Social justice: Can two wrongs make a right?

In a recent judgement, the Supreme Court has made a significant observation that false cases of marital cruelty filed by women is destroying marriages in most such cases.

“…….By roping in in-laws without a reason and for settling a score with the husband, the false and exaggerated 498A complaints are causing havoc to marriages,” said a bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu and A K Sikri.

The bench however hastened to add that this didn’t give a clean chit to guilty in-laws.

While the law has been made to protect women against marital cruelty of all kinds, there is no denying the fact that it is misused by unscrupulous women. What happens when the case is proved false? The court dismisses the case because of  ‘insufficient evidence,’ and does not mention that it is a false case. I am not qualified to comment on the law, so I won’t.

But question remains, Can two wrongs make a right? I address this question to social injustice of all kinds, including matrimonial disputes.

If one were to look around, one can see that those who are doing the wrong believe that they are actually righting injustices of the past. Consider this: the upper castes have to be denied every opportunity because they had dominated the other classes for centuries. Men have been traditionally associated with adultery and women have suffered;  so let women do the same now that they are emancipated and let men take that. Ah, justice has been done!

Or has it?  Unfortunately, it is only the victim that has changed. Except for the casual observer getting a kick out of the various situations, no justice has been served, or has it? If earlier the other castes had been the victim, now it is the upper caste; the wife of a philanderer was the victim then and now the husband is the victim; the stereotyped saas has to suffer because the new-age bahu has ‘woken up’.

An eye for an eye is fine so long as the original perpetrator is losing the eye, not someone who has to pay for the sins of their species. As the wolf tells the lamb in the story, if not the particular lamb itself, its parents or grandparents or great grandparents would have muddied the water for the wolf and so the lamb had to pay with its life for their mistake!

Some years back, I had written about a true incident involving my friend’s nephew who became the unfortunate victim of one such false case, when not just the marriage but an entire family had been ruined by one such false case. Allow me to re-post it today. 

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A brilliant engineer and warm-hearted young man, (let us call him B) he went through an arranged marriage. The girl was well educated and the only daughter of a civil servant. In the months they went around and got to know each other prior to their engagement, she seemed strangely aloof. Being sensitive to forced marriages, B wanted to make sure she wasn’t being coerced into the marriage by her parents.

She denied it and then began stating her conditions: she wanted to work. ‘Of course,’ said B. ‘why should you quit your job when you have worked so hard at your career?’  No questions about the late hours, and her friends of either gender. He laughed. ‘Are these conditions? We are a forward-looking family. You will love my parents,’ he said. She was not done yet. ‘I have many boy friends who are close to me.’ Her voice was defiant. That threw B. But recovering, he said it was fine. But there was a wariness in his voice now.

Suddenly she changed the topic and began talking nineteen to the dozen about sundry things. B had nothing to hang his suspicion on and so he just dismissed the whole thing. He even ignored the sudden phone calls she got and excused herself to answer them during their dates. He was only baffled by her refusal to make plans for a honeymoon. She would not give a reason. ‘Oh, she will come around. After all what can’t love achieve?’ thought a naive B.

B’s parents had told him to have his own place and even helped with the money to get one. B and the girl had furnished the house together. That had relaxed his mind over any misgivings about her strange behaviour at times.

And then they were married in a grand ceremony. That first night, she would not even come near him. She feigned tiredness and went off to sleep. A perplexed B remained awake the entire night wondering if he had made a horrible mistake. This continued for days, with B having to make excuses for his wife not taking leave or their not going for the honeymoon. He did not care about others but it hurt him to see his parents. His mother had been so eager to have another ‘child’ in the family and his wife wouldn’t even speak to her when she called.

‘Why couldn’t you speak to mother? She would have been so happy!’ said B.

‘Ok. Let’s get this straight. She is not my mother and I am not her child. And please don’t expect me to call her ‘mother’.’

‘But I call yours Ma and Papa,’ he protested.

‘That’s your lookout!’ she said flinging out of the house leaving B gaping after her.

Given the above scene, it was a pleasant surprise for him when she agreed to go his parents’ house for the Diwali weekend. If he had known the real reason, he wouldn’t have gone, leave alone be happy about her agreeing.

The dinner was another red herring for him, as she looked very happy even consenting to call his mother ‘mummyji’, but he failed to see that either. Around midnight, he woke up to her screaming. What he saw made his blood curdle. Her wrists had been slashed and there was blood all over the bed! His parents were too shocked to react. Within a few minutes the door bell rang and her father stood there with a police Inspector and two constables.

‘All three of you are under arrest,’ said the Inspector to B and his parents. They had no say in the matter as B’s wife recounted how she had been ‘forced’ to come to their house only to be ‘murdered’ by them.

B could not look at his parents’ faces. They were locked up separately, with his father and he pleading in vain to let one of them be with his mother. The police treated them with contempt and callousness. It was well past afternoon the next day when B had a visitor – his wife.

