Authored by - Mr. Vasu Kedia
Designation - Student
A new definition to ‘cruelty’ was given with the introduction of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code in the year 1983 which deals with the violence practiced on married women by their husband, in-laws or any other relative of the husband. It is said that the marriage is supposed to be a heavenly union of two souls, then why are the initial years of this sacred relationship followed by the selfish motives of materialistic gains on the part of corrupted human minds? What role does “cruelty” play in enhancing the brutal lineage of mental torture, physical harassment and patriarchal pressure?
The acts of cruelty involve intimidating unlawful demand for property or other valuable security that falls under the age-old culture of ‘dowry’ system or even creating a situation of provoking the woman to commit suicide. The roots of such abhorrent practices emerge from the male dominated society in India. It is a society that still believes in worshipping the teachings of Manu Smriti and controlling women’s sexuality and rights in the name of ‘patriarchy’. It is an ideology that assumes a male’s power to rule women and to consider them as inborn inferior creatures is inherent. It is this sickening mentality that subjugates woman and expects her to be ‘silent’ even after her husband thrusts her head on the floor. It is the deteriorating ‘value system’ that blames the woman’s eggs to be responsible for conceiving a girl child and it is sadly this consumptive ‘patriarchal approach’ that Indian’s take pride in. The ‘law of cruelty’ came into force to protect women from such barbarous acts of their husbands and relatives. It is used as a shield for women to safeguard themselves. Cruelty is classified as physical and mental. It even involves creating a life so hard for women in her matrimonial home that she is not able to perform her daily chores or finds difficulty in maintaining a peaceful spiritual existence. Whoever belonging to the woman’s in laws, subjects her to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term extending to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
The law on cruelty came into force after seeing the heinous problems faced by women but nowadays, we tend to witness a role reversal, such that it is benefitting women more in making false accusations than actually protecting them from the wrong. Women in India are therefore using this section as a weapon rather than shield because they find it easy to falsely accuse their husbands and dissolve their marriages by claiming for maintenance, in the form of money and property. They target rich men and conspire against them by filing a case for cruelty, within a year of marriage in order to gain valuable assets or share in property. On one hand we clap for the amazingly vocal feminists out there who talk about equality and women rights, but on the other hand we silently witness the suffering of falsely accused men by excusing women for their demonstrative fragile features. What if the focus of majority is laid to amend the one-sided laws like Section 498A to provide help in its truest essence to the innocent families of men who fall as victims in the trap of such women? No one ever said that life will be fair but neither did anyone taught us to deal with such unfair practices that are skilfully governed and artistically oriented to accuse an innocent. Is there a contradictory law to Section 498A that functions in interest of men? If not, then are these men of the so-called new generation supposedly to continuously fall prey of these women belonging to the 21st century? If so, then in whose hands does the actual justice lie? Is ‘Satyamev Jayate’ any more prevalent? Instancing the case of the recent Instagram’s highlighted news of the ‘Bois Locker Room’, which concluded with the suicidal death of Manav from Gurugram, who was falsely accused for being a rapist, actually started with the conversation screenshot’s and the voices of all the feminist activists, who finally had nothing to say when they got to know that the sexually explicit messages were sent by girls too. The perfect live scenario of cruelty being used as a weapon is seen in the case of Amarjit Kaur and ors. versus Jaswinder Kaur and ors in the Punjab and Haryana high court, where the bench was convinced that it has become a common practice to use the provisions of section 498-A as a weapon rather than shield by disgruntled wives. The bench was of the opinion that the simplest way to harass is to get the relatives of the husband roped in under this provision, no matter they are bed ridden grandparents of the husband or the relatives living abroad for decades.
India is indeed a democratic country which is highly dominated by patriarchal norms and no less by the emerging liberal journalists, but isn’t the actual idea of ‘justice’ getting lost among so many abruptly unclear voices across the nation? Though with having the ‘Freedom of Speech’, we can raise further questions and our own struggling notions but it must be admitted that Section 498A is one of the most controversial sections of the IPC.