order to take a holistic view.
- The personal appearance of all the family members and those family members who are out of station may be exempted.
What to do if you are implicated in such a false case?
In this scenario, one has two options either to defend one’s case and wait for the judicial outcome or to file a counter case against the wife. Moreover, once the FIR has been lodged, the husband and his nominated family members can apply for anticipatory bail, thus, can seek protection from arrest.
How a husband can defend his case?
- Record all the conversations be it a voice, chat and letters etc. relating to threatening or harassment caused to him.
- Present evidence to prove that neither dowry has been demanded nor any dowry article has been received.
- Prove that the wife has left the matrimonial home on her own without any valid reason. In this regard, filing of suit for Restitution of Conjugal Rights can be the best supporting evidence.
What offensive remedies are available to husbands?
In order to make the defence strong, the husband can file a counter case against his wife. The list of offences under which a wife can be sued is given below: –
Section 120-B IPC: – A husband can file a case against his wife for conspiring to commit a crime against him and his family members.
Section 167 IPC: – If the husband believes that police authorities are lending hands to his wife in lodging false complaint and preparing fake documents, then he can prosecute his wife under this offence.
Section 191 IPC: – If a husband is sceptical that his wife is presenting false evidence in his case before the court or police station, then a husband can file a case against his wife.
Section 471 IPC: – For using any forged document or electronic record as genuine.
Section 500 IPC: – A husband can drag his wife to court for causing harm to his reputation by filing frivolous complaints against him. In such cases, the wife will have to pay money to the husband for damages in terms of compensation.
Section 506 IPC: – A husband can take legal recourse against his wife if she extends threats to cause harm to her husband, his family, and property.
Section 227 Cr.P.C.: – If the husband believes that the complaint filed by the wife under Section 498-A IPC is false, he can file an application under Section 227 of Cr.P.C. for discharge. If the husband is able to produce sufficient evidence of his innocence, the judge can discharge the husband from charges.
Section 9 of CPC: – A husband can also file a damage recovery suit under Section 9 of CPC.
The law against dowry harassment is made for wives to protest against the wrong and cruelty faced by them. Nevertheless, the false implication under Section 498-A IPC has ruined many lives because of its misuse by women. To curb this menace, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has laid down certain regulations for protection against false dowry cases in its various judicial pronouncements.
Associate at Aggarwals & Associates, S.A.S. Nagar, Mohali