She was smiling happily. Her hands were bandaged and she looked as if she was about to go to a party. ‘Look, I can take back the complaint if you agree to a divorce.’

B was furious. ‘But what did we do? Why this charade?’

‘You? You did nothing. Your only mistake was that you were too good,’ she gestured to the other cells, ‘all of you!’ her lips curled derisively. ‘and now back to business. I need a divorce quickly since I don’t want to keep M waiting any longer.’

‘And who is M?’

The man I love and want to marry.’ Before he could ask anything more, she held up her hand. ‘My father would never have agreed to it. So I needed a bakra whom I could sacrifice in order to get him. Now he will come in as a good friend and slowly become my husband.’

To make a long story short, an initially indignant B refused to her proposal threatening to expose her true motives. She challenged him to, and he acknowledged defeat as he knew that it is the husband and in-laws who are the main suspects in such cases and unwilling to put his parents through more emotional torture he agreed. So the girl got her wish and became the magnanimous wife who ‘pardoned’ her husband and in-laws even though they had tried to do her in. The complaint was withdrawn and she got her papers.

The family is broken beyond repair. B has not remarried even though he is in his forties. His father died within a month of the ordeal and his mother is slowly edging towards insanity. They don’t even have the sympathy of the society which is there to rally around the family of a girl who is wronged by her in-laws. Ironically B’s in-laws had that privilege.

Now can all those who hurrah at such bahus’ actions for being ‘bold’ and frank and whatever not, justify this case as ‘justice delivered’? How many unscrupulous daughters-in-law take advantage of such situations to get what they want?

Isn’t B as much a victim of Machiavellian planning as the girls who are tortured by their in-laws? The truth is that many many such Bs exist, if not in such dire straits, then definitely in bad situations. And worse, many are married still. But the difference is this: the male of the species does not get sympathy from the society and their pride prevents them from talking about their plight to anyone. Women have their support groups in their female relatives and friends and even male relatives. This luxury is denied the men, even if they come out and speak openly. Unfortunately for me, this is not the only tragic case I have heard of. There are so many more Bs that are languishing in their hells.

Now tell me, can two wrongs make a right?

28 comments

  1. This sooo speaks my heart… There are just so many such B’s who have to not only go through the problems created by their wives but also listen to unending harsh comments from the society if they dare raise their voice… Its really sad…

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    1. It is not just listening to the harsh comments, it is being hounded by everyone, since the woman automatically gets the sympathy of the society even when she is at fault. And only people who have been hurt by these women dare open their mouths, and even then not all of them. Bikram had done one such post about being framed by a female relative.

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  2. I also know many people who were harrassed in similar way…and thats the reason I feel a rage inside me for these young girls..I see many girls being totally arrogant and disrespectful towards inlaws and their parents are also to blame. In their zeal in pampering their daughters they forgot to teach them values, and importance of discipline, protocol of behaviour.

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  3. Very disturbing!

    //As the wolf tells the lamb in the story, if not the particular lamb itself, its parents or grandparents or great grandparents would have harmed the wolf race!// – Used aptly!

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    1. Thanks for sharing this on Twitter. I see a very disturbing pattern in today’s world. A complete turnabout where the roles are reversed.

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  4. You’ve raised some very valid points. Mailing you a link to something I’d written along these lines.

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    1. thanks Chinkurli. missed you here! Looking forward to the link…

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  5. I am glad someone is writing about male victims of DV . I did and hope that you read the post. The social stigma is so powerful that it is practically impossible for them to even talk about it leave aside get some justice.

    I have yet to see a single man speak up , the laws are in favor of women and men are often victims of that too.
    Here is a link to my post . A true account
    http://tikulicious.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/in-silence-i-suffer-hidden-hurt-of-dv-male-victims/

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    1. I have read it Tikuli and even commented on it! Yes, the laws are tilted in the favour of women and one must admit that they do face more of victimisation, but that does not take away from the sufferings of the male victims especially in the hands of the law.

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  6. Hi, I am not sure if you watched this on tv. Karan Thapar interviewing Renuka chaudhary on UPA Government’s Domestic Violence Bill. This post reminded me of the episode.

    Here is the text version of the interview (you could find the video on you tube)

    http://ibnlive.in.com/news/ill-empower-women-chowdhury/26051-3-0.html

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    1. I will take a look, thank you XYZ!

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  7. I believe that social and legal protection for men is equally a necessity today and yes there are cases where law has been abused to have personal gain.

    in my therapeutic practice i see more and more men coming up for dealing with emotional and physical abuse that they have suffered in past or current relationships.

    without getting into the fine points of the legalities or statistic here, I believe that since abuse against women are far higher in nature in our existing patriarchal culture, the law does have the bias towards women compared to men. In fact there are many NGOs today who are working towards ending this disparity. there are also many organisations formed by men who have been harassed by their counter part.

    One important point that you have mentioned in your post is how do men learn to seek help and support and not remain silent considering this abuse as his personal shame. It is a social menace and more this is talked about, more support it will gain.

