By Priyanka Arora:
The degradation of society due to the pernicious system of dowry and unconscionable demands made by the greedy and unscrupulous husbands and their parents, has resulted in an alarming number of suicidal and dowry deaths. Living in 21st century, we might claim to be intellectually superior to our forefathers but we still haven’t been able to release our society from the shackles of dowry. The roots of dowry system are still very strong and sturdy, en-rooted deep within the framework of our society.
That the woman is the worst sufferer in the entire exchange of dowry goes without saying. The government acted to curb this old guarded social evil in the form of enactment of Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. The biggest irony of Indian legal system is that we have laws for almost all the crimes and offences imaginable, but despite that the law and order is in deep muddle. People lack confidence in the justice and fairness of the legal system and are therefore afraid to initiate the process of seeking justice.
The laws and acts enacted are never followed in letter and spirit and hence its misuse becomes rampant. Recent data shows that there has been abuse of anti dowry law by bride and her family where they press false charges on the grooms and his family, causing both monetary loss and loss in their social prestige. To save people from such vulnerable situations and to prevent abuse of the law, there is a proposed amendment to this law by which immediate arrest won’t be made against whom the complaint is registered. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had directed the state governments to instruct police “not to automatically arrest when a case under Section 498A of IPC [dowry harassment] is registered but to satisfy themselves about the necessity for arrest under the parameters laid down flowing from Section 41 of CrPC.”
While giving the direction, the apex court had shown concern over the mishandling of the anti dowry law by “disgruntled” wives against her husband and in-laws, and noted that the act was being increasingly used to hassle in-laws.
The proposed amendment intends to give sufficient time to the police before coming to any conclusion and thereby saving the face of those who have been falsely charged. But on the other hand, it would be doing injustice to those who suffer because of the unethical demand of dowry and it will make the law weak and hollow. It will give liberty to the culprit to use his power and authority to suppress the complaint. It must be kept in mind that the instance of misuse of the law is much less compared to incident unreported. And if the law is made futile, people won’t dare seek justice for the fear of being dragged into unfruitful, long legal battles.
A better approach to address the issue of misuse of the law could be to introduce hefty penalty for false complain which will act as a deterrent. The judiciary is not expected to be “penny wise pound foolish” i.e. to save a few, it can’t let the majority suffer. But if at the first stage itself, there will be no listener’s to the victims’ plight then it would be difficult to encourage people to come out and take steps to challenge the problem and not to succumb to it.