Subject: Section 498a must be scrapped by Indian Parliament on April 16th, otherwise Shoaib’s case will create a dangerous precedent.
Shoaib Malik reportedly gave 15 Crores (approx 3 million USD) to Ayesha Siddique for putting an end to their dispute after she files a complaint under section 498a of IPC. So, it is clear that the whole drama was for money and nothing else from the very beginning.
Out of court settlement under threats of jailing under section 498a are unconstitutional misuses of powers given to police. Marital disputes are civil disputes. They have to be solved in a civil court or a family court.
“If marriage disputes are crimes, then marrying in itself is a crime.”
Whether Shoaib’s marriage was valid or not, it was up to family court at Hyderabad to decide. Now, the police have acted as courts; dispensed “justice” by being actors in the dispute, in the settlement process and even created a hostage situation that forced Shoaib to give divorce, without anyone verifying, if his telephone marriage was valid or not in the first place.
Today, there is a growing tendency to convert every marital dispute into a criminal offense of cruelty or dowry harassment. Instead of using family courts, men are dragged to police stations or crime against women cells. When a marriage breaks, there will be pain and a lot of tears for both men and women. These side effects of marriage dispute must not be considered as crime against women.
“The duty of Indian police is to fight crime. It is not their duty to work as agents of women to issue threats of arrest, jailing or seizure of passports to facilitate exorbitant alimonies.”
At a time, when gay sex and premarital sex is considered legal by Government, it is unfortunate if all marital disputes are considered as crime against women by men and instead of solving these disputes in Family Courts, police threats and draconian laws are used to force out of court settlement.
This is same as legalizing extortion by trampling the very process of justice.
Who is not afraid of jail, seizure of passports and defamation in society? Criminal Laws must not be used as instruments of blackmail. Government must scrap section 498a of IPC as soon as the parliament resumes on April 16th for budget session, so that this entire extortion racket can stop. Government has to do this before passing another other laws or amendments or taking any other policy decision.
Scrapping section 498a will put an end to all this extortion under police threats. While the existing Dowry disputes and Domestic Violence disputes can be taken care of by dowry prohibition act and domestic violence act.
Indian Supreme Court warned of legal terrorism due to misuse of section 498a and said, “The role of the investigating agencies and courts is that of a watchdog and not of a bloodhound. It should be their effort to see that an innocent person is not made to suffer on account of unfounded, baseless and malicious allegations”.
President Pratibha Patil said, ““Instances exist whereby protective legal provisions for the benefit of women have been subjected to distortion and misuse to wreak petty vengeance and to settle scores. It is unfortunate if laws meant to protect women get abused as instruments of oppression.”
The solution for Government is to:
1) Scrap Section 498a of IPC
2) Decriminalize marriage disputes and put an end to involvement of police in counselling or monetary settlement of marital disputes.
3) Stop using of Crime against Women (CAW) cells as Marriage Counselling centres.
4) Refer marriage disputes to Family Courts.
The situation faced by Shoaib is not unique. It is faced by thousands of men across India every year. For example, Rajesh Mishra (name changed) is a software engineer in Bangalore. When he told his wife to stop abusing, as he could no longer tolerate it, she threatened to file section 498a to get him and his parents arrested unless he agrees for an out of court settlement of 1 Crore (Rs.10 million) and a divorce. Rajesh did not even had that much money and he suffered further abuse for many months till he approached a men’s rights organization.
Men, who do not succumb to the blackmail and extortion, often get jailed along with their parents, brothers and sisters. In 2008, 37,000 women and about 140,000 men were jailed under section 498a. Often, additional sections of IPC were put on them later to force them into exorbitant out of court settlements. This has to end and family courts have to take over.
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Public Relations Officer
Save Indian Family Foundation, Bangalore