A MAN’S INDIGENT RIGHT: PROTECTION AGAINST CRUELTY

This paper seeks to determine the validity of important piece of gender specialised

legislations keeping in mind status quo of usage of such gender specialised provision and its

repercussion. The basic Human Rights of a man and status of their applications as well as

violation. The ambiguity in the definition of Cruelty u/S 498A of Indian Penal Code, 1860

and the consequences of such ambiguous provision suffered by the husbands.


Introduction


There has always been burning discussions when it comes to the human rights of women or

children. Whereas, a man has always been an unheard section of society having so much to

discuss about his silence and sufferings. All human being are born free and equal in dignity

and rights 2 , if such dignity and rights are violated in any way to any extent, that is a matter of

disrespect not only of citizens but the sovereign as well.

It is not unknown to anyone that society and law both being dynamic in nature are

interrelated to each other. With the changing trends of the society, it is very much obvious to

enact and accept the laws according to the requirements of the society. Law must take

cognizance of the changing society and march in consonance with developing concepts. 3 The

Parliament has enacted various important piece of legislations, applying its conscience,

keeping in view the nexus between human and society, which have been very well

implemented and executed upon the society. Since there are certain laws which are no doubt

enacted with the view to protect the society by curbing social evils, but such enactments

having absolute spirit of gender specialisation are not being used in the same way as the

Parliament had thought of. John Stuart Mills had once observed that “the legal subordination of one sex to another is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrance to human improvement, and that it ought to be replaced by a system of perfect equality, admitting no power and privilege on one side nor disability on the other. 4 ” But there are certain legislations which are enacted in order to protect the status and dignity of a particular gender, being used as a weapon rather than shield and lent those provisions a suspicious pride.


Human Rights and Man


Human Rights means the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual

guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable

by courts in India. 6 The Universal Declaration on Human Rights also postulates that no one

shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment 7 and no

one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. 8 With regard to the above cited

articles, both man and woman are subject to equal status and dignity with no cruel, inhuman

or degrading treatment, detention or exile.

The legislators, in consonance with abovementioned articles, enacted a couple of such

legislations which include unforeseen irregularities which have powers to blemish the

reputation of a man in a snap. Despite the fundamental rights envisaged in the Constitution of

India, men are being deprived from those rights in such a way that, they are victimised in

vexatious complaints filed by the resentful wives for the sake of ego satisfaction. Above all,

the obnoxious actions are justified by law and more of the oblique motives are getting

accomplished. Equality before law and equal protection of law 9 is a fundamental right of an individual. As righty characterised by Justice Bhagwati:

“Equality is dynamic concept with many aspects and dimensions and it cannot be

‘cribbed, cabined and confined’ within traditional and doctrinaire limits. In fact,

equality and arbitrariness are sworn enemies. Where an act is arbitrary, it is implicit

in it that it is unequal both according to political logic and constitutional law and is

therefore violative of Article 14.


A wife is considered as aggrieved party when the act of cruelty occurs against her, but a man

is not, when wife does the same. Prima facie, such obnoxious provisions, grant relief to the

wife by treating her as a victim and not the husband. It is also worth noting that when an act

may be committed by both of them, one is liable for the criminal offence but the other is

absolved. The criminal law always proceeds on gender neutrality but in this provision, the

said concept is absent. Such loop holes may provoke the misuse of certain leading

enactments. Such cases of exploitation might be unheard yet they are the burning issues in the

society where a man has to suffer a lot, despite being innocent on his part.


Cruelty


The term “cruelty” seems as heinous as its meaning. The term has not been defined anywhere

perfectly, but always been recognised by Hon’ble Courts according to facts and

circumstances of cases. The concept of cruelty and its effect varies from individual to

individual. However, according to Indian Penal Code, “cruelty 11 is any wilful conduct of such

nature that drives the ‘woman’ to commit suicide or cause grave injury or danger to life, limb

or health of the ‘woman’ or harassment of the ‘woman’ with the view to coerce her to meet

unlawful demands.”

The provision gives an inference that the offence of cruelty can only be committed by a

husband or relatives of a husband against wife of the husband. The vagueness contained in

the provision is that for the same act a woman has given both criminal and civil remedy

whereas, a man has only civil remedy when the provision is read with Section-13(1)(ia) of

Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Hon’ble Supreme Court in “K. Srinivas Rao v D. A. Deepa 12 ”

accepted the facts and ruled that wife has committed the act of cruelty against her husband. In

“Krishna Sarbadhikari v Alok Ranjan 13 ” Hon’ble Calcutta High Court has observed that

when a wife makes very serious but false allegations leading to the arrest of her husband or

lodging false report against him to the police station are act of cruelty on her part.

The legislature has consciously avoided to give a detailed explanation of cruelty. The object

of Section- 498A is to punish the husband and his relatives who harass or torture the wife. 14

The Parliament has forgot to consider a status quo where a husband can also be harassed or tortured by his wife. Various inferences can be made on cruelty against husband by wife after

witnessing the observations made by different courts in their judgments. Hon’ble Delhi High

Court has held that “wife making false and frivolous allegations against her husband to the

employer of her husband amounts to cruelty. 15 ”

In “Krishna Rani v Chunni Lal Gulati 16 ”, it was held by Hon’ble Punjab-Haryana High

Court that “when a wife insults her husband or refuse to take care of her children, or refuse to

cook meals or decline to prepare tea for husband’s friends, all such actions amount to

cruelty.” This provision has been enacted for the purpose of preventing the menace of

dowry 17 , which has narrowed the parameters of the provision and subsequently been misused

by specialised gender.

