NCW to SC: Is it cruelty to threaten divorce?
Tue Oct 12 2010,
The National Commission for Women (NCW) wants the Supreme Court to rule on whether a woman can be held liable for cruelty under dowry law if she threatens to “force” her son to take divorce.
“Whether threatening a daughter-in-law that she (the mother-in-law) would force the son to take a divorce not amount to mental cruelty thereby clearly attracting Section 498A (dowry harassment) of the IPC?” the commission has sought a judicial clarification from the apex court.
It has further asked the court to decide if “advising” a daughter-in-law to take divorce by mutual consent and inducing her with a monetary compensation amounts to cruelty as defined under Section 498A.
The top women’s body has sought these clarifications in a curative petition filed before a Bench headed by Justice P Sathasivam against a July 27, 2009 Supreme Court judgment.
“In this judgment, this court has held that (a) kicking a daughter-in-law; (b) constantly threatening her that they (in-laws) would convince their son to take divorce does not amount to cruelty as under Section 498A (dowry harassment) of the IPC,” states the NCW petition filed by advocate Aparna Bhat.
The commission said it had, during the “course of its work”, found dowry harassment and domestic violence “more of a norm than an aberration and the law has to be interpreted in a manner beneficial to women in distress”.
The 2009 judgment of Justices S B Sinha and Cyriac Joseph had quashed dowry harassment charges instituted against Bhaskar Lal Sharma and his wife by their daughter-in-law, Monica, who accused them of physically harming her and threatening her with divorce.
Section 498A says it amounts to ‘cruelty’ if a husband or his relative wilfully subjects a woman to actions that may drive her to commit suicide or cause grave injury to herself. A person is liable to undergo a maximum imprisonment of three years if found guilty.
The petition asks the court whether “constantly interfering in the marriage of a newly married couple by advising a daughter-in-law to give divorce, kick her, and criticise her on a regular basis” match the definition of cruelty under Section 498A of the IPC.