‘Arrest my husband’ – a shocking demand, isn’t it? What if it wasn’t a figment of my imagination but the truth? What if that is what, a once (deceptively) dutiful wife, wants? What if now, with revenge on her mind, she goes all out to ‘prove’ to the powers that be, that her husband & his parents, siblings/friends are all fiends & deserve a jail term, no less? What if such demands are increasing by the day? What if the law, the police, the twisted judicial system are all favoring her? Sounds out of a movie? It is not. This is what has happened in the life of a very close one in my husband’s family.
These cases are referred to as 498A meaning all dowry harassment related cases. I was not even aware of it until it hit SO close to home. And then we were all in shock! 3 years into the marriage, the woman turns around & slaps a 498 against her husband & family. Caught unawares, & still not believing what just happened, they are at first in denial until their son is roughed up by the police & they are asked to file for anticipatory bail. And this is happening by the dozen everyday (at least here in Bangalore).
Also read The Week – March 2012 Issue, page 43, the Nisha Sharma case – the girl who misused the 498 to stall her arranged marriage as she was already secretly married to her boyfriend!! And Bikram’s post here.
The 498 allows a wife to write a complaint of dowry harassment. The accused mentioned in the complaint can be immediately arrested without sufficient investigation (!!!) & put behind bars on a non-bail able terms. Even if the complaint is false (which is repeatedly accepted by High Courts & Supreme Court), you shall be presumed guilty until you prove that you’re innocent. !!! It is understood by all that this is a blackmail attempt by the woman when the marriage has failed. Most 498a cases end with a big demand for money to settle the case out of the court. (This has already happened in our case. They have thrown an obscene figure on our face.) As one lawyer states, “The moment she files a 498A against you, the balance of power shifts decisively in her favor. She is no longer a “weak” woman, an “Abala Nari”, but an avenging angel who has various corrupt branches of the government working on her side.” Many legal experts accept that it is an extortion racket.
The most important thing that all women must remember is what Madhu Kishwar, women’s rights activist says, “False 498A cases hurt the woman in the long run. She will be treated like radioactive material. Re-marriage would be a distant dream. Marriage of her siblings too would be in jeopardy. Who would want to marry off their girl into a house where a woman has terrorized her husband’s family? If it is filed at the instigation of close relatives, once the relatives get what they want, they will abandon the woman. The beneficiaries are the lawyers only.”
The sad part is if these false cases keep rising at the rate at which they already are, then that day won’t be too far away when even genuine complaints would be looked at with great suspicion & they may not get the full advantage of a law that was drafted to protect their interests & give them legal relief. Maybe that day has already come.
(The 498 Case Survival Kit: