According to India’s national crimes statistics bureau, 8,000 dowry deaths are recorded each year in the country. Image Credit: Wiki Commons

Indian expat Shail Kaul, living in Dubai, never imagined his marriage to the love of his life would turn out to be a horror story.

Shail met his future bride Naina also a Dubai resident through a matrimonial site. They went out a couple of times and soon marriage was on the cards.

The couple were married in 2013, but things started going wrong almost immediately. Kaul and Naina were constantly at logger heads.

Things took a turn for the worst when Naina decided to file multiple charges against her husband – a misdemeanor case in the UAE public prosecution court and a dowry harassment case back home in India.

Naina claimed damages to the tune of Dh800,000. It is another thing that Kaul won both the cases on the grounds of cruelty, but he said it was not an easy ride to reach where he has.

For the uninitiated, dowry is a financial gift paid in the form of cash and goods such as jewellery, household appliances and cars to a prospective bridegroom, especially in the case of Hindus.

The law and its misuse

Giving or taking dowry is prohibited in India under the ‘Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961’ (Act No. 28 of 1961). Additionally, in 1983, Indian Penal Code 498A – a criminal law - came into effect to further protect women against cruelty from their husbands and in-laws. Those convicted under the law are subjected to a jail term from three to seven years and have to pay a hefty fine to the wife and her family.

A map based on statistics from 2012 on the density of deaths of women resulting from dowry demand Image Credit: Wiki Commons/Crime in India 2012

The law came into effect after history showed a spate of deaths linked to India’s dowry system despite it being illegal in India. The practice of giving and taking dowry is widespread in the country even today. Women have committed suicide because they could not face harassment over dowry payment. Others have been murdered by their husbands or in-laws for not meeting dowry demands.

According to India’s national crimes statistics bureau, 8,000 dowry deaths are recorded each year in the country.

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Sadly, some greedy Indian wives are taking advantage of the law which was put in place to protect their rights in the first place. The women are misusing the law by making false claims of dowry harassment just so they can extort monies from their husbands and in-laws. World-wide a number of Indian men have fallen victim to the misuse of this dowry law and here in the UAE too.

According to Kaul, who has started a support group to help people like him, there are at least 200 men fighting a dowry harassment case in the UAE. “That number could be higher as many people are embarrassed to talk about it and silently suffer. They are settling for an out-of-court settlement with the wife and her family and end up paying whatever the woman asks just so the matter gets closed,” he said.

Kaul said his ex-wife made baseless claims against him, accusing him of accepting a branded luxury car as part of the dowry. “I had to prove to the courts in the UAE and India that I never owned this particular brand of luxury car. She also falsely accused me of throwing her and her belongings out of the house. The CCTV camera installed in my building in Dubai revealed nothing like this had transpired.”

I had to prove to the courts in the UAE and India that I never owned this particular brand of luxury car. She also falsely accused me of throwing her and her belongings out of the house. The CCTV camera installed in my building in Dubai revealed nothing like this had transpired.

- Shail Kaul

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Recently, the Supreme Court of India, passed new guidelines to the law, stipulating that a due investigation needs to be conducted before an arrest. While that has come as some relief for these Indian men and their families, there is no denying in the fact that a number of them continue to be subjected to extortion and mental torture as a result of the false claims.

History of misuse

“As per Indian Penal Code 498A, dowry harassment is a non-bailable, non-compoundable and a cognisable offence. A person charged under a non-bailable offence has to mandatorily appear in court and get bail from the judge. Non-compoundable means the complaint registered cannot be withdrawn and cognisable means due investigation needs to be conducted before an arrest,” said Devanand Mahadeva, director, Goodwins Law Corporation.

