Note: This article is being put in public domain and can be used by anyone in part or full for any purpose whatsoever.
Given recent news about revisit by Supreme Court of prior SC judgment of 27th Jul in Rajesh Sharma vs. State of UP, it has become imperative for men’s rights organisations to come up with their own arguments and get directly involved with the legal and judicial processes about how laws, their interpretation, and implementation are modified by judicial orders. Even the revisit order by SC is based on a PIL by a women’s NGO comprising of women advocates, and so if the logic being extended is that PIL has been filed for protecting women’s rights, then by same reasoning men’s rights organisations can get involved with the PIL and implead themselves into such proceedings for protection of men’s rights. If women’s rights are human rights, then men’s rights are also human rights. If anyone has trouble understanding this point, then he/she is likely driven or brainwashed by cultural Marxism type of propaganda.
Arguments will be given on various points below, and further the mentioned data sources can be analysed to build a thorough report on the same. Some of the points have already been acknowledged in various SC and HC judgments, so those can also be cited in lieu of giving primary data.
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Data sources for building arguments on law misuse etc.
Lot of the data and statistics about 498A and its ill effects are already available through following primary sources:
- NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) reports which give both IPC 498A data and suicide statistics. These have been analysed in many blog articles also.
- Some data has been collected through RTIs filed by individuals.
Anecdotal data about 498A misuse, bail proceedings, false charge sheets (even though not in statistical reports) can be deduced from following sources:
- Calls/emails received by MRAs/volunteers, and NGOs
- Social media
- Questions, comments by general public (about fear of law misuse by women, 498A after marriage) on internet, social sites like Quora etc. This type of data can be utilized to show that general public is aware and scared of misuse of women protection laws. If an argument is given by OP (Opposite Party) that such data is anecdotal, then it can be argued that since government has not done any survey on people’s attitudes and perceptions about misuse of women protection laws, such anecdotal data which is widely shared on social media, and not challenged has to be taken into account and respected. Even lot of data advanced by women NGOs is based on conjectures and convenient surmises about non-reporting of crimes by women, “within four walls of home” type of arguments, which are nothing but convenient assumptions instead of real data of the kind collected in surveys or the kind of data NCRB reports provide.
Note that there cannot be any bar on basing arguments on above data found by men’s rights NGOs/MRAs, because even the women NGO Nyayadhar has based their arguments on their own data collected over years, the truth or falsity of which has not been independently verified.
Arguments against misuse
A common fall-back argument whenever it is acknowledged that IPC 498A and similar women protection laws are misused is that every law can be misused, and therefore that by itself should not be a reason to scrap or abolish a law. The argument is incomplete because it does not go into extent or degrees of misuse of various laws. For example, it has sometimes been seen that murder case has been put on husband or family where a married woman has gone missing. Later it has been found that the woman was living with her paramour in another city, so the filing of murder case was totally wrong and a misuse of murder law. Or sometimes a body has been found of a woman and it was assumed to be another woman who was missing, without proper investigation. In this case, there is a possible murder case, but those accused of murder are not the rightly accused since the victim woman has not bee identified correctly.
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How many such misuse of murder law will happen in an year? Maybe 10, 20. How many people will get arrested and have to face trial? Maybe 30-50. Now compare this to number of IPC 498A filed every year (about 1 lakh), and number of people arrested is about 2.2 lakh. Overall conviction rate is reportedly 13-15% or so based on NCRB data, and based on RTIs filed in Bangalore/Karnataka it is much lesser. According to this RTI data, 25 people were arrested (and most had to go through trial lasting 5-10 years) in Bangalore for ultimate conviction of 1 person. Such arrest and prosecution of people is totally against principles of justice in a civilized society, that innocents should not be made to suffer in order to punish the wrongdoers. But when it comes to women protection laws like IPC 498A, all such caution is thrown away, and the state acts like an oppressive state only too happy to arrest.
Data sources for above: NCRB crime statistics, RTI replies.
Negative impacts of 498A
Suicide of married men
It’s already well publicized that suicide rate of married men is more than double the number of suicide rate of married women, yet the societal perception has been created due to MSM’s (Main stream media) constant news on any news about crimes against women. Part of the problem is also that a man is considered to be possessed with free will, and a woman is considered (whenever bad outcomes) to be either under some kind of oppression or without agency, and so all news about male suicides will get explained away due to things like farmers’ suicides, financial problems, personal problems (note that the same personal problem could easily become dowry death IPC 304B in case of woman’s suicide if within 7 years of marriage).
The more convincing part is about regularly coming news of married men committing suicide due to clear reason, or many a time leaving a suicide note, post on Facebook, or even a video before suicide. These news sources can be utilized as part of 498A misuse PIL, or similar proceedings.
Unjustified and mysterious bail proceedings – bail industry at work, or a scared lower judiciary?
A very common pattern is being observed in bail proceedings especially anticipatory bail proceedings related to IPC 498A cases. What has been reported by many accused men is that their bail gets rejected at trial court level almost always. Many are able to get bail at session court level, and almost everyone is able to get bail if they go to High Courts.
If anyone has basic understanding of about bail, then it is easy to see that this type of bail rejection at lower courts but granting of bail at higher courts based on same set of facts, is gross injustice. When no new set of facts have been brought forward in appeal, then why should the bail not have been granted at lower/trial court itself? Many people may not have the resources and ability to keep approaching higher courts all the way till HC to get bail. All of them are being denied bail at lower court level.
