Misuse of Law by Women Is a Sweeping Generalization

Akshita Trivedi[1]

It is not wrong to say that the development in society in last 60 years has caused it to turn into a patriarchal society. There had been many incidences of atrocities against of women like, female feticide, domestic violence, dowry death, cruelty etc. and their protection had become the need of the hour for the fruitful development of society. In furtherance of this object, government has introduced many laws to uplift the status of women. But the irony was that there have been several times that these laws have been used misused by women and were used as a weapon to fulfil their unjustified demands.

Criminal Victimization as a term is not explained anywhere. It can be derived by giving a thorough analysis of these two terms separately i.e. “criminal” and “victimization”.

 Criminal in terms of act is defined as ‘any informal act which is deplorable and shocking’[2]. Therefore, the criminal acts can be defined as those unruly acts which affect victim and their loved ones emotionally, psychologically, physically, financially and socially.

Victimization is the result of deeply consented move made by the man or organization to abuse, mistreat, or hurt another in order to pulverize or illicitly get another’s property or belonging. The idea of Victim has also been widely discussed in various International conventions. In UN General Assembly’s Declaration[3] the term has been extensively be defined as ‘a person who, individually or collectively, have suffered harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental right, through acts or omissions that are in violations of criminal laws operative within member states including those laws prescribing criminal abuse of power’.[4]

There are some rights that have been though provided to the women but when such rights are being misused by some women against them in laws, husband, family members or any other such person who has not done any wrong to her, for the purpose of fulfilling their unjustified demands. Should not such act amount to Criminal Victimization, of the innocent person who was being unreasonably prosecuted from something he has actually did not do.

In the patriarchal society, introduction of section 498A was a great step which could be taken by government to safeguard women. In the Indian Scenario where the newly-weds generally live with the family, if such women are tortured physically, mentally or emotionally or is thrown out of her matrimonial home, within two years of her marriage. Such women have no other choice than to resort to legal actions against her prosecutors. Across the world women are been subjected to domestic violence and is not something which is just limited to the Indian society.

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 As according to criminal law’s ‘theory of presumption of innocence’ it is well established that in front of court of law “every person is deemed to be innocent unless the contrary is proved”. But once a complaint is filed against any person under section 498A of Indian Penal Code, 1860 the society starts considering such person as a culprit without considering the fact that the complaint may be a frivolous one.

The other side of the story may be that the woman was just filing complaint u/s 498A, because she didn’t want to stay with her in-laws. The law easily lends itself to misuse by women, by filing a false case, the sole purpose being to ‘teach a lesson’ to her male relatives for not fulfilling of her unjustified demands. The provisions of DVA can easily be attracted against a male relative in were petty cases which are basically matters of understanding than violation of rights. If a complaint has been filed against any person of domestic violence such person is directly put behind bars without any prior investigation. There are a lot of powers given to women under this act without providing any procedure for safeguarding the men in the cases of false accusations. The Indian version of this law though allows the remedy but it has a very tedious procedure.

A similar trend is already being observed in the case of anti-dowry law, being misused to such an extent that the Supreme Court has termed it as ‘Legal terrorism’. The studies have shown that out of 100 cases where the orders of investigation have been made u/s 498A only in 2 cases the accused got convicted and most of the cases were of false prosecution.

A tribunal in Delhi held that “Laws against violence at home may or may not have come to the rescue of the battered women, but some of them have accused of abusing them to get an easy divorce”[5].

Many studies have also shown that such frivolous complaint causes great mental, social and emotional effects on the wrongly prosecuted innocent people and families and tend to have long lasting effects. Many at times such people are forced to shut themselves in their domestic space, their jobs are in danger and they even sink into depression.

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It has been found that out of 30 cases there is not a single case where the accused got convicted. The accused have been acquitted in 11 cases and in rest the prosecutor failed to provide evidentiary proof of the cruelty inflicted upon the victim as provided u/s 498A IPC.

