The gross misuse of 498A has seen countless innocent husbands and their family members either rot behind bars, or commit suicide due to harassment and humiliation. Just on the wife’s word, everyone she names becomes entangled with the law, loses their dignity and jobs, and is dragged to a jail cell. It is also noteworthy that female members of the husband also suffer – mother, sisters, and other sisters-in-law, which makes it clear that 498A is not about women empowerment but wife empowerment, to destory the life of the husband and his family members. I wonder where feminists are for those mothers and sisters whose lives have been destroyed courtesy of false cases on their brothers and sons.
The following instances highlight the terror and mass suicides taking place due to the misuse of the dreaded IPC Section 498A.
A bank employee hanged himself in his flat in Maya Puri, Delhi. The wife often used to stay with her parents. His efforts to persuade his wife to return to his home only resulted in his wife filing a false dowry complaint against him. Another man immolated himself in New Delhi. The reason was a complaint of a ‘dowry demand’ by his estranged wife which led him to jail twice. A 40 year old ex-Airforce officer committed suicide in Ahmedabad, Gujrat, after being implicated in a false 498A case during which he was jailed for 10 days. Unable to cope with the ‘mental torture’ inflicted by his wife, a 30 year old man committed suicide in Krishnagar, West Bengal, on Jan 3, 2007. He had been dragged to the police station, on at least a dozen occasions in the past five years, by his wife, complaining of torture, which were confirmed to be false by the additional superintendent of police. Another man committed suicide in Ahmedabad on Nov 19, 2006 after being harassed in a false 498A case. He was the only son of his aged parents. A 30 year old man from Kolkata committed suicide on Sept 1, 2006, after being implicated and arrested in a 498A case in 1999. Even after 7 years, his case was under judicial consideration when he died.
Numerous senior citizens are also committing suicide due to harassment faced due to false 498A cases. A 64 year old man, a retired employee of a multi-national company, committed suicide in Kolkata, explicitly mentioning about 498A in his suicide note stating further that “I am ending my life unable to bear the torture meted out to me by my daughter-in-law”. Another senior citizen from Ludhiana, Punjab, killed himself by throwing himself before a running train and left behind a suicide note that read “I am ending my life because the parents-in-law of my son have filed false cases against me and my family”. An old couple from Faridkot, Punjab, killed themselves by consuming pesticides on Jun 20, 2006. It was revealed that the deceased were feeling harassed and terrorized after their daughter-in-law got a criminal case registered against them for bringing insufficient dowry. Humiliated and on the run, they committed suicide clarifying in the suicide note that they never harassed their daughter-in-law for dowry.
An entire family consumed poison on Feb 3, 2007 in Alwar, Rajasthan. The husband, an engineer, and his father died, while his mother was admitted to a hospital. Right from the starting of marriage, the bride’s family used to harass the husband by threatening to implicate him and his entire family in the false cases related to dowry. Another instance of mass suicide involving three members of a family was reported a few years ago in Ballabgarh, Haryana. In this case, the husband himself, his young sister and their hapless mother consumed poison and ended their lives because of the growing unreasonable demand of the daughter-in-law and the continuous harassment inflicted by her family.
The terror of this law has completely destroyed and annihilated several innocent families. How long will the sufferings of the husband and his family remain unnoticed and their cries unheard?