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Report No. 243

7. The Approach and views of the Commission broadly

7.1 The Commission is of the view that the Section together with its allied Cr.PC provisions shall not act as an instrument of oppression and counter- harassment and become a tool of indiscreet and arbitrary actions on the part of the Police. The fact that Section 498-A deals with a family problem and a situation of marital discord unlike the other crimes against society at large, cannot be forgotten.

It does not however mean that the Police should not appreciate the grievance of the complainant woman with empathy and understanding or that the Police should play a passive role. Section 498-A has a lofty social purpose and it should remain on the Statute book to intervene whenever the occasion arises.

Its object and purpose cannot be stultified by overemphasizing its potentiality for abuse or misuse. Misuse by itself cannot be a ground to repeal it or to take away its teeth wholesale. The re-evaluation of Section 498-A merely on the ground of abuse is not warranted. Besides that, while courts are confronted with abusive dimensions, sometimes very visibly in Section 498-A prosecutions, we cannot close our eyes to a large number of cases which go unprosecuted for a variety of reasons.

7.2 Section 498-A has to be seen in the context of violence and impairment of women's liberty and dignity within the matrimonial fold. Mindless and senseless deprivation of life and liberty of women could not have been dealt with effectively through soft sanctions alone. Even though values of equality and non-discrimination may have to gain deeper roots through other social measures, the need to give valuable protection to vulnerable sections of women cannot be negated.

7.3 While the Commission is appreciative of the need to discourage unjustified and frivolous complaints and the scourge of over-implication, it is not inclined to take a view that dilutes the efficacy of Section 498-A to the extent of defeating its purpose especially having regard to the fact that atrocities against women are on the increase. A balanced and holistic view has to be taken on weighing the pros and cons.

There is no doubt a need to address the misuse situations and arrive at a rational solutio.- legislative or otherwise, while maintaining the efficacy of law. While we acknowledge diverse points of view, some with extreme emphasis and connotations, the point to be noted is that the value to be attached to the rights of women are no less than the value to be attached to the family as a unit and vice-versa.

The challenge before the community is to ensure the promotion of both values. The emphasis should therefore be on wise moderations without overlooking the need and relevance of the retention of penal sanctions necessary to protect and promote women's rights and interests.

7.4 There is also a need to create awareness of the provisions especially among the poor and illiterate living in rural areas who face quite often the problems of drunken misbehavior and harassment of wives. More than the women, the men should be apprised of the penal and other provisions of law protecting the women against harassment at home.

The easy access of aggrieved women to the Taluka and District level Legal Service Authorities and/or credible NGOs with professional counsellors should be ensured by appropriate measures. There should be an extensive and well-planned campaign to spread awareness on right lines. Presently, the endeavour in this direction is quite minimal. Visits to few villages once in a way by the representatives of LSAs, law students and social workers is the present scenario.

7.5 There is an all-round view that the lawyers whom the aggrieved women or their relations approach in the first instance should act with a clear sense of responsibility and objectivity and give suitable advice consistent with the real problem diagnosed. Exaggerated and tutored versions and unnecessary implication of husband's relations should be scrupulously avoided.

The correct advice of legal professionals and the sensitivity of Police officials dealing with the cases are very important, and if these are in place, undoubtedly, the law will not take a devious course. Unfortunately, there is a strong feeling that some lawyers and police personnel have failed to act and approach the problem in a manner ethically and legally expected of them.

Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code Back

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