Such lacuna in the enactment of leading provisions has put the freedom and dignity of a man

on the edge of the chasm. The Supreme Court of India has also raised its concern in “Onkar

Nath Mishra v. State (NCT of Delhi) 18 ” by signifying that the provision should not be used

as a device to achieve oblique motives. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has also raised grave

concern with regard to the misuse of such important piece of legislation in “Arnesh Kumar v

State of Bihar & Anr. 19 ” and stated that:

“Section 498-A of the IPC was introduced with avowed object to combat the menace

of harassment to a woman at the hands of her husband and his relatives. The fact that

Section 498-A is a cognizable and non-bailable offence has lent it a dubious place of

pride amongst the provisions that are used as weapons rather than shield by

disgruntled wives. The simplest way to harass is to get the husband and his relatives

arrested under this provision.”


Exploitation of Husband


The provision devised is an elaborated machinery 20 which is used by the aggrieved wife to

safeguard herself from the harassment by husband or relatives of husband. 21 But, the provision u/S- 498A of Indian Penal Code, 1860 has put the pride of the Indian Legal System

in dubious position, indeed. Such provision has been deliberately misused by the

wives/women in order to satisfy their ego and anger. It was once rightly observed by former

Hon’ble CJI Dipak Mishra that Egoism must succumb to law. 22

In “Sushil Kumar Sharma v Union of India 23 ” the Hon’ble Supreme Court has wisely

perceived that “the borne object behind the enactment of S-498A of IPC is to check and curb

the menace of dowry and the same time, to save the matrimonial home from destruction.”

Over the last few decades, various frivolous cases have been registered u/S-498A of Indian

Penal Code by the peeved wives in order to satisfy their insatiability, following which many

sacred bonds of marriage have been shattered just because of the greed of insatiable wives.

Extravagancy and Egoism have always been the core reasons behind the misuse, when the

husband fails/refuses to maintain the extravagant expenditure, and does not satisfy with the

ego of the wives. In “Inder Mohan Tiwari v. Manju Tiwari 24 ” wherein, the wife was four

years older than her husband. The wife was very demanding. She used to make extravagant

demands which the husband failed to fulfil. She did not listen to her husband and had also

filed a case. She used to ill-treat her husband and was always nagging and insulting him in

front of others.

The intention of the provision is to protect the woman from their unscrupulous husbands 25 ,

but the actions of the wives in some cases always comes out Contra Legem. Even Hon’ble

Supreme Court has observed that the provision has been exploited and misused which is not

so good for the health of society at large and needed to be reviewed. 26


Statistical Report

Insofar, the empirical study is concerned, the statistics of National Crime Record Bureau

clarifies whole scenario with regard to the exact effective usage of gender specialised

provisions.


False cases

The NCRB report of year 2012 27 says that a total of 372,706 cases are pending in the Courts.Out of these pending cases 317,000 are projected to be acquitted. It was also revealed that FIR lodged in the year 2012 was 9.4% more than the year 2011. According to the NCRB

report of the year 2013 28 , it was found out that a total of 466,079 cases were filed. Out of

which only in 7,258 cases, the accused got convicted. 8,218 cases of Cruelty were withdrawn

and in 38,165 cases, the accused got acquitted.


However, the latest report of NCRB 29 articulates that a total of 110,378 cases were filed u/S-

498A IPC and 47,404 cases were disposed of by the courts in India in the year 2016. Out of

which, in 41,712 were acquittal cases whereas, only 5,692 were conviction cases. The study

also reveals that the total number of accused were 103,985. Out of which 87,280 were

acquitted and 2,285 were discharged whereas, only 14,420 were convicted.Suicide cases

It has been claimed by Save Indian Family Foundation 30 that the suicide rate of married men

is almost twice that of women, due to them being "unable to withstand verbal, emotional,

economic and physical abuse" from their wives. According to NCRB 31 data, suicide in

married men is much higher than in married women. In the year 2014, a total of 131,666

persons had committed suicide. Out of which, 59,744 were married men, whereas 27,064

were married women. Kumar V. Jahgirdar, president of Child Rights Initiative for Shared

Parenting (CRISP), has attributed the suicides among married men on family stress.


Conclusion

The Parliament has inserted act of cruelty as a ground for divorce u/S-13(1)(ia) of the Hindu

Marriage Act, 1955 for both the spouse. Despite the acceptance of the fact that a wife may

also commit an act of cruelty, husband has been given only civil remedy, but a wife

has given both civil and criminal remedy against the act of cruelty.

As rightly observed by former Hon’ble CJI Dipak Mishra, “what might be acceptable at one

point of time may melt to be total insignificance at another point of time. 33 ” Now is the time

to procure the rights of husbands. The law in force must be made ‘mutual and gender-

neutral’. The provision violates general equality enshrined under Article 14 of the

Constitution of India and being contrary to Article 15 of Constitution discriminatory on the

ground of gender. The scope of the provision is limited to wives only and husbands despite

being the sufferer has to remain silent due to such limitations. Studies conducted by the

CRISP said the married men committed suicide mainly due to alleged misuse of Section

498A of the Indian Penal Code and the Domestic Violence Act of 2005. 34 Many cases of

cruelty against men go unreported due to the male ego. On various occasions, Hon’ble

Supreme Court has held that the evolution of Constitutional Morality is necessarily required

with the evolution in society. The concern is not about waiving off such important piece of

legislation but should be read in the manner that it is gender neutral.


credit: Sukant Kumar

clg name: IMS law college


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