Thursday, May 27, 2010

Indian Home Minister dodges question on Dowry Law(498a) Misuse

The Honorable Indian Minister for home affairs was asked the below questions on abuse of the dowry law . Before we even go into the questions and the home minister's answer , we need to know that the home minister along with his wife are both very learned and eminent lawyers and understand the Intrcacies of marital and dowry laws better than anyone else. The home minister's wife was also involved in the High profile 498a case of Tamil Actor Prashant in 2007.

As always the home minister plays the tried and tested trick of confusing dowry harassment law ( section 498a) with dowry death. ( section 304B) . Below is the extract of the conversation  from Lok sabha documents .

Fifteenth Series, Vol. VIII, Fourth Session, 2010/1931 (Saka)
No. 15, Tuesday, March 16, 2010/ Phalguna 25, 1931 (Saka)
Page 10 , Date 16.03.2010

SHRI PRASANTA KUMAR MAJUMDAR : Madam Speaker, every four minutes in India an innocent person, including the old parents and close relatives, is facing false dowry cases and sent behind the jail under Section 489D which is non-bailable without any investigation and inquiry. No inquiry is required because the case is non-bailable. Only the statements of bridegroom’s family are taken into consideration.

MADAM SPEAKER: Please ask the question.

SHRI PRASANTA KUMAR MAJUMDAR : The Law Commission and many judges have recommended making the Section bailable but the Government did not do anything.

MADAM SPEAKER: Hon. Member please ask the question.

SHRI PRASANTA KUMAR MAJUMDAR : I want to know whether the Government has any proposal to make the case bailable or not. If it is bailable, please give details and if not, why?

SHRI P. CHIDAMBARAM: I think I have already answered the question in part. I do not subscribe to the proposition that in most cases of dowry deaths, the provision is misused. That is not true. I gave you the numbers of cases that were registered in the last three years. Look at the number of people convicted. In 2006, 5144; in 2007, 5580 and in 2008, 5814 persons have been convicted. It may be true that in a few cases, indiscriminately, people may have been arrested and there may be some harassment but that is not true of the large number of cases. Therefore, we have advised the police that where a dowry death case is registered, they must exercise their discretion and arrest only those who appear in the investigation to be directly connected with the dowry deaths and not the extended family.
That advisory has been given. But I think on balance this provision is a salutary provision; a new offence has been created; people have to be punished when they kill young wives. If in a particular case there is an excess, there is a court system which will correct it. But to go, as I said, from one position to an extreme position and say there is massive misuse of this provision, Madam, with great respect, I beg to disagree.

How the legally educated home minister dodges the question
1) Section 498A and Section 304B are as different as chalk and cheese . 498A is the law that is invoked when a woman "claims" that she was harassed . This is the law that is most misused since it has got arrest on demand provisions and no investigations or evidence is needed .Looking at the severity of the misuse the supreme court of India has called the misuse of section 498a as "Legal Terrorism". Section 304B is invoked when it is proved that a woman has been killed because to dowry .Section 304B requires a lot more evidence and proof and misuse is difficult since it is a life and death question. The honorable Lok Sabha member had clearly asked the Home Minister if section 498A needs to be amended due to its misuse and if not why ?

2) It does not take a legal degree to see that the Indian home minister very cleverly dodges the question on amending 498a and replies on why section 304B is must not be amended instead.  He says " I do not subscribe to the proposition that in most cases of dowry deaths(a.k.a section 304B, not 498A), the provision is misused. That is not true. I gave you the numbers of cases that were registered in the last three years. Look at the number of people convicted."  

Honorable home minister , why are you answering if 304B is being misused or not when the question clearly asks if 498A is being misused ? 

The Home Minister the proceeds to state numbers for section 304B when the question asked was completely related to section 498A .

This is tried and tested trick that many feminists use when asked if 498a needs to be amended. They immediately switch the  conversation from 498A to 304B  and justify the existence of 498A because of a crime which comes under section 304B. , which is exactly what our lawyer Home Minister did here . For the nonlegal professional who does not understand the difference between section 498A and section 304B the answer of the Home Minister will sound totally credible .

3) Also notice that the Home Minister also quotes not the "number of convictions" under section 304B ( which is firstly irrelevant to begin with since question was on 498A ) but  the "number of people" convicted under it. This was done since the number of cases and convictions under section 304B are too less to portray any serious threat of dowry death .Considering that  single conviction results in 4 people getting jailed then the total number of conviction would be no more than 1500 .The Home Minister knows this and hence quotes the "number of people" getting convicted and not the number of "convictions". Being an eminent lawyer himself he should have known better.

How committed the Indian government really is for eradicating dowry? 

1)  The WCD has not spent a single Rupee on stopping dowry exchanges and extravagant marraiges ,while Pakistan has started the one dish law to eradicate extravagant marraiges in their country.

2) Instead of stopping dowry the government is openly encouraging dowry loans. Government owned State Banks create loans specifically for paying marraige expenses of women and paying dowry.The state bank of Hyderabad Kanya Vivah Suvidha Scheme is one such example of how Dowry loans are openly available from Government banks.

3) The Home Minister dodges questions on 498A abuse and gives a totally irrelevant answer related to section 304B.

4) The Indian President ( who is herself a woman ) who normally gives many lectures against dowry attended the wedding of her nephew where huge dowry was  allegedly exchanged . The President's own nephew is a facing a 498A filed by his wife . The President's nephew's wife who has filed the case has alleged that she had approached the  India president many times to seek help but did not get any response. The wife has further stated that  had also tried to contact the president through the president's husband but to no avail.

b) President attends wedding where huge dowry has been allegedly exchanged.

For the original text of the Lok Sabha Discussion and the home ministers reply on dowry Click here


  1. sherlock holmes would have said to chidduji "that elementary my dear watson!!!!"

    only yesterday, i was guiding mass-comm students who are doing theses on the same subject from a university in UK about highlighting wrong justification of dowry deaths v/s 498a where the bride is still existing in flesh and blood.

  2. Home minister was not very clever in his dodging... he assumed the other MPs are dumb, and going by the discussion it seems they are, since no one seems to question his dodging of real questeion. To that extent, he is clever!

  3. Dowry should be the personal affair of family as long as there is no force or harassment involved.It should individual liberty and none of other people's or government's business to interfere.
    seems as if you guys are very sad about your rights being violated....i suppose you need to recognize the rights of others as well (right to give/take dowry when there is no force involved)

  4. Joined: Fri Sep 24, 2010 8:34 am
    Posts: 2 Petition Praying for amendments in Section 498A of IPC
    Dear All,

    Please see the advertisement on 28th saturday Nov 2010 in Deccan Chronicle. Government of India has initiated action against IPC498 after it received so many complaints on legal terrorism.

    Subject: “Petition Praying for amendments in Section 498A of IPC”

    So please act very quickly to place the post to the Government.


    go to: committees -> standing committees-> committe on petitions-> petitions with the committee

    They have given only 15days time, so do quickly.

    Arun R