Monday 21 August 2017 News Updated at 08:08 AM IST
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SC guide tips scale against women - Deccan Herald
SC guide tips scale against women
DH News Service, Bengaluru,
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The guidelines issued by the Supreme Court last week on the operation of Section 498A of the IPC, under which dowry cases are prosecuted, are ostensibly intended to prevent unnecessary harassment of husbands and in-laws by disgruntled wives. The court has ordered the setting up of family welfare committees in every district which will evaluate complaints of dowry harassment before the police act on them.
The committees will report the result of their enquiry within a month after talking to both parties. No arrests can be made or any other step taken before the completion of the enquiry, except in cases of injury or death. The Women and Child Welfare ministry has also asked the National Commission for Women to accept complaints of harassment from men. The ministry has proposed a more rigorous mechanism for filing complaints which it thinks will help to weed out frivolous cases.

The court and the ministry have felt that there is increasing misuse of the law. But the proposed safeguards are likely to hurt women who have genuine complaints more than it will help men who face false complaints. It may be true that the law is misused by some women. But many other laws are also misused. The solution cannot be to make it difficult for victims to pursue the legal course against offenders. The low conviction rate in dowry cases cannot be cited as proof of misuse of the law by women. The conviction rate is low in the case of other crimes too, including murder. This is because of the general failure of investigation and prosecution, and such failures are more frequent in dowry cases. The natural tendency of the police to support men, which is a reflection of the prevailing attitudes in society, is also a reason for such failure.

It is because women are weaker and have to struggle harder to secure justice than men that the law is weighted in their favour. This idea of just and rightful discrimination is an accepted legal principle in the handling of relations between unequal parties. It is this weightage for the weaker party that makes both parties equal. In an unequal and even hostile social milieu, to make women plead their case before a committee and wait for its opinion on her complaint would be wrong. If women foist false cases against men they can be punished for that. Courts have done that. In a country where there is a dowry death every minute, initiation of cases should not be made problematic and procedurally more difficult for women. It is likely that the guidelines will be misused by offenders.