CHANDIGARH: A first information report (FIR)
was lodged in Patiala against a husband and his entire family in
June 2001 for allegedly demanding dowry and subjecting his wife to
mental and physical torture.
The high court, however, quashed the FIR
registered against the two sisters-in-law and two brothers-in-law
taking the stand that they were not residing with the accused
husband and thus could not have harassed the wife as alleged.
In a similar incident in Sunam (Sangrur district of Punjab), the
high court had quashed the complaint against the maternal uncle,
aunt and the blind grandmother of the husband even though the wife
had named them in the FIR.
These and several other such cases have raised a debate on whether
the stringent and well meaning provisions of the laws governing
dowry and cruelty against women were actually being increasingly
misused to settle scores.
‘‘Husbands and their families are harassed by the stringent
and outdated Dowry Act as majority of the cases these days are
either exaggerated claims or are simply fabricated. This results
in endless mental torture to the boy’s family who have no way
out,’’ says Neena Tiwari, president of an NGO, Nari Jagriti
Manch, which has started ‘‘crime against men’’ cell five
months ago to provide counselling to the ‘suffering’ husbands.
More and more ‘victims’ coming for advice and counselling
suggests there is an upward trend of men searching for an outlet
to give vent to their harassment. The NGO had received about 50
such complaints in the first month of its operation and since then
month after month these complaints are piling up.
‘‘The law is certainly one sided and its exploitation by the
girl and her family is rampant,’’ says Rajinder Kumar Singla,
a high court lawyer. The reason behind this abuse is ‘‘to
teach a lesson to the husband’s entire family.’’
He says that the problem of abuse worsens because of the fact that
the FIR is registered on the prima facie evidence wherein it
becomes easy to rope in anyone whom the girls accuse. There is
little that the accused can do to prove their innocence, he adds.
The lawyers and social activists say generally the quarrels begin
from minor adjustment problems in the matrimonial relationship
which are given shape of dowry and torture because of the strict
repercussions in form of issuing of non bailable warrants.
‘‘In a modern society women have become quite advanced and the
definition of cruelty as in Section 498 of the IPC is diluted. It
is quite common for trivial matters to be flared up and the law is
abused,’’ said Deepali Puri, a city-based lawyer.
Other legal experts, however, say it is very crucial to exercise
caution while dealing with such cases as the truth may differ from
case to case. Remarks Sheela Didi, a veteran lawyer and social
activist, ‘‘There are all kinds of cases and quite a number of
them are genuine too where the women are really the victims and
law comes as a protector. We cannot do away with the present law
because when a woman comes with a complaint she always has a
The legal experts and social activists are one in suggesting that
in today’s social set up where things have drastically changed,
the real solution lies in being tolerant and making an effort to
make adjustments in a relationship. But young couples are finding
this the toughest thing to do.
Says Madhu Anil, a social activist, ‘‘Egos have to be
contained by both the spouses otherwise this upward trend of the
Dowry Act abuse will continue.’’