GUWAHATI, Aug 11 - Shocked at the Supreme Court�s verdict on the �misuse� of Section 498A of the IPC related to cruelty against women at their matrimonial home, a number of women�s organisations and activists from Assam have joined a national drive asking the Chief Justice of India to review the judgement, which leaves women in a highly vulnerable condition.
The women�s organisations argued that Section 498A was already surrounded by myths like its misuse by women for falsely implicating the husband and his family, and the SC ruling has institutionalised the prejudices with more thrust on saving the marriage instead of saving the women from violence.
North East Network; Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS); Mumbai�s Special Cell for Women; Shishu Sarothi, Assam; All India Progressive Women�s Association; activist Nishamoni Borah; Sakhi � One Stop Centre � Kamrup Metro; Legal Cell for Human Rights; Asom Mahila Sangha; All India Democratic Women�s Association, Assam and Human Rights Law Network, Assam have asked the SC to review its July 27 judgement.
As per the latest ruling in the case of Rajesh Sharma and others vs State of UP and another, the court directed the police and magistrates that there would be no automatic arrests or coercive actions arising out of complaints lodged under Section 498A without ascertaining the veracity of the complaints and setting up of a family welfare committee in every district of the country.
The organisations argued that with the power of the police being diluted, the ruling would have adverse implications on women, leaving them more open to abuse during the investigation period.
�It further shifts the burden of investigation to the victim to produce strong evidence of cruelty against her. The courts term �strong evidence� is also not defined here as we all know such crimes happen behind closed doors and collecting strong evidences is very difficult since most of such crimes are perceived as personal matter,� Nilanju Dutta, a legal expert on women�s issues stated.
The organisations have also given some suggestions regarding the profile and experience of the family welfare committees recommended by the SC, for an effective intervention into the issues of cruelty against women.
�The judgement begins by noting that �the institution of marriage is greatly revered in this country� and expresses its concerns over the �phenomenal increase in matrimonial disputes in recent years�. However, by expressing fear of sudden increase in the breakdown of families and by advocating the retrogressive ideas of preservation of the marital institution over women�s individual rights within the household, the court has taken the struggles of the women�s movement decades back in time,� Anurita Pathak Hazarika of the North East Network said.
�Further disheartening is the fact that though the rate of conviction under Sec 498A was taken into consideration, it is only 15 per cent, suggesting that the remaining 85 per cent cases are false. On the other hand, the NFHS-3 data showing that at least 59 million women have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence in the preceding 12 months, has not been taken into account. Going by the data it is evident that less than 0.17 per cent of women actually filed a case under Sec 498A,� she said.