Sixty-two-year-old Anil Sood has not seen his son, now 21, for years. His life has been a struggle since 1997 when his wife allegedly filed a false dowry harassment case against him. Once a rising businessman, Sood now slogs to pay her a monthly maintenance of `3,000.
“I am a ruined person today. I have to pay my wife maintenance every month in spite of the fact that she is in a relationship with another person. I have now mortgaged my house to pay for her upkeep,” he told HT on Saturday.
An emotionally and financially bankrupt Sood was a part of a motley crowd of harassed husbands, who gathered in front of the Collectorate on Saturday for protection of men’s rights.
According to the agitators, several men had to lose the best years of their life and even their careers fighting false dowry harassment and domestic violence allegations charged by their spouses taking advantage of the loopholes in the laws intended to protect women, most commonly, Section 498A of the IPC.
“Today we have come here to demand for a separate commission for men on the lines of the women’s commission. There is no one to protect the rights of men who are framed in fake cases by their wives. In India, it has been seen that only in two per cent cases of dowry harassment people are convicted. The law is extensively misused by women who want to settle scores with their husbands,” said Anil Rao, the organiser of the rally.
A Jhunjhunu-based doctor, Rao said: “Since the day of my marriage, my wife refused to have physical relationship with me. I have filed for divorce, but there hasn’t been any response from her end. She has said that neither will she live with me and nor will give me divorce. So what choice do I have now? There are laws to protect women from domestic violence, but no provisions to protect men. Our primary demand is that there should be some organisation to protect the rights of men,” said Rao.
Taking note of the rising misuse of the anti-dowry law by women to harass in-laws, the Supreme Court in 2014 had restrained the police from mechanically arresting the husband and his relatives under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.
The directive stipulated that the state governments to instruct the police to ensure the necessity for it before an arrest under the section. The apex court also allows a man divorce if a complaint under the section is found to be false.
The harassed husbands also demanded for an equal law that did not discriminate against men, fast-track courts for speedy trial in cases related to family matters and strong punishment for those who use dowry harassment laws for their own benefit.