New Delhi: Vikash Tuteja, who is in his late 30s, had to pay his wife a hefty Rs1.2 million (Dh110,000) as the settlement amount in his marriage dispute. It is Section 498 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that has spoilt his life, as his in-laws have been using it quite frequently to extract money from him.
Vikash, whose case was settled in a Family Court in Delhi, and many other men and their families have become a victim of this anti-dowry law, which deals with a husband or his family subjecting a woman to cruelty.
The law aims to provide safety and security to women in Indian society where they are often harassed by in-laws for fat sums of dowry at the time of marriage and also subsequently. Punishment can be a maximum of imprisonment of three years and a fine. But there have been many cases of the law being misused.
Mahesh Parekh, a practising lawyer at the Family Court, said: "One out of 12 cases is a vindictive case. It's not as though there is no truth [in the case], but, yes, at times it is blown out of proportion to make the husband and the in-laws look criminal and fetch them punishment accordingly."
During the recent Lok Sabha session, it was submitted by the government that more than 11,300 false cases got registered under the Dowry Prohibition Act this year.
The government, which referred to data collected by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), said the cases were declared false on account of mistake of fact or law.
Gurubaksh Singh, secretary of the Save Family Foundation, said: "There are several cases where the husbands were earning a handsome salary and a case of dowry was slapped against them. Women are misguided by the family and sometimes by lawyers to extract money."
Even the legal fraternity has come forward to stop the misuse of dowry laws and proposed the use of lie-detector tests, brain mapping tests and narco-analyses for bringing out the truth in dowry-related cases.
"Even the amendment in the dowry law in the year 1993 has not brought relief to the grieved husbands. Instead, it has created more problems for them," said D.B. Goswami, a prominent criminal lawyer.
"With the help of lie detector tests things will become easier for the complainant as well as the accused. This step will be a great relief for those who are being harassed for no fault of theirs," added Goswami.
K.T.S. Tulsi, a prominent lawyer, said: "There are instances of wives misusing the law only because they want to get away from a joint family and set up homes of their own for various reasons. If a man resists the move because the parents are aged, his wife goes to police with a complaint of dowry harassment."
The Delhi High Court had recently observed that the number of false dowry cases were increasing by the day. In a recent case, the court acquitted a man and five of his family members sentenced to two years imprisonment by a trial court for dowry harassment and an attempt to murder his wife.
Cautioning the police and trial courts against "false statements" by dowry harassment complainants, Justice Shiv Narayan Dhingra recently said, "Every failed marriage is not a crime. However, the law [498 A of IPC] is being used to convert failed marriages into a crime and people use it as a tool to extract as much monetary benefit as possible. The FIRs [first information reports] are withdrawn once the payment is received by the complainant," the judge said.