The GOOD, BAD & THE UGLY SIDES
For a long time, I had this uneasy feeling. I have been coming across false dowry harassment cases; threats of launching such cases; and plain, overt, unabashed bad behavior by newly married girls in their in-law’s houses. On the other hand, I have not come across genuine cases of Dowry harassment in my circles.
In all cases, which have come to my knowledge, it was some differences between the Husband and wife on matters totally unconnected with dowry or domestic violence – that trigger these cases under the dowry act and the domestic violence Act.
In some cases, from Day One, the Girl is unwilling to stay with the In-Laws and the reason is, she is a pampered child in her father’s house. In some cases, the girl is in her parents’ house only, for whatever reasons, for all time after the marriage – some, along with their husbands also. It is up to them – but why should such girls have the right to make such false accusations of dowry harassment under this law? I know many elders in their 70s and 80s, living separately from their sons and daughters-in-law, either in their own homes or in Old age homes, because of the apathy of the daughters-in-law. The tragedy of this law is that even they can be accused under this Law.
It is in this context, that I get this uneasy feeling about these laws on dowry harassment and domestic violence.
These Laws are wholly illogical and unethical, as they are uniform for Bihar, Gujarat, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and all other states, where conditions of living and prevailing customs and practices are Poles apart. What is true for Bihar or Rajasthan is not true for Andhra Pradesh or Karnataka. The conditions in Bangalore are miles apart from Bihar or Rajasthan villages. The conditions in Chennai or Bangalore are much different from the conditions even in Delhi.
So, how can a single law which ignores all these differences serve in ensuring Justice? This law has been DISTRIBUTING INJUSTICE of a very inhuman kind to many homes of the in-laws. I do not think, this law is DISTRIBUTING JUSTICE even in a genuine dowry harassment case.
First and Foremost, What should be the ultimate aim of any such Law?
The aim of this Law (anti–dowry harassment Act) and of other laws like domestic violence Act should be to ensure harmonious and cordial relations between the newly wedded couple for their entire life-time and their cordial relations with their elders on both sides.
The only law which was sensibly made in respect of family relations is the law on Divorces. The family courts were established and a decent process of counseling was instituted to prevent avoidable emotion-based, break-ups of marriages. This Law has indeed served a good purpose, even though the growing intolerance and impatience of people is leading to more divorces, despite a good law. The law has indeed prevented many hasty divorces.
This law was working well – until the laws on dowry harassment and domestic violence came on the scene. The wisdom with which the divorce act was made is totally lacking in these new Acts.
The new laws do nothing good. Absolutely nothing Good.
Suppose there has been some genuine dowry harassment. What should a sensible law (like the divorce Act) attempt? It should ensure that the dowry harassment stops immediately but the marriage is intact and becomes more cordial, sensible and long lasting.
The relationships in the family must improve because of the law.
This means and directly suggests an arrangement like the family court which seizes the matter, either goes to the parties by itself or summons them – and counsels them. It can even threaten the erring parties. But, before that, it should try to find the actual happenings. In many cases, an arrangement like the family court can get into action even on hearsay – to find out the truth – before the problem becomes irretrievable. It can nip the problem in the bud. It can visit the Newlyweds at the time of marriage or within six months of marriage, see them privately, and counsel them wherever such counseling is needed. There is nothing wrong in such well-meaning third Party counseling. The aim has to be to ensure cordial relations between the couple and the elders.
In any case, it can do so – wherever a problem is reported by the parties directly or through a third party. This saves the relationships, the marriage and ensures there is real Justice for all. Where a problem exists, the problem creators get identified and stop creating the problems. The Girl can also correct herself wherever needed. In other words, this arrangement really solves the problem early and avoids all hardship to either the girl or the boy or the in-laws.
In many cases, the complaining Girl is severely and seriously wrong. She concocts and conjures up things which never happened and presents them as facts with all tears and melodrama. Many Girls are capable of that. But, they don’t understand the long term consequences of their falsehoods. They lose in the long term in their life. On the contrary, the Boy won’t and can’t cry – even if they are absolutely right. That makes them seem that they are false and the crying girl is right.
I am not saying – all boys are right. No. Not at all. More girls are right and more boys are wrong. This is because - More Boys are drunkards and take less responsibility at home. This is true. But, the number of Girls who are Bad-behaved and irresponsible is increasing very fast – and in many places, this is already equal to or more than the number of Boys who are ill-behaved.
