Archive for September, 2007

Abetment of a Crime is not a Crime – NCW

September 1, 2007

Tax payer funded NCW has drawn up a list of sinister amendments to the laws relating to matrimonial disputes that are sure to cause further chaos and destabilization in the already fragile family relationships in India.

In this article, I am primarily focusing on the proposed amendments to the Dowry Prohibition act 1961.  These are the main points of NCW’s recommended amendments –

  • Dowry offenses must be treated as offenses against the state
  • Remove the time limit of one year to lodge complaints under this act
  • All dowry offenses must be cognizable and non-bailable
  • The burden of proof must be on the accused
  • Giving dowry is not a crime
  • Minimum term of seven years extendable up to ten years of imprisonment

 It is not clear why the dowry offense must be treated as offenses against the state, when the accusations are made by one citizen against the other. Already IPC Sec 498a allegations are inviting state prosecution. The truth about the widespread misuse of section 498a is already well known. The need of the hour is to study the enormous costs that are already incurred by public exchequer and the overburdened criminal justice system due to the abuse of existing provisions. It is not clear what NCW aims to accomplish by making any and all allegations of dowry harassment, crimes against the state. Doesn’t the state already have enough concerns in terms of keeping the law and order and prevention of terrorism?

NCW is recommending sections 7 and 8 of the act to be omitted. Section 7 stipulates that no court inferior to first class magistrate shall try any offence under this act. It further stipulates that complaint can be made within one year from the date of the offence.Section 8 stipulates that the offences under this act are non-cognizable and bailable.

We do not need much analysis to understand why NCW wants these sections to be dropped. They would like to remove the time limits for lodging complaints, so a woman in an unhappy marriage; or an otherwise errant woman can keep the option of filing a complaint (in most cases a false one) any time she pleases. Further, it is the intention of NCW to remove any aspects of this law that makes it non-cognizable and bailable. As the IPC Sec 498a is becoming synonymous with gross human rights violations and losing its edge, perhaps NCW wants the DP act 1961 to slowly slip into its shoes essentially fulfilling the same role.

Another interesting recommendation from NCW is – “Persons giving dowry are victims and hence it is not fair to punish them”. Of all the recommendations, this one takes the special honors. This recommendation would go down in the history of NCW as one of its most shameful crown jewels.

Let us reiterate the statement so it sinks in to our conscience – Persons giving dowry are victims and hence it is not fair to punish them.

Does “giving” precede “taking” or the reverse? If there are no givers, would there be any takers? If there are no stabbers, would there be any stabbed? If there are no pushers, would there be any pushed?

Logic dictates that if you strictly outlaw the practice of giving dowry with stringent penalties, the practice of dowry giving and hence its taking would cease very quickly. Although, the act in its current form treats giving dowry as an offense, one rarely finds an instance of dowry givers being prosecuted. But NCW’s intentions in making this particular recommendation, are quite different from what meet the eye.

Let me illustrate the point. Let us say A is the bride’s father and B is the groom’s father. 

A – We want to give 10 lakhs as present to our son-in-law on the occasion of our daughters wedding

B – But wait, we have nt decided on this marriage proposal yet. Our son appears not ready for marriage now.

A – In fact, I will register the 3 bed room apartment in the city as a wedding present to the new couple.

B – We are not sure. We don’t believe in taking dowry. Give us some more time to think about this alliance.

A – Please don’t say no. We already told all our relatives and neighbors that this alliance is settled. I will give another 10 lakhs. Your son is in the IT field. He is already earning close to 25 lakhs per year. I know what we are offering you, he can earn in less than a year. But, please consider this proposal.

B – OK! Whatever you give would be for the couple to setup their new matrimonial home.

And the wedding is performed. The girl’s father deposits ten lakhs in the bridegroom’s account. The day after the wedding, the girl returns to her natal family. The third day, the groom’s family receives a phone call from a mediator – 

“Our daughter is not interested in returning to her in-laws. We want to settle the case now. For one crore. If you do not agree, we will file a case under the ‘amended’ dowry prohibition act. Thanks to NCW, now it s a cognizable, non-bailable offense. It is also a crime against the state. The punishment can range up to ten years of imprisonment. You see, your son is still young – he is in a good job. We have proof. What we are asking for is not unreasonable. We will give you a day to think about”.

That is the ultimatum the groom’s family receives. What are the choices left for the so accused groom’s family after the proposed amendments by NCW are passed?

a)     Give into the blackmail

b)     Commit suicide

c)      Face imprisonment

In fact, all that a woman or her family have to do is to simply drop off a wad of cash in the husband’s house and immediately register a case of dowry against the husband’s household. The police can swoop down on the residence of the husband’s family and summarily arrest them while collecting the carefully left evidence by the dowry giver. Adding insult to the injury, now the burden of proving innocence is on the accused under the proposed amendments by the NCW. This dastardly act of trickery can be easily performed in the broad daylight at any time during the existence of marriage.

Where is the defense for the accused against willful entrapment by the woman and her relatives? Where would they go for justice?

Sections 107 to 120 of IPC extensively deal with the abetment of a crime and punishment for the same. In almost all scenarios discussed there, abetment of crime attracts almost equivalent punishment as the crime itself. Not so, under the amendments proposed by NCW – abetment is NOT a crime if the D word is involved.


Any casual observer can quickly understand that these amendments are proposed neither to prevent the practice of dowry nor to prevent harassment of women. These provisions are envisaged as nothing more than tools of extortion in the hands of women and her family.
Once we understand the draconian and diabolical nature of these amendments, the next thought that is raised in our minds is – 

How prevalent the dowry practice must be for the NCW to make such extremist recommendations!
The following are unanswered questions; NCW may find it prudent to attempt answering, before pushing such perversions as the proposed amendments on the unguarded population of our namesake democracy.

 

 

  • How prevalent is the problem of dowry practice now as compared to 1961 when the original act was passed?
  • Has NCW conducted any scholarly research studies to document the extent and prevalence of the Dowry practice by geographic, socio-economic, or education or any other dimensions?
  • Is it true the modern, educated, young city woman would run after a dowry seeker seeking a marriage with him?
  • Is anyone forcing marriages and dowries on unwilling women and their families?
  • What is the rationale of NCW in actively promoting entrapment and extortion under the guise of amendments?
  • What is NCW’s justification for recommending imprisonment terms of seven to ten years for dowry allegations (see no proof is required to convict)?

 Wake up India from your deep slumber before the anti-social elements from the tax payer funded entities like NCW, destroy any semblance of sanity and tranquility in our society in the name of women protection laws!

Is it a simple man versus woman equation? When you destroy either one, don’t many other men, women and children suffer?

We need equity and a sense of proportion in our legislation to prevent misuse of the law and to provide justice to genuine victims. We need a whole lot of people awareness and participation to solve any complex social issues such as dowry practice. Idiotic laws and amendments with ample scope for misuse would only encourage otherwise reasonable people to resort to such misuse and thereby spread further chaos in the society.