Anti-dowry law makes it wife-biased, discriminatory,and poorly formulated. A complaint from your wife or her family member can land husband and his entire family in jail without any investigation.
"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."
- Winston Churchill
We are born in a society where marriage is treated as sacrosanct, something which was fixed in heaven. It is a relationship valid not only in this life but also in lives yet to come. Nevertheless, this relationship is changing and law has played a very important role in altering this relationship. The legislature drafted these laws to protect the vulnerable women in the relationship, but while doing that didn't keep in consideration abuse of these laws by not so vulnerable women. The judiciary, while sympathizing with the tears of women, didn't recognize the fact that these may be crocodile tears. Due to these reasons these laws has become a tool to harass husbands, extort money from husbands and their family, to torture hapless women of the husbands family. In short, these laws have made marriage more a legal relationship than a social relationship.
The law presumes that everybody knows laws. Marriage is a voluntary relationship, in the sense that till this point of time there is no law which can compel a man to marry (although in practice some women do compel men to marry them by leveling false allegation of rape against them. The recent case of suicide by an ex-Army officer is a case in point where the man committed suicide due to pressure to marriage and in case of denial threat of false cases.). Thus every man must know the legal provisions before he enters into the legal relationship of marriage. If he enters without knowing these provisions, he cannot blame any other persons for that. However, it is the duty of legal practitioners and social workers to make them aware of these laws so that nobody enters into a legal relationship of marriage without knowing its implications.
Slowly and steadily the number of law governing the relationship between husband and wife is increasing. One thing is common in all laws- they are prejudiced and biased against the men in the sense that they give rights only to the wives and imposes duties only on the husband. Further the language of the law is such that it facilitates abuse of these laws against the husband and his family members. And in fact also the wives are systematically abusing these laws. These laws were primarily designed to protect the vulnerable women in our society but the working of these laws suggests that they have become more a weapon of harassment and extortion in the hand of not so vulnerable women.
The Hindu Marriage Act and the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act impose a duty upon the husband to maintain their wife. However a person can claim maintenance only if he/she is not able to maintain himself/herself. The term is ability or potential to maintain and not mere inability to maintain at any point of time. However, a survey of the judgments will clearly shows that even when the wife was able bodied and educated then also the courts have granted maintenance. Further, these two Acts are not sufficient and the Criminal Court is empowered to grant maintenance as per section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. More Acts for the same relief means that the wife has more avenues to harass a husband through the process of Court. We can see that a wife has a right to maintenance- but what is her duty. Law says nothing. If she abuses the husband, then also she can claim maintenance. If she beats her mother-in-law, then also she can claim maintenance. Thus a wife has no duty, only rights. Just maintenance is not something to be very worried about. What is more important that the wife has been given power to send the husband and his family members to the prison at wish? Under section 498A of the Indian Penal Code a wife can complain that she has been treated with cruelty for dowry and name anybody in the relatives of the husband. What is cruelty or what is dowry, nobody knows. A gift to husband is dowry but a gift to wife is streedhan. A husband should not demand any consideration for marriage, but a girl has a right to look for a wealthy husband with a fat pay packet; it is not dowry, it is pragmatism. The law says giving dowry is as criminal as taking dowry, the wife screams that she has given dowry, but the law does not take any action against her- this is women empowerment. Under this Section octogenarian grand mom of husbands are being prosecuted for harassment- this is power of wife. Just these are not sufficient. If your wife commits suicide, invariably you will be prosecuted under Section 304B of the IPC. Here, even the prosecution has not prove many thing, Section 113A is there in the Evidence Act to presume your guilt. When men commit suicide, the law is silent. After all men can commit suicide for so many reasons- wife can commit suicide only after harassment by husband and his family. So what, the suicide statistics shows that more men commit suicide. Once any of these cases are registered against you few things are certain-like you are likely to loose your job. You will be merely suspended if you are in government service. You will spend a couple of months in jail before the bail. In jail too you will have full company of your family members. Finally, you will be granted bail and the trial begins. What will happen in trial, I don't know. Indian Criminal Justice system is totally biased against the men accused, if complainant is a woman. That is why making allegation in India has become an industry. It is a tool of legal extortion in the hand of police and false accusers. Well, the purpose of this article is merely informing the worse half of the population the legal consequence of marriage and their vulnerably, if they decide to marry. Difficult to imagine-even now men marry. In any case old habits die hard. There is no solution. We are living in Rule of Law and when the law is tyrannical and prejudiced, you cannot have a solution. But, the risk can be reduced by taking recourse to written contract at the time of marriage. It is a good idea to enter into written contract at the time of marriage with your would be wife. No law prohibits such type of contract. The contract can make provisions for expenses of marriage ceremony, list of gifts received, the couple decision regarding maintenance, child custody and all other items, which the couple feels necessary to incorporate in the written contract. It may seem nauseating to introduce the idea of contract in marriage, but it is better as law has already entered into marriage. Written contract is just one mutually agreed way to reduce the rigor of falsehood in deposition before the court. It is better to catch up a lawyer before the police catch up with you.
Rajesh Kumar - About the Author:
A Men's Right Activist. Practicing Advocate based in Delhi, India.
Author can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org