Women have long been victims of violence or harassment by men whether for dowry or any other reason. In India, 10 out of every 5 women are victims of domestic abuse, and the figure is growing. Women are tormented emotionally and physically in nearly every home by their husband or his family members. After witnessing a lot of dowry deaths and increased violence against women, the Government of India amended the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and included section 498A on December 26, 1983, by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1983.
According to Section 498A, if a woman is exposed to cruelty by her husband or a relative, the husband or relative faces at least three years in jail, which can be extended and fined.
The expression “cruelty” defined as a deliberate act of violence against women which drive them to commit suicide, cause grievous hurt, danger to life, limb and health or to meet unlawful demand of any property or security from her or from her relatives.
In the recent years, we have seen many women falsely accusing men of domestic violence just to get their own evil way. There were more than 41 thousand female suicides, compared to more than 97 thousand male suicides. Addressing this issue, a batch of law students named Muskan Malhotra, Kriti Aeron, Athak Walia, Swati Mishra, Riya Pande, Kshitij Pandey, Saurav Narayan, and Shiwangi Suman from different universities and Advocate Mohit Kaushik wrote a letter to CJI for making section 498A gender neutral. The letter mentioned about the present situation in the country and the misuse of the section 498A.
The Supreme Court has always been quick to act, has served as a guardian of fundamental rights and always put forth the concept of “equal treatment for all”. The letter requested the CJI and the judicial system to take suo moto cognizance by directing the Law Ministry to enact or amend the existing law for cruelty against men in marital strife. Further, the letter mentioned some of the cases including Smt. Anita Gaur vs Sri Rajesh Gaur, Joydeep Majumdar v. Biurti Jaiswal Majumdar where women has misuse the power of section 498A.
The letter also promoted the idea that crime is gender neutral and that everyone should be discouraged from committing it. And recognize the mental and emotional burndown of men in marital problems and the fact that men are also been subject to cruelty but they don’t have a legal remedy for it unlike women.
Being a feminist, I have always wanted women to realise their full potential and not be oppressed by the male patriarchal society. As of now, many women are misusing the legal rights that have been bestowed upon them. And, as the statistics show, the women torment the men mentally and emotionally by falsely accusing them. Also, as a law student, I believe that gender neutralising section 498A is critical.