-Suicide note of Prasanta Kumar Ghosh, 71
Prasanta Kumar Ghosh blamed his death on his daughter-in-law’s threats to slap false torture charges and demanded a law to protect husbands and in-laws in such a predicament.
“My daughter-in-law is responsible for my death. I take the decision to end my life only to save thousands of husbands and their family members from the hands of cruel women like her,” the retired government employee in Hooghly’s Mogra wrote in a neatly folded three-page note he left behind in his shirt pocket.
Ghosh’s daughter-in-law was allegedly involved in an extra-marital affair with a cop in the area. “(But) neither me nor my son could protest as she threatened every day that she would lodge a complaint against us under section 498A,” wrote the 71-year-old.
In Calcutta High Court on Friday, Justice A.K. Banerjee read the note at least twice before the division bench, also including Justice R.N. Roy, dismissed the daughter-in-law’s plea for anticipatory bail. The police have charged the 31 year-old daughter-in-law with abetment to suicide.
“I know my letter will reach a judge one day. I would like him to consider my case. If there should be a law like 498A to protect housewives from cruel husbands and in-laws, there should also be a law to protect them from the hands of cruel women like my daughter-in-law,” wrote Ghosh.
Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code was introduced in 1983 to fight harassment for dowry. Under the law, a husband and his relatives can be jailed for life. The “cruelty” charge means immediate arrest and lawyers said the accused had no option but to wait out the investigation period. "Once the investigation reveals that a false complaint had been lodged, they can sue the woman and her kin," said advocate and ex-mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya. Complaints about the misuse of
Section 498A have been levelled before by in-laws at the receiving end of threats. Advocate Jayanta Narayan Chatterjee said such complaints were on the rise. “Around four out of 10 complaints of harassment against husbands and in-laws do not stand in court.” Pratip Ghosh found his father hanging at their home in Mogra, about 65km from Calcutta, when he returned home after dropping his six-year-old son at school on June 25. The police found the note in Ghosh’s pocket.
Opposing the daughter-inlaw’s plea for a reprieve, government counsel Pradip Roy furnished a copy of the FIR Pratip had filed after his father’s death. “My wife was adamant in nature and did not want to keep a good relationship with me and my father. In my absence, she used to meet a person (the cop)…. He sometimes came to our house in my absence…. My father had opposed all this... the matter has maligned us in society,” it said. Pratip is married for eight years. Ghosh had initially opposed his son’s relationship with her “but he accepted her after some time”, Pratip wrote in the FIR.
Women’s organisations chose not to read too much into the tragedy. “It is not so easy to misuse the law,” said Indrani Sinha of Sanlaap. “Even if a woman is trying to misuse section 498A, her family, in this case her father-inlaw and husband, could easily have taken precaution in the form of going to the police first and lodging a complaint. If they are innocent, they need not fear.” Sinha also pointed to the domestic violence law that “does try to protect women” but can also “be used by the men, or any member of a family who is facing a problem at home”.