Gender Biased Laws: Law misuesd by Wives to harrasing their Husbands and in-laws
Women ‘Empowered’ by the Depraved Weapon: Cruelty
What comes to our mind when we hear empowerment? It brings a sense of freedom and liberty to lead our lives the way we want to. In order to ensure empowerment, we have been backed by various laws and they somewhere help in ameliorating our lives by reviving the discarded rights. But when a law is being misused to perpetrate a wrong by those for whom that particular law was framed, it’s nothing but a disgraceful act leading to peculiar limitations upon the usage of that law. There are incalculable instances where the horrendous side of a law has been seen.
Seeking to the aforesaid context, for instance, where a woman files a complaint against her husband alleging him of beating and assaulting her and then plans an outing with her friends on the very next day, is she actually suffering through cruelty and is in dire need of help. I think it should turn on its head as it seems to be a cruelty upon the husband. Now, the question is how would he be able to prove his innocence. What would be the possible remedies available to him? In this Article, we will be analyzing this situation in detail and the subsequent repercussions.
Possible Remedies Available to a Husband:-
Now, if we reiterate the same problem, what all possible options would be available to a husband in order to prove his innocence? Some of the sought after remedies have been listed below:
● Collection of Evidence: The first step in proving a false accusation would be to gather all the substantial material, especially when a complaint has been filed under section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860. This section states that if a husband or relatives/family of the husband is found to subject the wife to cruelty, then they will be imprisoned for a term of three years with a liability to fine. He must start collecting as much evidence as possible, which includes:
o Any conversation between him or his family member with his wife or her relatives like any SMS, emails, letters, call recordings, etc.
o In case any CCTV was installed, then he should try to retrieve the footage which could show that no physical cruelty was done to wife.
o Any evidence that proves that his wife moved willingly out of his house.
o Any evidence that shows no demands for dowry were made before or after the wedding.
● To Seek Anticipatory Bail: If he thinks that an FIR may be lodged against him, he should seek an Anticipatory bail with the help of a lawyer. Under section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPc), 1973, if a person thinks that he may get arrested for a Non-Bailable Offence, he can apply to the Sessions Court or the High Court and if the court thinks fit, then it will allow that at the time of his arrest, a bail must be granted to him.
● Quashing the False Complaint: The husband can also get the FIR quashed filed under section 498A of the IPC. He can approach the High Court under section 482 of the CrPc where it has been stated that the High Court has inherent powers by which it can give orders to prevent abuse of the court procedure.
● Filing of a Counter FIR: The husband can also file a counter FIR against the false complaint of cruelty made by his wife. Though, the Police usually do not lodge an FIR and in such case, he can file a complaint before the Superintendent of that police station under section 154(3) of the CrPc.
Supreme Court Guidelines for Preventing the Misuse of Section 498A
By virtue of the gross misuse of section 498A, the Supreme Court came up with certain guidelines in the case of Rajesh Sharma & Ors. v. State of UP-
● In every district one or more Family Welfare Committees be constituted by the District Legal Services Authorities (DLSA).
● The Committee members will not be called as witnesses.
● Every complaint under S. 498A received by the police or the Magistrate be referred to and looked into by such committee. Such committee may have interaction with the parties personally or by means of telephone or any other mode of communication including electronic communication.
● Report of such committee be given to the Authority by whom the complaint is referred to it latest within 1 month from the date of receipt of complaint.
● Till the report of the committee is received, there should not be any arrest.
● The report may be then considered by the Investigating Officer (I.O.) or the Magistrate on its own merit.
● If a bail application is filed with at least 1 clear days’ notice to the Public Prosecutor/complainant, the same may be decided on the same day. Recovery of disputed dowry items may not by itself be a ground for denial of bail if maintenance or other rights of wife/minor children can otherwise be protected.
● In respect of persons ordinarily residing out of India, impounding or confining the passports or issuance of Red Corner Notice, i.e. a request to find and temporarily arrest a person who has been charged with a crime, should not be a routine.
● Personal appearance of all family members and particularly outstation members may not be required and the trial court ought to grant relaxation from personal appearance or permit appearance by video conferencing without adversely affecting progress of the trial.
● These directions will not apply to the offences involving tangible physical injuries or death.
Rights to Counter the False Allegations
Apart from the remedies that are available to a husband in a case of false complaint made by his wife, there are provisions by which he could bring a counterclaim against her. These are:
● If a wife is conspiring a crime against her husband, then under Section 120B IPC, he can file a case against her.
● If a husband suspects that false evidence is being framed or presented against him, then under Section 191 IPC, he can file a case alleging that he is being framed wrongfully.
● We live in a society where one has a right to live with dignity and his/her reputation should not be challenged wrongfully or maliciously. So if a wife threatens to defame or falsely drag her husband and his family to the court, the husband can file a counter case of defamation under Section 500 of IPC.
● In a situation where a wife threatens her husband to do harm to him or his family or anyone related to him, he must gather all the relevant evidence and present it to the court under Section 506 of IPC.
● If the husband believes that the complaint registered by his wife is false, then he can file an application under Section 227 of CrPc stating that the case filed under section 498A of IPC is false. This would lead the husband in discharge of all the accusations that were held against him, if the court thinks fit.
● If the wife breaks into her husband’s home, creates a scene, and goes to a 'protection officer' and lies that her husband abused her 'physically, emotionally, or economically’; the husband can file a damage recovery case or a claim of compensation, i.e. to make good the loss so caused under Section 19 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 against her.
Husband’s Autonomy Upon Being Proved Innocent:-
No man solemnizes a marriage to seek divorce one day but if he gets entrapped in wrong relations, there is barely any option left with him. Also, Paton, a renowned jurist in one of his writings has stated that when love flies out of a relationship, the court gains significance. Similarly, in various cases, it has been found that when a husband is acquitted or discharged of all the false accusations that were framed against him by his wife, then he can seek divorce on the ground of cruelty meted against him.
In Manoj Madhukarrao Pate v. Sou. Vijaya Manoj Pate, it was held that when a false complaint has been filed by wife under section 498A of IPC and the husband and his family gets discharged of the false accusations, then the husband can file a divorce petition under section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 against his wife. This ruling has been followed in various cases as undoubtedly, when a false case is made against a person and his family and the mental trauma he has to go through, the person would only wish to do away with the perpetrator.
Lord Devlin has stated that the suppression of vice (wrong) is as much as the law’s business as the suppression of subversive (Destroying a political system) activities. When a complaint is being filed by a woman against her husband, the authorities must look into the root cause of the matter before taking the husband or his family members into custody. At the same time, if the husband believes that no wrong has been committed on his part, then he should take recourse to any of the remedies discussed above or any other option. Upon discharge of all the false allegations that were framed against him or his family, it depends upon him that whether he would like to continue the marriage or end it up and if he wants to end it, then unhesitatingly, cruelty will be a sufficient ground to seek divorce.