UNITING THE NATION
DIVIDING THE NATION (Post.2)
DOWRY PROHIBITION ACT
In the first post in this series under the URL :
We have dealt with Domestic violence Briefly.
We emphasized that - INDIAN LAW must become much more PREVENTIVE and REFORMATIVE; and much less PUNITIVE.
This must be the main motto and theme for any law. But, unfortunately, most Indian Laws – are only PUNITIVE – not preventive or reformative AT ALL, with some exceptions.
In this (second) Post, let us look at another, similar, related ACT. This is the DOWRY PROHIBITION ACT.
Let us look at some of its Provisions :
2. Definition of `dowry’.-In this act, `dowry’ means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly-
(a) by one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage; or
(b) by the parents of either party to a marriage or by any other person, to either party to the marriage or to any other person;
at or before or any time after the marriage in connection with the marriage of said parties but does not include dower or mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies.
Comments : Look at the words “any time after the marriage”. This gives the woman sweeping powers to complain and tease all her in-laws all through her Life – under this Act. Today- the position of many women has drastically changed from what it was –say, ten or twenty years ago. There are many Indian women millionaires, billionaires, corporate chieftains, media persons and women in good positions in every field. Crime by women (young and middle aged – especially) is also increasing leaps and bounds. Their contribution to marital stress is also very high today. Extra marital affairs, incited and indulged in by women, are also increasing rapidly. Look at any TV channel today. In many TV serials produced by even women – women are the villains – and they clearly depict the type of atrocities that women are capable of committing today.
As we find from many real incidents in News papers and media - women killing their own children and their husband etc – just to please a paramour are also quite a good number. Law cannot ignore such incidents. If a woman is caught in a wrong act, in some extra marital affair, or some such indiscretion, she promptly lodges a complaint under Dowry Prohibition act. This is happening now. The courts have seen many such cases.
Many women in Metros like Bangalore are known to frequently go to pubs for drinking. If they enjoy that much independence, and freedom – where is the question of their being harassed for Dowry? The economically dependent woman – is more likely to face dowry harassment.
The law must therefore change and make a clear distinction between (i) the educated, employed / economically independent woman and (ii) an economically dependent woman. The former is more likely to be a FALSE COMPLAINANT, complaining just to punish the husband and in-laws for objecting to her wrong doings, taking advantage of the law.
3. Penalty for giving or taking dowry.-(1) If any person, after the commencement of this Act, gives or takes or abets the giving or taking of dowry, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years, and with the fine which shall not be less than fifteen thousand rupees or the amount of the value of such dowry, whichever is more:
Provided that the Court may, for adequate and special reasons to be recorded in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than five years.
COMMENTS : The Minimum Five years imprisonment in an Indian Jail, destroys anybody’s life forever. Their employment, earning Potential, employability, every thing is gone. Many tend to commit suicide in such cases, or, take to crime for a means of living.
Once the lone bread winner goes to jail – the others are reduced to acute economic distress. In any case – they will no more accept the complainant – into their family after the destruction of their life at her hands. The Husband can no more accept her as wife after he and his family undergo such punishment. The relationship is over after a spell of Police custody itself. The punishment by court – seals every one’s fate.
Can the complainant woman ever get married again to any one? Definitely not.
Is this what a Daughter in law would want?
Every Genuine (Potential) complainant under this law would want to lead a happy, married life along with her husband – without the Dowry Harassment. That is what the Law should be aiming at.
Law must be preventive and reformative and should not destroy the Lives – of both accused and complainant – which are both inter-dependent
But, this present law goes against the CRYING NEED OF THE GENUINELY SUFFERING WOMAN completely – and serves the need of the false complainant. There are absolutely no preventive and reformative Provisions in the Law. And the Punitive provisions are so oppressive that they put many lives beyond repair.
4. Penalty for demanding dowry.- If any person demands directly or indirectly, from the parents or other relatives or guardian of a bride or bridegroom as the case may be, any dowry, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years and with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees:
Provided that the Court may, for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than six months.
COMMENTS :In all Dowry harassment cases, as already said –we need preventive measures and not punitive measures.
ONE REFORMATIVE MEASURE : Before a marriage is agreed to by both sides, Law should ensure that both parties sign a declaration before a marriage registrar, or Tahsildar, or magistrate to the effect – that this marriage is agreed to between both parties – without any DOWRY. This will be a Pro-active, preventive and a reformative provision. The authority before whom the declaration is made – must advise them, counsel them and warn them properly against the giving or taking of Dowry.
A stitch in time saves Nine. A pro-active, preventive approach of warning and counseling at the time of marriage – prevents lots of problems later. The counseling must include the wife, the husband, the parents-in-law on both sides.
7. Cognisance of offences.- (1) …
(2) Nothing in Chapter XXXVI of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2of 1974), shall apply to any offence punishable under this Act.)
Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force, a statement made by the person aggrieved by the offence shall not subject such person to a prosecution under this Act.
COMMENTS : The last sentence of this clause seems to mean – that the complainant shall not be punished for her / his complaint or any statement – even if it is proved to be a false statement. Why a manifestly FALSE and MOTIVATED COMPLAINANT should not be punished? Why not? This is absolutely one-sided and incites people to make FALSE COMPLAINTS brazenly. Everybody should be equal before the eyes of the law. This is what constitution proclaims. But, step by step, every Law is diluting this EQUALITY BEFORE LAW concept, and many laws are so one-sided that the EQALITY BEFORE LAW remains only in the constitution now.
