Socially beneficial tool turning into legal terrorism mechanism?


It is too early to say whether Dominique Strauss-Kahn was framed by a woman employee of a hotel. It cost him his job as IMF chief and cast a shadow on his ambition to become French president. After prosecutors developed doubts over veracity of the victim’s charges, Kahn got unconditional bail. Will the relief save his image, reputation and political prospects? It is difficult to say but, generally, allegations of sexual assault or exploitation against the rich, powerful and famous are taken to be true.

But the most equipped investigation, able prosecution and hawk-eyed judicial scrutiny sometimes fail to unravel the facts. Actor Shiney Ahuja, who probably would be finding similarities of his case with that of Strauss-Kahn, will agree. The Supreme Court faced an identical dilemma just last year, relating to dowry harassment cases under Section 498A of Indian Penal Code. “It is common knowledge that unfortunately, matrimonial litigation is rapidly increasing in our country… this clearly demonstrates discontent and unrest in the family life of a large number of people of society,” it said.

On the one hand, the law was the social legislation giving women protection against harassment at the hands of the husband and his relatives, who demand more and more dowry. The court was concerned with the rapid rise in such cases. But on the other hand, it was aware that “a large number of such complaints are not bona fide and are filed with oblique motive”.

It admitted, “To find out the truth is a herculean task in a majority of these complaints. The tendency of implicating husband and all his immediate relations is also not uncommon. At times, even after the conclusion of criminal trial, it is difficult to ascertain the real truth.”

The SC wanted a way out of the vicious cycle of litigation that mostly ruins innocent husbands and in-laws, who are falsely roped in, but seldom affects the real perpetrators who exploit loopholes in the system to escape the law.

The court was worried by the overkill of Section 498A. It did not want a socially beneficial legal framework to be turned into a mechanism of legal terrorism. It requested the Law Commission to examine the issue and suggest changes that could help create an ambience where the perpetrators could be adequately punished and at the same time, leave some room for negotiations to arrive at an amicable settlement. The commission invited suggestions from all quarters, including NRIs. And the overwhelming response was in favour of thorough investigations into the complaint of the wife under Section 498A before police arrested the husband and in-laws.

The commission is in the process of finalizing its decision which appears to be in favour of providing for a settlement clause between the victim and in-laws, which could be a welcome breather. However, it is against making the offence under Section 498A bailable.

Before any change is made in the law that was enacted to protect women from dowry harassment, it needs to be debated whether a woman’s complaint under Section 498A be thoroughly probed before effecting arrest of the husband and her in-laws.

Right now, once a Section 498A complaint is lodged, the police arrests the person named by the wife. The SC had said, “The allegations of harassment of husband’s close relations who had been living in different cities and never visited or rarely visited the place where the complainant resided would have an entirely different complexion. The allegations of the complaint are required to be scrutinized with great care and circumspection.”

The commission, before sending its recommendation to the government, must examine this aspect — what should be the protection to husbands and in-laws who have been framed in a complaint under Section 498A. But it must also not lose sight of the gruesome treatment meted out to women who fail to satisfy the greed of husbands and their in-laws.



  1. It is very unfortunate that a law which was framed to provide protection to women is being misused in increasing number of cases. often marital discord between husband and wife are due to behavioural incompatibility. At this stage if someone , a family friend, an elder and wise member of the family or some counseller helps the newly wed couple the things may normalise but if instead of helping them members of family, generally elders who are incapable of changing and adjusting with the changing times, they instigate one or the other or both husband and wife the relationship is spoiled and matter reaches the corridors of litigation.

  2. It is unfortunate that our intellectuals are thinking that by adding the settlement clause between the victim and in-laws would stop the misuse of 498A (especially for Dowry law).
    First decide who is the victim here, the wife, who is misusing the 498A or the husband, his parents and relatives who have been harassed by false 498A law.

    What is the harm to implement a practical law, through which the misusers (498A, specially for Dowry law, DV Act, false RAP cases) can be prosecuted and punished if found guilty.

    By implementing settlement clause in 498A cases the more and more scrupulous girls will file false cases and would get the settlement money very easily. At present time very less cases of 498A are decided by judiciary. Judiciary let the victims of 498A free or suggests to do compromise. And blackmailing to end the 498A is done through judiciary.

    Why we should not make 498A bailable. At least check the image and past record of the family and husband before making arrest. Because the bail is the main instrument of blackmailing after all.

    The old victims of 498A misuse will not got any relief after making 498A bailable. Because they have crossed this situation. But it would save our society and new victims. The victims of 498A misuse are increasing day by day and it may happen with anyone.

    Everybody including judiciary knows that the 498A is being misused at large scale. But no body will take the action to stop this legal terrorism. This is our Great India and great Indians.

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