Mother-in-laws also can’t cry. Age factor has dried up their tears. So, they also look wrong, even if they are dead right – before the crying daughter-in-laws and their lawyers. Also, the Boy and his family people get arrested without an iota of opportunity to defend themselves and get placed in Police custody. This has serious consequences for their reputation and for their health and other aspects. The employed persons get suspended or even removed from service – merely on account of such Police custody. Police Custody in India today is worse than punishment in Jail given by the court. There are many such adverse social and financial consequences of Police Custody / Jail term. Every such case also gets reported in Media. Then, the onus is on the Boy and in-laws to prove their innocence before the courts. Doesn’t all this look wholly illogical and a travesty of justice – and robbing of all the fundamental rights of the Boy and in-laws, merely because of the words of the Girl.
When Lawyers are there on the scene, they want to win the cases at any cost. So, they ADVICE their clients suitably – to win. They have little interest in ensuring the harmonious marital relations between the girl and the boy. They have no interest in advising the boy and girl to come together and make amends for respective faults. I am not blaming ALL LAWYERS. Perhaps, some are good and won’t even take up such false cases. But, there is somebody who is willing to take up even false cases, and make all efforts to win. That makes it a long term tragedy for the boy and the girl – and most importantly, for all the innocents in the Boy’s family. A Boy’s marriage in the family becomes a curse for all in the family, because of this LAW. How long should all the in-laws be afraid of their daughters-in-law under this law? No limitation. Can such a law be called legal and logical? It is a bad law, badly made and badly implemented.
Unlike the family courts, the Judges in these cases are also determined to find the culprits and punish them – and not determined to ensure harmonious marital relations. They can’t be blamed because there is no such provision in the law. When the Girl first approaches a lawyer or Police, or court, what happens immediately is – all of the family of the in-laws are put in either Police custody or in Jail, without a shred of evidence to support the girl’s case. We are treating the right to liberty of the in-laws with such scant respect in our country. This happens even in cases of love marriages – in which divorce cases seem to be more frequent – like in the US, where the rate of divorce among love marriages is around 50%.
The utter insensitivity of these laws is that – it assumes that the daughter-in-law is always truthful, innocent and always right. It also assumes that her complaints, possibly drafted by her lawyers is also 100 percent right. This, obviously, cannot be the case.
I am not denying that there is no harassment of the Girl at all in any in-law’s family. There are cases. But, most of these cases are amenable to correction. The point is, the best of in-laws also are projected in very bad light by some girls. Can the law deny that there are such girls? Yes. There are husbands who are very bad, drunk, flirtatious etc. But, what should the law attempt in the case of such boys and Girls? Set them right. That is the solution, Law should attempt. Girls do love and marry such boys, knowing all of their such weaknesses in many cases. It is a sort of Hero-worship towards such drunken and fighting boys, in fact.
In Indian movies, many of our heroes fit the above description in many of their movies. The last cinema Hero who avoided drinking and smoking scenes on the silver screen to my knowledge (and in real life) was MGR. Now, girls have no such role models to follow. They follow the models they see on screen. Having married such Boys, then realities face them later. They go for dowry harassment act, domestic cruelty act and so on – in anger. The Internet also gives countless examples of false cases under these acts.
The present laws invariably BREAK THEM APART. That is the only solution under the Law. Break them apart and send the Boy and the in-laws to Jail. There is just nothing which is good in these laws or their implementation. Whole families are taken into custody, including the very old persons. More often, the Girl, or, her lawyers, do not spare anyone in the family. Though there are many conscientious Lawyers, who are trying to fight against such non-genuine cases in courts, they can’t prevent the initial trauma of the in-laws being arrested and kept in custody.
The National Women’s commission and the Ministries women welfare etc should not be acting – as if they are Daughter-in-laws’ commission and Ministry for Daughter-in-laws’ welfare. The mothers-in-law and the sisters-in-law are also human beings and women. The Husband, the father-in-law and Brothers-in-law are also human beings. If that is not the case – no woman would marry them at all.
My appeal to the Ministries of women welfare, the National commission for women and also the Higher Judiciary is that – this Law must be replaced by a Law which attempts to locate problems in the family in the initial stages, counsels all erring persons including the Girl, the boy and others, warns them where necessary – and if these do not work, then, award DIVORCE. Even the scope of the present family court can be expanded to cover these functions.
Where the case of dowry harassment is proved genuine and doesn’t stop with a warning, the erring persons must be made to pay huge amount to the Girl, to her bank account. If there is no such divorce demand and If there is no compatibility, Divorce is the way. Jailing everybody in the family is not the way. This Law needs immediate change. This is a classic case where a small change in a Present law can promote a lot of welfare and happiness in the country.
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