Women protest Against Judges Remark on Dowry Cases.

Protest Against Judge’s Remark On Dowry Cases
1 June, 2003  
ON May 22 afternoon,a large number of women staged a demonstration in front of Delhi High Court to protest against the remarks made by Justice J D Kapoor to the effect that sections 498 A and 406 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), that relate to the dowry related crimes, were being misused to harass the grooms’ families. The judge even said that these sections were being misused “to such an extent that it is hitting at the foundation of marriage itself and has proved to be not so good for the health of society at large.”
Ironically, on May 21, the very day the learned judge made this remark, a 21 years old woman in southwest Delhi was “dumped at her parents’ house just two days after marriage by her husband and in-laws who wanted more dowry” (The Hindu, May 22). Also, in NOIDA (New Okhla Industrial Development Authority), a 20 years old mother of two was strangled to death by her husband earlier in the same week. The man had reportedly asked his wife to bring Rs 50,000 from her parents and killed her when she failed to meet the demand (The Times of India, May 23).
During the protest demonstration in front of the Delhi High Court, the police dragged, roughed up and arrested more than a dozen women in the court premises. Those dragged and arrested included Subhashini Ali, president of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) and former Lok Sabha member.
Earlier on May 21, through a statement issued from New Delhi, the AIDWA protested the judgement of the Delhi High Court in the said dowry related matter and took exception to the recommendations to the government made in his wisdom by honourable Justice Kapoor. At a time when the practice of dowry has increased and is often accompanied by most atrocious violence, the AIDWA said it was reprehensible that the very agency towards whom the harassed, beaten up, tortured and humiliated women look for justice should sacrifice them at the altar of marriage, however violent the marriage may be. When legal avenues do exist to check any misuse of a law, to use a case to make sweeping comments, as the judge has done, reflects a mindset and a bias that lowers the dignity of the high post he holds. The AIDWA therefore appealed to the chief justice of the Supreme Court to take appropriate action to see that judges and their judicial pronouncements should be in tune with the constitutional provisions of gender equality and dignity.
In his recommendations and his judgement, Justice Kapoor has made the point that marriages are getting broken because of the stringent anti-dowry legislation and that much more effort should be made to arrive at a compromise in the situations of marital discord. The AIDWA statement expressed the organisation’s clear-cut stand on the issue. To the AIDWA, it is not a stringent legislation or the obstinacy of married women and their families that are responsible for the breakdown of marriages but the harassment, violence, intimidation and blackmail to which they are being subjected because of unabated greed. The importance now being given to the market forces and the consumerism that this has generated are only fueling this greed, the statement added.
It is indeed unfortunate in the AIDWA’s view that the honourable justice has ignored the misery and injustice that the dowry system is responsible for. He has, instead, placed the onus on women for preserving the institution of marriage. He has conveniently ignored the social reality that most women do precisely this and try hard to save their marriages --- at great cost to their mental, physical and emotional health and often at the cost of even their lives.
The AIDWA statement recalled that the Dowry Act was amended in 1982 precisely because these factors were taken into consideration and addressed. Yet, even now, there are infirmities in the law that need to be removed. Instead of improving the law, however, Justice Kapoor’s judicial pronouncements would go a long way to deprive women of even the little legal redress they have. The organisation has therefore appealed to the government of India to reject the judge’s recommendations as misconceived, dangerous and anti-women.
The signatories to the statement were Brinda Karat, Subhashini Ali, Pramila Pandhe, Ashalata, Sonia, Rehana and Kirti Singh.
In the meantime, the Janwadi Mahila Samiti of Delhi, an AIDWA affiliate, has decided to organise a convention on the same issue at Constitution Club in the capital on May 30.