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    1. Hey, I didn’t know you are into theraupeutic practice. Does it have anything to do with psychiatric therapy?

      Even when abused men get out of the legal tangles after being proved innocent, they still have to face social ostracism. what upsets me nost is that many women refuse to even consider the possiblility of the existence of such cases, whereas one revelation leads to an avalanche of them.

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  8. loved this piece

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  9. a chilling account and very well narrated. Yes I agree that many of our menfolk are at the receiving end and no one supports them.

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    1. Social conditioning is the culprit for such cases being on the rise. It is akin to teaching boys not to cry because they are little men. that get extrapolated into adulthood not to complaing or share their misery with anyone. As you had suggested in one of your posts, therapy should come out of the closet to help such men who are living under extreme conditions.

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  10. All I can say is it is heartbreaking all round. Society very rarely gets anything right.

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    1. It is more than that actually. It has got to do with conditioning. People do not want to acknowledge certain facts because it will upset their beliefs and preconceived notions about things — in this case that women are the sole sufferers. besides such stories don’t make good copy!

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  11. The Domestic Violence act allows the police to jail a man and his family without a warrant, and clearly very skewed in the favor of the women. I am not to surprised with this because i have also seen such cases where a rape case was put on a friend on the first night for want 60,000 rupees and a divorce.

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    1. 60,000 rupees to destroy a man’s life? unbelievable! Like Grond says the laws have to be amended whereby justice is given to the injured party and not the woman alone even if the man is innocent!

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  12. Oh Gosh…this is awful…sounded totally out of a hindi soap opera.
    It is indeed difficult for men to prove their innocence.

    What a woman..eeks awful. Plus how could her own family support her…
    I feel bad for B..

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    1. In this case her family did not support her. they themselves were led to believe the worst of B. But from other comments I find that the girl’s family does support her schemes. Since I know the aunt I feel even worse for him.

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  13. Poor boy!God Z…such a helpless situation! the problem with such laws are that they hardly ever recognize or have provisions for loop holes in them..

    The only silver lining is he is rid of that crazy woman and i sincerly believe it u hurt someone intentionally, it comes back to u…the universe will play out the justice 😦

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    1. That was a very philosophical comment Nuts! I believe that there is sure to be divine retribution but while the innocent suffers due to a lop-sided law, who can see that or even believe that! These people get away because the legal system sucks big time.

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  14. A friend of mine went through a similar case. I got involved to help him, and was able to contribute a bit due to some acquaintances of mine.

    During this period, I spoke to a journlist. All he told me was an example: If, a girl, now divorced, goes to the cops and says this: “5 years ago when I was married, my then mother-in-law spoke something to me that caused me mental harrassment and since I was chopping onions at that time, I skinned my finger and it bled. It is causing me mental tension now.” The cops have to go arrest the husband and family without any hoo-hah. No proof, except for the ex-wife’s word, is required. That’s the law.

    Inasmuch as I’d like to blame the social mores of today, the one thing that has caused such an imbalance in the marital system is the laws surrounding it. Due to past issues relating to Sati and Dowry, the Indian legal system has been made supportive of the female, and the husband and his family are held guilty by default. If a girl complains, the legal system has to fall into her defence, not even looking at whether she is misusing the system to her benefit or whether she genuinely is suffering.

    There are many examples of the misuse of such laws and the social system surrounding them. Yours is not the first I have seen, and I am sure, not the last. It is the legal system which has to change, the social mores will change automatically.

    Regards,
    Grond

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    1. Yes, Grond. There are examples galore but who is talking about them? If these cases were more openly discussed it would be a help. You are right about the legal system having to take action based on our outdated customs that have all been against women. But I feel a change in the social mores will act in reverse and bring about at least some change in the legal system as it has done in many cases. why me, even women don’t want to acknowledge this scourge of society.

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  15. oh oh.. not a pleasant topic to discuss in the morning…

    i too have a couple of friends who went thru the same charade… one’s wife married him, coz her horoscope said only her second marriage will be long lasting.. so she used him and got married to her love after divorcing him.. the threats and emotional atyachar was huge on my friend… n to top it the whole family of her’s were in hand with her…

    same with the other friend.. greed was the cause, one month into the marriage, she used some “vashiyam” and got to know his investments and stuff… alimony she is demanding is huge… 😦

    sigh… i dont know where these females are heading too now-a-days 😦 and we fight for equal rights *facepalms* to top it Indian law is partial towards these females..

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    1. I’m sorry about that Ratzzz! But the story had been burning my mind for so long that I had to share it. You have a couple of friends but the world is replete with such cases. They don’t come out mostly. B had not even told his parents about his relationship with his wife. in similar situations the girl would at least have let her parents know. It is about time that injustice is not justified by the self-styled ‘social judges’. A sense of proportion is called for in such cases, isn’t it? Otherwise he legal loopholes will be made use of by unscrupulous women to get what they want.

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