Bad news from The Times of India: The Supreme Court of India has declared that “बीबी जोह बोलती है वोह सुंनो |”, or, in other words “Listen to whatever your wife says,”. That’s right; the highest court in India has ruled that husbands must defer to their wives on all matters! The ruling followed, by stating “as otherwise it could land you in trouble. Because if you do not listen to her, you will suffer the consequences.” And, what are these consequences they speak of? Likely it is the infamous Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, though, the Court has not, as yet, determined the penalty for a husband speaking his mind to his wife.
What is Section 498A, you ask? It is a piece of pseudo-dowry law that states:
Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
Besides sexistly only protecting female spouses from ‘cruelty’, and not male spouses, it is non-bailable, non-compoundable, and cognizable, which means that husbands accused of this nebulous ‘cruelty’ will and have been arrested without investigation or warrants; and, it cannot be privately resolved between the parties concerned. It gets worse though. This also allows relatives of the husband to be abducted without proof, on mere hearsay. Effectively, having a married male in your family, jeopardizes everybody to the passing whims of a single in-law. With this single statute, a wife may legally arrest just about anyone, in the family, on abject slander!
Indian husbands are being forced at every turn to be voiceless servants for their wives, lest they or their loved ones end up in the slammer! The Indian Supreme Court also stated that “If your wife asks you to put your face that side, put it that side. If she says, put it this side, then put it this side. Otherwise you will face trouble.” The potential trouble is immense, as we can see.
Section 498A has both its proponents and it’s detractors. Women’s groups are staunchly defending it. In January 31, 2009, Justice K. G. Balakrishnan, the Chief Justice of India, addressing India’s National Commission for Women, asserted that Section 498A is being “grossly misused” and that relatives not involved with a matrimonial dispute were often unfairly implicated. The Centre for Social Research India has released a research report opposing amendments to section 498A. It states that “The study also has observed that 6.5 percent of the total cases studied through victims’ interviews were found false at the level of investigation. Many of the accused, police, judges and lawyers, categorically said that ‘educated and independent minded women’ misuse the section.”
The kicker of the Court ruling is that it was about an appealed divorce plea from the husband Deepak Kumar, who complained that his estranged wife Manisha had ruined him and his family by implicating them in false criminal cases, including sodomy. The Supreme Court’s answer was that he must defer to his abuser’s desire to stay together!