MEN TOO NEED JUSTICE
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.