CJI Balakrishnan admits to misuse of dowry laws
1 Feb 2009
NEW DELHI: Dealing a blow to women's rights activists who have been stringently defending the Section 498A provision of the Indian Penal Code, Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan on Saturday said that in some cases this section -- that deals with matrimonial cruelty -- was being `grossly misused'.
Elaborating on false cases being filed in recent times, the CJI said that relatives not involved with a matrimonial dispute were unfairly implicated. "In some cases, 498A is grossly misused,'' he said. Balakrishnan was speaking at a seminar, `Marriage laws -- issues and challenges', organised by the National Commission for Women.
The IPC section allows for immediate arrest of the husband and in-laws by the police on the basis of a woman's complaint and has been controversial. Several pro-male organisations have been protesting against the section saying that the law is being misused by women for selfish gains and should include a penalty provision against its misuse. But women activists have been lobbying for no change in the law.
Faced with adverse comments from the CJI, National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Girija Vyas said that it was lack of awareness that led to false cases under 498A. "I would not like to use the term misuse. There is lack of awareness amongst people that is exploited by lawyers and police. We feel there is no need to review the law,'' Vyas said.
CJI Balakrishnan added that it was because of cases of misuse that the recent amendments in the Criminal Procedure Code had been enacted by Parliament. He, however, added that while the amendments were acceptable they should have been discussed threadbare in Parliament before being passed. "The amendments are good. They have given relief to those arrested on false accusations. The police has to give reasons before they arrest anyone. Unfortunately, Parliament passed the legislation without discussion,'' Balakrishnan added.
Commenting on the CrPC amendments, Vyas said that there had been demands from NGOs that the law be reviewed and the Commission was examining the matter.