8. Offences to be congnizable for certain purposes and to be bailable and non-compoundable - (1) The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974) shall apply to offences under this Act as of they were cognizable offences-
(a) for the purpose of investigation of such offences; and
(b) for the purpose of matters other than-
(i) matters referred to in Sec. 42 of that Code, and
(ii) the arrest of person without a warrant or without an order of a Magistrate.
(2) Every offence under this Act shall be non-bailable and non-compoundable.
COMMENTS : Investigation into any complaint must definitely be made – to determine its genuineness
PROVISION OF ARREST : Police Custody in India today – is nothing short of the Biggest Punishment for people – more than the punishment by any court. CUSTODIAL TORTURE is a fact of life in India though its exact extent cannot be determined. It happens in countless cases.
INNOCENT – UNTIL PROVED GUILTY – must therefore apply in this case. Times have changed. Women are no more that Innocent. Men are no more that Guilty –in respect of this act. Arrest provisions must not come into play – until a reasonable ground is established. Even then, preventive and Reformative provisions must first play out.
NON-BAILABLE : Why should the offence be Non-bailable? Why should it be put beyond discretion of the COURTS? Ultimately the courts only decide the case. So, why BAIL should not be granted by them?
Even if the harassment was REAL – what is needed is protection to the complainant and warning the accused to desist from any harassment of Complainant.
But, if it is a FALSE COMPLAINT – can we make good the loss of precious period of life, property, time, stress and all that suffered by the innocent accused?
There may be a few cases of torture, attempt to kill etc – where the COURT can use its discretion to refuse to grant Bail. Otherwise – denying BAIL to the innocent accused is a Bad law. Putting it beyond court’s discretion is Bad.
INVESTIGATION : Police is the most UNSUITABLE agency to investigate into such dowry harassment cases and meddle with the wife and husband’s lives – to start with. As in the case of the suggestions made for Domestic violence – we must constitute a socio-Governmental structure, which moves in – and judges the veracity of the complaint. This committee – must be a pro-active, preventive authority, with some legal Powers.
They must be authorized to question the complainant, accused and others – as needed to assess the genuineness of the complaint. Then, it must undertake REFORMATIVE PROCESS of advising, counseling and warning all the people as required. There may be need to advise both the husband and the wife , the in-laws, and in some cases, the Parents of the wife too. Many such things are needed in the REFORMATIVE PROCESS.
In some cases, the set-up must have powers to send an unreforming person into Judicial custody for a day or two – during which it counsels him / her in judicial custody.
Government cannot say – I will be only punitive and not REFORMATIVE. If it comes into the family – it must come as a reformer – not as a DESTROYER of the family.
GENUINE COMPLAINTS : If there is actual dowry harassment, and if it is tackled at the very initial stage – there are bright chances for correcting the people and making them live a balanced, happy life.
The time spent by the Police and the courts presently - runs into several years and all people get frustrated – and ultimate result is – the family stands destroyed.
The money spent by the Government and all parties – can also be more usefully spent.
Instead, a very small fraction of the time of this socio-Governmental set-up can work wonders in restoring Balance and happiness in the Family. Some Egos, some people’s Greed only need to be tackled in most cases – and very early at that – That is all.
PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE. It has always been so. We forgot about it – after INDEPENDENCE.
The Daughter-in-law who feels the harassment – wants happy adjustment in her married life – from the beginning. She does not want the final destruction of her own life and the lives of all her in laws and husband – which is what is happening under present dispensation.
But, of course, there can still be cases, where some people do not reform. Greed for money – can overpower Love for wife. In such cases – separate the wife and husband – but give a major share of the Husband’s property and Income to the wife – which is a sufficient lifelong punishment for the husband.
Instead, going through tortuous court proceedings for several years –and spending times in jail and Police custody – are waste of human effort and absolutely unreformative. The man may come out of Jail – as a hardened criminal or as a physical and mental wreck whose parents and other family members’ lives lie in shambles.
There may be cases of proven physical torture and cruelty, some times leading to death. These cases must be dealt with sternly. Like any other physical violence and death. But allegation is not always reality. Allegation of torture can always be made falsely. That is why , at the very first instance or sign of trouble, the socio-governmental set-up must move in to prevent further trouble. We must encourage – even neighbours, or any one, to TIP-OFF all harassment cases, as early as possible, so that prevention takes place effectively.
FALSE COMPLAINTS : Under any law, there can be False and Motivated complaints. Today – many women can make such false complaints – because of non-adjustable mindsets, big ego problems, extra marital affairs and so on. In such cases – the Law should never say – the complainant should not be punished. Every case of PROVEN, FALSE COMPLAINT must be attendant with severe punishment. The amount of torture that the Guilty complainant inflicts on an innocent accused should not go unpunished.
In many cases, the woman is living far away from parents-in-law and there is no chance for Dowry harassment. Yet – she misuses the above loopholes in the law and slaps a non-bailable offence on the old parents in law – to spite a husband with whom she does not adjust well!
This, in fact, is a worse crime than the DOWRY HARASSMENT. But, in all such cases, a six months in prison is much more than sufficient and that too – should be a reformative process.
I know – I may not cover all types of cases and some times, I am also subjective and subject to correction. And, I would be grateful for any such corrections from Readers. But, I am convinced that LAW MUST BE PRO-ACTIVE, REFORMATIVE, PREVENTIVE - more especially so, in family matters – and punitive only in the last resort. Else – the lives of both complainant and accused will lie destroyed in the operation of the Law. TOTALLY UNNECESSARILY!
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