Alive - - Editorial -

Sec­tion 498A of the IPC dis­crim­i­nates against hus­bands and their fam­i­lies and pre­sumes the com­plainant (wife) to be an in­no­cent vic­tim. It re­sults in the po­lice ar­rest­ing hus­band and his fam­ily mem­bers named by the woman. The Supreme Court re­cently passed or­ders against the sum­mary ar­rest of the ac­cused con­tend­ing the law on cru­elty against women is mis­used. The Court or­dered that wel­fare com­mit­tees con­sist­ing of so­cial work­ers, re­tired per­sons, wives of working of­fi­cers etc, who are suit­able and will­ing, be put in place to scru­ti­nise a com­plaint by a woman be­fore the po­lice take cog­ni­sance of it. The po­lice should en­sure that ev­ery com­plaint un­der sec­tion 498A is re­ferred to the Wel­fare Com­mit­tee which within one month pre­pare its re­port and send it to the po­lice. Till the re­port is re­ceived, there will be no ar­rest.

Sev­eral women’s move­ments and in­di­vid­ual fem­i­nists have protested against the Supreme Court or­der. How­ever, the Supreme Court has re­lied upon the data of the Na­tional Crime Record Bu­reau which say the con­vic­tion rate of cases reg­is­tered un­der 498A is very low. But that is of lit­tle con­so­la­tion to the ac­cused, which is ar­rested and has to wait months be­fore be­ing de­clared in­no­cent. By this time his rep­u­ta­tion in the so­ci­ety is spoiled, his mat­ri­mo­nial life de­stroyed and large amount of money spent in fight­ing the case. The Supreme Court has men­tioned dis­grun­tled wives are mis­us­ing the law to put bed-rid­den grand­fa­thers and grand­moth­ers un­der bars. Un­der the cir­cum­stances, the Court’s or­der that Wel­fare Com­mit­tees should scru­ti­nise woman’s com­plaints is wel­come. The po­lice can­not be re­lied upon to de­cide on the ve­rac­ity of the com­plaint as they are li­able to be in­flu­enced by money and favouritism.

As it is, women are an op­pressed gen­der be­cause of re­li­gious tenets and feu­dal tra­di­tion. But it is the ru­ral women who suf­fer silently the in­jus­tices heaped on them. They do not go to po­lice or courts with their com­plaints. But that is a so­cial prob­lem and has to be tack­led by so­cial re­form­ers by up­lift­ing the so­ci­ety. It is the ur­ban women goaded by their rel­a­tives who go to po­lice and courts on the is­sue of ha­rass­ment by hus­bands and in-laws. A day be­fore the Supreme Court judge­ment, woman and child devel­op­ment min­is­ter Maneka Gandhi had writ­ten to the Na­tional Com­mis­sion for Women (NCW): “I have been re­ceiv­ing a large num­ber of com­plaints from men who claim they have been falsely im­pli­cated in cases of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.” There­fore, she sug­gested, the NCW should pro­vide “a win­dow” to such men. The Supreme Court now has pro­vided such a win­dow to men by its judge­ment.

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