Some possible arguments on the reasons for this could be:
- There is a jail/bail industry at work, which benefits the advocates at expense of innocent public. There is some possibility of this since many in advocate community had spoken against strict interpretation and adherence to CrPC 41 provisions, which is something would result in lesser number of arrests, and fear of arrests, thereby lowering the number of bail applications coming to courts. Supreme Court had given a definitive judgment on adherence to provisions of CrPC 41 in its Arnesh Kumar vs. State of Bihar judgment, so at least the threat of immediate arrests has subsided in many states of India.
- The judges in lower judiciary are scared of being accused of bias, so they routinely deny bail while higher judiciary is not scared of doing the right thing and so bail is granted at session court level many a time, and almost always at HC level.
Arguments based on conviction rate being 15%
Someone needs to analyse this based on conviction rates in other crimes as per NCRB reports. Basically, the conviction rate in IPC 498A is too low. If the argument is advanced that it is not because the case was false, but due to inefficiency and delays in judicial system, then one can compare lower rate of conviction in IPC 498A relative to other crimes to show that it is much more than the standard argument about inefficiency and delays. Even if conviction rate is not reasonably high (say 50%) in other crimes, given that IPC 498A sees lot more FIRs and charge-sheets and number of accused, fixing IPC 498A has lot more positive impact in creating a just prosecution and judicial system judicial. If a particular crime has 100 FIRs in any year, its ‘rampant’ misuse will affect maybe 100-150 people, but since IPC 498A has about 100,000 FIRs and about 220,000 accused in an year, its rampant misuse affects whole of society.
Here we can argue that the right to life and liberty also entails right to be free from possibility or actual arrest, bail proceedings, cost of hiring defence lawyer, unjustified prosecution, trial over many years which only results in acquittal in the end. There cannot be 100% conviction in any crime, but a 15% conviction rate is also not justifiable. A comparison can be made about conviction rate in other countries in various crimes, and what would be a reasonable conviction rate for Indian prosecution and judicial system.
Assuming that a more just conviction rate would be 50% in overall crimes and so in IPC 498A cases too, then it is easy to see that the total number of IPC 498A cases will have to come down by 70% of what they are now, from about 100,000 per year to about 30,000 per year. We assume that absolute number of convictions will remain the same if more effective processes are put in place.
|Current number of cases /year||Current Conviction Rate||Number of cases resulting in conviction|
|Expected number of cases /year||Desired Conviction Rate||Number of cases resulting in conviction|
Now it may be argued that with more efficient and effective processes, the conviction rate should increase from 15% to a higher number, and so the absolute number of convictions should be higher than 15,000. I would be somewhat wary of jumping to such conclusion, since it seems from data that there is very low conviction rate in cities like Bangalore. So there is every possibility that higher conviction will be happening in rural areas. If the PIL of Nyayadhar women’s NGO is to be believed, the reasons for this could be because well-educated women (in cities presumably) misuse the law, but those in rural areas are the real oppressed women. Since that NGO works with rural women, it could be their self-serving argument too but in absence of data this cannot be dismissed outright. However, another plausible reason could be that those accused in rural areas are not so well aware of legal processes, are unable to spend a lot on defence lawyer, and hence their trial ends up in conviction. Also, many of them in current scenario are falsely accused, but being unable to get proper defence, they get convicted anyway. With proper processes put in place, many in both urban and rural areas will not have to face a charge-sheet and subsequent trial.
So, if conviction rate in IPC 498A is increased to a more justifiable level of 50%, about 70,000 cases per year can be reduced. That will directly translate to about 150,000 lesser number of accused who are saved from all the ill-effects like possibility of arrest, bail proceedings, trial for many years, resulting job losses, loss of reputation, societal bias, and so on.
Costs to society for wrongful prosecution
Given above analysis, further costs under various headings below can be based on lesser number of IPC 498A cases by 70,000 per year, and also lesser number of accused by about 150,000 per year. Whatever are the current monetary costs, wastage of resources etc., will come down proportionately by 70,000 lesser number of cases and 150,000 lesser number of accused.
So one can basically find current costs under each heading, and then take 70% of them, or take ratio of 15/22 (150000/220000) for them for number of accused.
Costs on wrongly accused men (70,000 husbands) who are forced to quit their jobs, or take leave from work
Costs to wrongly accused (150,000 accused) of bail proceedings etc.
Costs on police, investigation, prosecution, trial, taxpayers for trials of wrongly accused (70,000 cases)
How it affects poorer people in worse way? Find data on this
Problems in police charge-sheeting
Problem in police charge sheeting – far off relatives, no investigation, charge sheeting of accused without good evidence. Charge-sheeting of accused done even if evidence shown contrary to allegations, e.g. accused husband produces evidence that he has given 2 lakh to his father in law, though he is being accused of demanding dowry (with no documentary evidence of actual dowry paid, or any demand either).
Police has no accountability on conviction rate
Following judgment needs to be studied, and how these recommendations have to be implemented. If they are not implemented so far due to whatever reasons, then this can be argued in SC that some suitable directions need to be issued to state governments so proper investigation, charge-sheeting, trial becomes a reality. That will automatically reduce the number of false/unproveable charge-sheets by police since they will be bound to increase conviction rates, and the easiest way to do that is by reducing the number of false cases being converted into charge-sheets.
Is IPC 498A a criminal law, civil law, matrimonial law, or divorce negotiation tool?
Lawyers advising online to file 498A for divorce, marital problems to women (get screenshots etc.)
Incentive to lawyers to suggest 498A as negotiation tool for divorce, widely sanctioned and condoned since settlement/compromise considered normal even though cognizable offence. FIRs are filed, trials begin, and then at any point of time of trial a quashing of case can be done by HC under CrPC 482.
Analysis of NCRB Data
NCRB data analysis – overall conviction 498A
NCRB data analysis – find states with high conviction rates 498A