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India is a land of diversity. There is diversity observed in caste, race, religion, flora, fauna, and landform and so on. Amongst this diversity there comes the set of uniformed legal system which binds all the sticks into a single bunch. This set of legal principles are applied to all the four age-based stages of human life, which includes Bhramacharya(student), Grihastha (Householder), Vanaprastha(retired)and sannyasa(renunciation).

Amongst all the four stage of life, the Grishtha Ashram stage is considered to be the most important in sociological context. This stage refers to the individuals married life, with duties of maintaining a household, raising a family, educating one’s children, and leading a family centred social life. There are copious laws enacted with an aim to polish this important stage of life, which are indeed the set of compendious legal principles.  In India, marriage commonly means union of man and woman, either formally or legally, as partners in relationship. Women’s in India constitute almost 50% of the total population, about 48.60% of women population is found in the rural areas. However, these women are most oppressed ones and are denied the basic human rights guaranteed by the constitution.

Exploding form of violence against male or woman within the four walls of house is defined as ‘Domestic Violence’. Anyone, either male or a female, can be victim or victimizer. This domestic violence has many areas covered like physical, sexual or emotional. According to ‘United Nation Population Fund Report’, around two-third of married Indian women are victims of Domestic Violence attacks and as many as 70 per cent of married women in India between the age of 15 and 49 are victims of beating, rape or forced sex. In India, more than 55% of the women suffer from Domestic Violence, especially in the states of Bihar, U.P., M.P. and other northern states.

According to the studies, women enjoyed equal status and rights during the early Vedic period but as the time flew and with the invasion of Islamic rule, Smritis and Christianity curtailing their rights their position started degrading. At the time of Independence, a major role was played by the women’s and an importance for constituting the laws for protection and safeguard of the ‘living kohinoor’ was recognized by the constitution framers.

The Constitution of India guarantees to all Indian women equality (Article 14), no discrimination by the State (Article 15 (1)), equality of opportunity (Article 16) and equal pay for equal work (Article 39 (d)). In addition, it allows special provisions to be made by the State in favour of women and children (Article 15 (3)), renounces practices derogatory to the dignity of women (Article 51 (A) (e)), and also allows for provisions to be made by the State for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief (Article 42).

It is noteworthy to mention the case of Associate Banks Officers Association v. State Bank of India (1998), wherein the Apex Court held that women workers are in no way inferior to their male counterparts and hence there should be no discrimination of the ground of sex against women.

According to section 498A, “Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be pun­ished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.” . The aforesaid section do not follow any exceptions and is a non-bailable and non-compoundable offence, which means that the accused can be arrested without investigation; and if the couple patches up with their differences then the complaint cannot be withdrawn. The section was enacted to combat the menace of dowry deaths. It was introduced in the code by the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1983 (Act 46 of 1983). By the same Act, section 113-A has been added to the Indian Evidence Act to raise presumption regarding abetment of suicide by married woman.

In the case of Nagesh Mirza(1981), the apex court, while dealing with fixation of different ages of retirement for male and female employees and preventing female employees from having children, expressed the view that retirement of air hostesses on first pregnancy is unconstitutional. It was considered that such a provision was callous, cruel and an insult to Indian womanhood.

But, as it is said ‘Non omnis target fit’ i.e. not every target is achieved, similarly not every enacted law achieves its objectives. Especially the sensational laws enacted not only fail to accomplish the objective but rather severe the condition of crime. Section 498A of Indian Penal Code, 1860 dealing with cruelty by a husband or his relative towards his wife, enacted by the organ of Indian Democracy in the year 1983 stands as a metaphor for it. Protection and safeguard of women is the fragment of it, the other larger part is completely overlooked.

This section 498A is unilateral and undefeatable weapons in the hands of married woman who can use it whenever and however they like. The scope and limitations of this section have not been defined or demarcated.

A cardinal principle of punishment to a person   is that it is better to forgive ten suspected criminals than to punish one innocent person, but today the tables are turned. The system is indeed eradicating evils from society but at the same time there is a huge proportion of innocent individuals who are culprit of the system.

The apex court of Indian judiciary in the case of Sushil Kumar V. Union of India recognised section 498A as ‘legal terrorism’ which results in vexatious suits brought by the unscrupulous women’s against their husband or husband’s relatives.

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Category Family Law, Other Articles by - Aditya Gor