Talk of dowry harassment is outright boring for many and sounds cliched for several others. But it is worth revisiting the issue today, the International Women’s Day, of all days for one reason: While the number of these cases is increasing by the day, the alarming aspect is that in most of the cases, the culprits are turning out to be NRIs. More precisely, techies and even IITians.
It seems the continuing craze for an NRI son-in-law is taking its toll on innocent girls. About 2,300 cases of dowry related harassment (IPC 498 A) are pending with the Mahila Court in Nampally. NRIs are the accused in over 50 % of these cases. What sets them apart from other dowry harassment cases is their sheer brutality, insensitivity, cruelty and betrayal of faith.
A senior official at the Nampally Mahila court, on condition of anonymity, told City Express that sofware professionals and IITians are increasingly ending up in courts, of late due to marital discord. “Incompatibility, ill-treatment, extra-marital affairs..there are many reasons. The worst part is in most of the cases, these men leave the women in the lurch on foreign shores. They take away passports and other documents of the women,” explained the official.
Citing a recent example, the official said in that case, the parents of the girl had to literally plead with her neighbours in the US to take care of her till their arrival. The senior official laid the blame for the plight of such brides squarely on the shoulders of parents. “It has become quite common as parents in the State just go blind at the sight of an NRI groom and fail to ensure the safety of their daughters,” the official said. In cases involving NRIs, it is difficult to get justice. Most of the cases remain pending for years because the accused remains at large in a foreign country and is unavailable for recording statements, leave alone begin the trial.
The prosecutors, who take up such cases, face a daunting task. “The aggrieved woman finds it difficult to present evidence. The average girl doesn’t and cannot keep on collecting evidence for use at a later date in a court of law,” pointed out one prosecutor, adding, “corroboration of evidence becomes extremely difficult and many fail to produce documentary evidence. The complainant tends to generalise everything whereas we look for precise allegations. The case becomes ambiguous as they themselves spoil the case.”
There is another aspect to these cases. A good number of cases are the result of low levels of tolerance and amount to misuse of the IPC. “The tolerance levels among couples have gone down. There was this instance where an Indian couple in the US opted for divorce and the wife took the custody of the child and got a share of assets as maintenance too,” said the official adding “but then, she came back to Hyderabad and filed a case here saying her husband’s family was threatening her for a divorce... 6 months after getting divorce in the US!”
But lawyers and prosecutors at the family court are of the unanimous opinion that safety of a woman would be ensured if only their parents pick the right groom. “It is parents’ responsibility to investigate about the groom prior to marriage. But, in reality, whatever safeguards and measures are there, they are just not enough,” said one official.
Police, the arbitrator?
According to sources in the Central Crime Station, around 15-20 new cases of quarrelling couples come everyday to their notice.
“The problem is with the modern lifestyle. Even minor fights raise one’s ego levels and there is a call for revenge,” said an official on condition of anonymity. It is learnt that about 60-70% of these cases come from well-educated couples. “We listen to them and try to solve their misunderstandings.”