The Anti-dowry law of 1961 had sought to protect women from being killed or tortured in their marital homes. Section 498A of the IPC makes dowry harassment cognisable and non-bailable offence.
However, an argument was raised that Section 498A is widely misused by disgruntled women who are determined to destroy family values and drag completely innocent husbands and in-laws to jail. The Supreme Court has observed that women are using Section 498A as a weapon, rather than a shield, against their unfortunate in-laws. Court has acknowledged that most of such complaints are filed in the heat of the moment, over trivial issues.
To protect the victims of false accusations, the court:
- In a 2014, provided a nine-point checklist before any arrests could be made under Section 498A.
- Mandated a family welfare committee in every district to scrutinise dowry harassment cases, constituted of social workers.
- Removed the need for the accused to make a personal appearance in court.
These orders came after Justice C.K. Prasad noted that in 2012 two lakh arrests were made under Section 498A, with only 14.4% of conviction rate. Based on this, the judges conclude that the complaints were for the most part “trivial”.
24,771 dowry deaths have occurred in India from 2012 to 2014 making Section 498A vital for the protection of genuine victims. Every law has the potential to be misused and because of such cases the pleas of genuine victims are gone unanswered. Strong regulations are to be laid down if the rights of women are to be upheld and diluting the Anti-dowry law is not one of them.