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NRIs cry foul over anti-dowry law
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January 14, 2007 18:01 IST

Many Non-resident Indians are crying foul over the alleged misuse of anti-dowry law with social activists claiming that Indian men and NRIs are becoming soft targets of Indian Penal Code 498A.

Once a case is registered under 498A, the police books the groom and his family and they are immediately taken into custody. And if the groom is an NRI, a 'Red Corner Notice' is issued against him and his passport impounded. It is a cognizable offence and a non-bailable offence, one has to get the bail from the court, if, booked under 498A.

In order to protect the rights of the male bastion, groups like, Rakshak and Save the Indian Family are not only taking the issue to Parliament but have also presented memorandums to the prime minister and President.

"IPC Section 498A can potentially ruin a man and his family both mentally and financially," said Dr Anupama Singh, covenor, Singh's family has been dragged to the court and falsely booked under IPC 498A.

"The Indian judiciary and police are so crippled by this law that no sooner does a woman lodge a complaint that the man and his family are booked," she alleged.

"Around 58,000 dowry cases were registered last year, out of which 25,000 were proved to be false," Singh claimed.

On the other hand a senior official of National Commission for Women says that 498A is the only way to save lakhs of women who are harassed and tortured by their in-laws.

"I agree that there might be some lapses, but the problem does not lie with the law itself, it lies with the way it is being implemented," she told PTI.

"Mostly, the girls' families are not aware of 498A's implications; it is the police and the system because of which the law is being misused," she added.

"When a girl or her family approaches the police station, the constable or the police official present there straight-away asks them to lodge an FIR under IPC 498A. This is a shortcut for them," another senior NCW member informed PTI.

But, due to this faulty procedure unfortunately the groom's family is penalised, they spend days behind the lock up and if the groom is an NRI a 'Red Corner Notice' is issued against him and his passport impounded.

"We are not even given the chance to present our case and evidences," Singh claims.

Though reports of NRIs duping Indian brides hog the limelight and get a fair representation in the newspapers, the male victims and their families allege that the government, media and judiciary alike turn deaf ears to their cases.

"Last year in June when Minister for Overseas V Ravi visited US, we had met him but he said that he has hardly any role to play as back home he feared a backlash from the feminist group mainly NCW," Satya, a California-based 'victim' told PTI.

So much so, the NRIs claim that most Indian girls dream of a lavish stay abroad, but when the party ends, they come back to India and lodge complaints.

"My wife thought that we would always keep on traveling to wonderful places, but I have a job to do and I am not a money minting machine. As soon as she knew that, she left me and after reaching India booked me and my family under domestic violence act and dowry laws," Naveen from Florida said.

However, the Commission doesn't agree that there is no inside story about it. "There is no smoke without fire," the official said.

"If NRI men are facing the threat of losing their jobs and social status, then they should consider not marrying in India. We have third generation NRIs, so what's the point coming to this land. If you marry in India, then you have to abide by the laws of the land," she insists.

And as far as revision of the law is concerned, NCW maintains that this is the sole way to ensure women empowerment and this is the only way to instigate the police and judiciary to get working.

"The idea should be to see how the police system works, the concerned official out there should not lodge an FIR and arrest the groom and his side before investigating. Such shortcuts are mainly tainting the image of the prevailing law," the NCW spokeswoman added.

The Commission also agreed that not all should be booked under this law. "The way uncles, aunts are also humiliated is not fair, we agree that they should not be booked until a full-proof investigation is carried out. Instead of amending the law we should try to improve our police system and investigating procedure," she said.

With Pravasi Bhartiya Divas being held in the city and the government wooing the NRIs to invest in India, this matter needs to be settled, so that NRIs don't scrap all ties with their roots.

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