Row over Move to Amend Dowry Law

The New Indian Express - - INDIA -

New Delhi: Gov­ern­ment’s pro­posal to make way for a com­pro­mise be­tween a cou­ple in a dowry case at the on­set of trial to avoid mis­use of anti-dowry ha­rass­ment law has drawn sharp crit­i­cism from ac­tivists and lawyers who say this would pres­surise women to suf­fer more atroc­i­ties, a view not shared by some other legal ex­perts.

For­mer judges of Delhi High Court, Jus­tices S N Dhin­gra and R S Sodhi coun­tered the opin­ion that the pro­posed di­lu­tion of the law would trig­ger more ha­rass­ment to women, say­ing the amend­ment would fix the presently bro­ken and mis­used sys­tem which falsely im­pli­cates hus­bands and the in-laws.

While women ac­tivists Ran­jana Ku­mari and Barkha Singh and se­nior ad­vo­cate Re­becca John were of the opin­ion that the pro­posed di­lu­tion would lead to greater ex­ploita­tion of women in mat­ri­mo­nial homes, the two re­tired judges said chang­ing the law would be a pos­i­tive step and pro­vide a bet­ter route to jus­tice for falsely im­pli­cated hus­bands and in­laws.

Un­der the pro­posed amend­ment, Sec­tion 498A (sub­ject­ing woman to cru­elty by hus­band and his fam­ily mem­bers) of the In­dian Pe­nal Code would be made a com­pound­able of­fence with per­mis­sion of trial courts,as sug­gested by the Law Com­mis­sion.

If the of­fence is made com­pound­able, it would al­low the woman to set­tle the mat­ter at the trial court level it­self and with­draw the com­plaint.

Cur­rently, the of­fence is non-com­pound­able and non- bail­able, thus pro­vid­ing for im­me­di­ate ar­rest of an ac­cused and mak­ing any con­cil­ia­tory ef­fort by the war­ring sides vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble.

Also, the pro­vi­sion for a com­pro­mise un­der the present law is al­most nonex­is­tent. Sec­tion 498A en­tails a jail term of up to three years.

Con­demn­ing the pro­posal, Ran­jana Ku­mari, Direc­tor of Cen­tre for So­cial Re­search, said this change would ad­versely im­pact the ef­fec­tive­ness of the law. “With this amend­ment, there will be more pres­sure on a woman to set­tle dis­putes with in-laws even if she does not want to,” Ku­mari said. PTI

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