In India, the payment of a dowry was prohibited in 1961 under Indian civil law and subsequently by Sections 304B and 498a of the Indian Penal Code were enacted to make it easier for the wife to seek redress from potential harassment by the husband's family. However, these laws have turned into a major point of controversy as they are misused for personal gain and harassing the husband and his family more often than used for true justice and protection.
Under these laws, one can file a complaint upon which the accused can be arrested without any investigation or proof. 498a cases make up almost a third of the undertrial population in jails. Though no official statistics are available, and given the fact that these cases can drag on for years, it is difficult to estimate how effective these laws are. However, as of date less than 5% of 498a cases filed since 1983 have resulted in conviction, with most of the rest being out of court settlements.
While organizations have been formed to deal with this menace, the tortuous process of the law and the corrupt practices prevalent at every level of law enforcement and the legal system make it daunting for anyone to seek justice through the system. Most victims of this abuse end up choosing peace and closure instead of justice, a telling comment on the criminal justice system in our nation.
What is tangible, however, is the ongoing abuse of this law in the form of steps that many of the accused are being forced to take in their effort to deal with the problem. The fact that most people are unaware of the laws and their rights makes it easy for the perpetrators and the police to get away with doing what they want.
Pradeep Jain, a 32-year-old man from Rajasthan became the latest victim of this legal terrorism as he ended his life unable to deal with the harassment.
If you want to know how to go about dealing with this law, you will benefit from The 498a Survival Guide, a free ebook made available by victims of 498a accusations. You may also want to contact the local offices of Save Indian Families, a support organization for those victimized by this law.