According to available statistical information from the NCRB[6]and the data available with the NGO’s working with the victims of violence, it is seen as general tendency of the victims to avoid seeking redressal from the legal system. The Judicial Authorities in India have taken a serious view over growing tendency, of women, to falsely implicate in dowry cases. The Supreme Court in one of its judgments have clearly mentioned that “the provisions of Section 498A IPC is intended to be used a shield and nor as an assassin’s weapon. The Stringent dowry laws, meant to deter dowry-seekers, are being increasingly misused by the very people they are meant to protect.”[7] Only one of six dowry complaints is genuine.[8]

 As based on the principle of ’ubi jus ibi remedium’ i.e. where there is a right there is a remedy. The Supreme Court while taking the consideration over the matter has recently ordered that “all the State Government to instruct its police officers not to automatically arrest when the case under section 498A of the IPC is registered but to satisfy themselves about the necessity of arrest under the parameter laid down flowing from Section 41[9]. The court has also ruled that men need protection from making unsubstantiated domestic harassment claims[10] as most of the claims are filed under the heat of the moment by the women without realizing the impact of filing the criminal complaint. The Supreme Court has also held that “arrest of relative other than husband could only be done after taking permission from the concerned Magistrate. There should be no arrest of relative aged above 70 years. Power of police to straight away arrest must be prohibited. While granting permission, the court must ascertain that there must be a prima facie material of the accused having done some overt or covert act.[11] The court has also given various guidelines to prevent the misuse of Section 498A[12] .Therefore, the remedy that can be provided may be –

  1. Making an order for the purpose of rehabilitation, of paying the –
  2. The compensation to such falsely accused person or family by the respective complainant.
  3. The compensation, by the state, by enacting any such scheme as like Victim Compensation Scheme.
  4. Amend the existing laws and include the provision for prosecuting the complainant in case if the complaint turns out to be a frivolous one.
  5. Adopting a more lenient or open approach while hearing such cases against women.
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 “Laws meant to protect women are being blatantly abused and misused to silence in-laws” held by Delhi High Court and made it clear that judiciary would effectively prevent such ‘illegal conduct’[13].Its’ completely true that the menace of the dowry death, sexual harassment and cruelty have been increasing many folds and that is what these stringent protective laws have been brought in but in today’s era the women who have really suffered the violence etc. avoid filing the complaint due to insensitive behaviour of police official towards the victim but it has also left us to ponder over the point that  how far is it correct that a frivolous complaint be filed against any person merely to fulfil one’s unjustified wishes. The Supreme Court in its various judgments had held that “the object behind the law is to check and curb the menace of dowry and cruelty and at the same time, to save the matrimonial homes from destruction”. A 2008 ruling of Madras High Court, states that in most of the cases “arrest of (in-laws) made simply to satisfy the ego and anger of complainant”. I do not support the situation in which the elderly men and women are put behind the bars just for a very petty reason of stopping their female relative from doing something. The Parliament is very much required to bring amendments in laws and provided mechanism for the safeguard of the men who have become victim to the criminal justice system of the country.

[1] Student.

[2] Oxford Dictionary (Feb. 10, 2018), https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/victim.

[3] UN General Assembly Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice and Victim and Abuse of Power (Nov, 1985).

[4] UN General Assembly Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice and Victim and Abuse of Power Nov,1985, Article 1 and Article 2

[5] Tribune India, (Feb.10, 2018), http;//www.tribuneindia.com/1999/99oct19/nation.htm#7.

[6] National Crime Records Bureau.

[7] Express India, (Feb.11, 2018), http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=170603.

[8] Tribune India, (Feb.11, 2018), http;//www.tribuneindia.com/2004/20041013/cth1.html.

[9] Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar, (2014) 8 SCC273.

[10] https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-08-15/indian-court-rules-men-need-protection-women-making-unsubstantiated-domestic, (February 11,2018).

[11] Lalita Kumari v. Government of U.P., (2014)2 SCC 1.

[12] Rajesh Sharma and others v. State of U.P., (2017).

[13] The Hindu, (Feb.5, 2018), www.thehindu.com/article8195709.