He got stuck in India

Rakesh Sinha, another victim living in Dubai said in practice this is not being followed. "In India there have been countless instances where without due investigation, the police arrested elderly parents, unmarried sisters, pregnant sister-in-laws. The unsuspecting husband and his family go through a lot of mental torture. There have been cases where some accused parents, sisters and even husbands committed suicide in jail,”

Sinha got married in November 2009. Two years on, his wife Sneha, also from the same emirate decided to leave her house in Dubai and fly home to India.

But the worst was yet to come.

A month later Sinha received summons from an Indian court in Rajasthan charging him and his family under Section 498A of the IPC. “I was shocked to say the least. We hired lawyers but it was not getting us anywhere. So I decided to go home and look into the matter. When I arrived I was detained at the airport and taken into police custody. My passport was impounded. My family got me out on bail and the entire episode was so embarrassing to say the least.”

Sinha could not return to Dubai as he was stuck in India for three months with his passport impounded.

Finally, Rakesh paid Dh213,000 to his wife in an out-of-court settlement and got his passport. He is back in Dubai but the whole episode has left such a bitter taste in his mouth.

I don’t think I want to get married again. The episode destroyed our lives. Financially and mentally we have been drained out.

- Rakesh

Another victim Ravi Khanna is currently undergoing counselling sessions at the Indian Consulate. A similar dowry case was filed against him in 2017. The Indian police passed the case to a social welfare committee. After hearing the case, in February this year, the committee said there was no evidence of any dowry harassment. But the wife appealed in the court again stating no due enquiry took place and so his case is still ongoing.

“It is quite understandable that in India there are people who are not so culturally forward in their thinking and mindset. This is why you still have women being tortured by greedy men and their parents and that is why we have Section 498A protecting their rights. But not every man is guilty of torturing his wife and demanding a dowry from her. What we are asking for is justice and a fair way of dealing with the matter. Authorities have to their due investigation before making arrests and charging them,” he said.

Guidelines for people slapped with a dowry case

• Try for amicable settlement.

• Inform the consulate of your marital issue

• Work to resolve the matter.

• Give the consulate in writing that you are anticipating a false case to be slapped against you

• If there is no way to settle the matter, gather as much evidence as you can in your defense.

• Some lawyers mislead a wife and her family and encourage them to file a case against these men. Get counselling immediately.

• If a case is lodged in India, follow the process, cooperate with the authorities and procedure, file interrogatories (Request for Further Information on the Complaint).

• Hire a criminal, not a family or marriage lawyer.

• Apply for Notice of Arrest for your family (mention all their names) in your local court. This protects you against an immediate arrest by the police. With the notice of arrest, police have to give 72 hours’ notice before making any arrest.

• Know that there is a remedy to false claim under IPC 498A, IPC 211 and 511 being two such sections that can be used to protect against 498A.

What these Indian Penal Codes stand for and how you can use them for your benefit

IPC 177– Furnishing false information.

IPC 182– False information, with intent to cause public servant to use his lawful power to the injury of another person

IPC 191– Giving false evidence

IPC 193– Punishment for false evidence

IPC 194– Giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of capital offence.

IPC 195– Giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of offence punishable with imprisonment for life or imprisonment

IPC 199– False statement made in declaration which is by law receivable as evidence.

IPC 200– Using as true such declaration knowing it to be false.

IPC 211– False charge of offence made with intent to injure

IPC 361– Kidnapping from lawful guardianship.

IPC 362– Abduction.

IPC 363– Punishment for kidnapping.

IPC 378– Theft

IPC 379– Punishment for theft

IPC 380– Theft in dwelling house, etc

IPC 405– Criminal breach of trust

IPC 406– Punishment for criminal breach of trust

IPC 415– Cheating.

IPC 417– Punishment for cheating.

IPC 499– Defamation.

IPC 500– Punishment for defamation.

IPC 503– Criminal intimidation.

IPC 504– Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace.

IPC 506– Punishment for criminal intimidation.

Source: Indian lawyers and victims of the misuse of IPC section 498A. All names mentioned in the story have been changed to protect their identities.