ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Victimised Twice Over

Going slow on Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code will mean ignoring the victims of marital violence.

Traditionally, violence against women in the home has as a remarkably significant attempt to make domestic violence been seen as an issue of concern only to the family and it against married women a criminal offence. The amendment, is argued that the woman must accommodate it as best as dealing with cruelty towards a married woman by her husband she can to preserve the home and family honour. The introduc-or his relatives, whether generally or for valuable security or tion of Section 498A in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in 1983 ranks property, was aimed at giving quick relief to the victimised and is non-bailable, non-compoundable and cognisable. Less than a decade later, the backlash against Section 498A began with noise about its “misuse” by women. These accusations were made not just by men’s organisations, but even by the courts and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Last month, the MHA once again took up the issue and wrote to chief secretaries and directors general of police (DGP) of all states and union territories asking them to ensure that the section is used as a "last resort" and not the first.

Disconcertingly, the MHA while referring to the ill-effects of the section’s misuse is reported in the press to have kept referring to “some cases” without citing substantive data on the extent of the so-called misuse. Also, “momentary anger” on the part of women in invoking this section has supposedly “resulted in shutting down any possibility of reconciliation in future and total collapse of the marriage”. It is doubtful if the same agencies would ask for dilution of civil and criminal laws, which are used by men to complain against others in the family in property and other disputes, on the ground that the family would feel the effect of hostile litigation.

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