The Supreme Court of India has expressed concern over how an increasing number of women in the country are misusing the anti dowry law to harass their husband and in laws. Solely created for the purpose of protecting women from the harassment of their husbands and in laws, the anti dowry law came into effect in 1983. However, but it is now being as a ‘weapon by disgruntled wives’, the court said.
“The simplest way to harass is to get the husband and his relatives arrested”, concluded the two bench judge of the Supreme Court in a 21 page order. There were some cases where bedridden grandmothers and grandfathers of the husband and even sisters living abroad for decades were made victims under the act.
As per the recent statistics by the National Crime Records Bureau, nearly 2, 00,000 people were arrested in regard to dowry offences in the year 2012. But in reality, only 15 per cent of the accused were convicted. The court has now ordered the concerned authorities to follow a nine point check list before arresting anyone on the basis of a dowry complaint. The court also made the approval of a magistrate mandatory for further detention of the accused, if any arrests are made.
Paying and accepting gifts in a marriage, otherwise known as dowry is a century old tradition among Indian families. But as the demands grew louder, women were subjected to various harassment and sometimes even death. Under the laws introduced in 1983, a complaint would mean immediate arrest of the accused, often the husband and his family. The practice has been illegal in India since 1961, but the tradition of showering gifts at weddings still continues.
However, legal experts and women activists slammed the court’s ruling, stating that the court had stereotyped women, while trying to maintain a balance in society.