Unfair Dowry Law in India Leads To Suicides, And A Movie

“498A – The Wedding Gift,” a Movie on Misuse of Indian Law Section 498a

It is a well known fact that section 498A is a highly abused section of law in India, that has caused more damage than remedy. The Supreme Court of India called the misuse of these gender-biased laws “Legal Terrorism.”

Over the past 5 years, close to 500,000 men and 200,000 women have been jailed without trial or investigation under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. Thousands of men have committed suicide after being falsely implicated under Section 498A.

The movie “498A – The Wedding Gift,” produced by Aaliya Productions, written and directed by noted TV personality Suhaib Ilyasi, is based on this theme. It highlights the consequences of anti-male laws such as Section 498A, popularly known as the anti-dowry law. Suhaib Ilyasi is the famous host of the program, “India’s Most Wanted,” that was telecast on Zee TV.

Gurmeet Singh Sethi plays Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
The 498A The Wedding Gift team talks about the law and the movie at a press conference in Chandigarh. Gurmeet Singh Sethi plays Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and many people mistake him for Manmohan Singh.

“498A – The Wedding Gift” is a tragi-comedy, featuring veteran actors Farida Jalal, Alok Nath, Sushma Seth and Reema Lagoo. Shahrukh Khan’s find and Colgate Ad model Harsh Nagar and a fresh new face from Delhi, Shrishti Gautam, are in lead roles. The star cast also includes Deepak Tijori in his first ever negative character. Ghulam Ali khan, a veteran Ghazal singer from Pakistan, apart from singing a patriotic song, has reportedly acted in the movie as well.

The story of 498A – The Wedding Gift centers on the theme of a widely misused provision of law in India, known as Section 498-A, popularly known as the dowry harassment law.

The producers say they are bullish about the release of the film and are banking on the millions of victims of this law to be a big part of its audience, along with other citizens who are still unaware of the behemoth law and its potential to break many families.

The story of the film is not based on any specific true incident, but it is said to be inspired by the death of Syed Makhdoom in 2009. Makhdoom (Canadian NRI), a computer engineer by profession, was a victim of 498A misuse, who ended his life on 5 April 2009 in Bangalore, leaving four suicide notes and a dying video message on his mobile phone.

Filing A 498A Case Easier Than Ordering Pizza

It is popularly said that, for an Indian wife, filing a case under section 498A against her husband and family members is as easy as ordering a pizza. No evidence is required, no investigation is done and the husband and his family are put behind bars, merely on the basis of a complaint. Often these complaints are based on what is popularly known as a “Standard Harassment Template.” This is nothing but a collection of standard allegations that the woman was subjected to torture and harassment after marriage and there was an attempt to kill her if she did not bring a dowry.

More often than not, the allegations are completely false, contradictory in nature, devoid of evidence and the spending made in marriages is exaggerated by exorbitant proportions.

Unscrupulous behavior by the police, and misuse of the power of arrest land an innocent family behind bars, after which horse-trading starts. The husband and his family are coerced into paying millions of rupees, property, jewelry in order to have the case withdrawn. During this process, more often than not, the husband and his family are tortured emotionally, mentally, economically and at times, even physically.

Many husbands are not able to handle the stressful situations and commit suicide. Suicide data from the Union Home Ministry corroborates this fact.

Dowry Law Suicide Data 2005 – 2010

2005: 52483 married men vs. 28188 married women

2006: 55452 married men vs. 29869 married women

2007: 57593 married men vs. 30064 married women

2008: 57639 married men vs. 30224 married women

2009: 58192 married men vs. 31300 married women

2010: 61453 married men vs. 31754 married women

These figures are just the tip of the iceberg. It is not uncommon to see men committing suicide either in a police station when dragged there by their wives under a false complaint under Section 498A, or threatened with a false case or forced by the police to take back their abusive wives.

The arrest figures are equally shocking. In the seven years from 2004 to 2010, close to 500,000 innocent men (husbands, their brothers, fathers) and 200,000 innocent women (mothers and sisters of husbands) have been arrested without trial or investigation, based on a mere complaint.

Such abuse of men and ignorance of their problems is a direct reflection of the lack of awareness of men’s problems and lack of social support structures for men. It is hoped the movie, currently in post production, is a big step towards creating the much needed awareness about the extortion and harassment that innocent people have to undergo because of the unconstitutional Section 498A law.

Anti-Dowry Law Organizations

A number of organizations that were instrumental in creating awareness and supporting victims of Section 498A, have come together, along with the movie makers, to promote the movie and urge society to watch the movie.

Research oriented organizations such as Confidare Consultancy found that the police are not trained for and are thoroughly incapable of dealing with family matters, and should be kept away from it. When marital disputes, which are civil in nature, reach the police, they become criminalized and this trend has made marriage itself a crime for Indian husbands, who are always seem to be on the receiving end.

NGOs, including Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF), Children’s Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP), All India Mother-in-law Protection Forum (AIMPF), who have campaigned for men’s rights, father’s welfare and gender equality in this society, feel that more such movies and TV Series should be made so that socially relevant messages can be conveyed via the media of entertainment.

Suhaib Ilyasi says he is extremely happy to announce that 20% of the profit made from the movie would be used for strengthening the men’s rights movement in terms of building sustainable infrastructure for supporting the victims of the law, or organizing awareness campaigns to reach out to more and more victims or for conducting socially relevant research about abuse of men and their families.

“498A – The Wedding Gift” Team

  • Written by: Suhaib Ilyasi;
  • Producer: Aaliya Productions
  • Director: Suhaib Ilyasi;
  • Cinematography: Saurav Vishwakarma;
  • Music: Ray and Brotherhood;
  • Lyrics: Majid Deobandi;
  • Singers: Ghulam Ali Khan, Sonu Nigam, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shaan & introducing Veena Parashar;
  • Action: Mehmood Bakshi;
  • Editor: Arif Sheikh

    A website dedicated to www.498a.org has much more information on this law. The organization is a strong team of Indian citizens, from all around the world, who joined hands to fight the evil of ‘misuse of 498a.’ They are the mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, brother-in-law, sister-in-law of the innocent victims falsely implicated by 498a.

  • Mandeep Puri
    Mandeep Puri is a freelance writer who has been a Tribune crime reporter, business, sport, entertainment and municipal reporter. Contact Mandeep at his blog mandeeppuri.blogspot.com or at NewsBlaze.