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.
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?