Former DGP D K Pandey at Ranchi.
Former Jharkhand Director General of Police-turned BJP leader D.K. Pandey has been accused of mental harassment by his daughter-in-law in an FIR lodged with the women’s police station in Ranchi on June 28, The Telegraph Online reported.
According to a copy of the FIR which the publication had accessed, Rekha Mishra, Pandey’s daughter-in-law, alleged that he and other family members mentally harassed her for dowry and hid facts about the sexual orientation of her husband, Subhankan Pandey.
An officer of the Mahila police station told The Telegraph that an FIR against DK Pandey, his wife Poonam Pandey and his son Subhankan Pandey was lodged under Section 498 (A) (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty; harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security) of the Indian Penal Code. Rekha Mishra, also allegedly made another serious accusation against DK Pandey, saying that he tried to establish a physical relationship with her and also pressured her into establishing a physical relationship with others.
However, this is not an isolated case where servicemen and other elected representatives have been accused of such heinous crimes.
In February this year, a 24-year-old woman from Chennai accused her IPS officer husband of domestic violence and dowry harassment, but struggled to get a case registered against him, The Quint reported. However, the apathy of authorities was very visible with the handling of the matter. It was reported that Aruna, who accused her husband, IPS officer Ananda Rajaguru of dowry harassment, domestic violence, desertion and criminal intimidation, first approached the police with her complaint on December 23, 2019. However, the police first refused to file the FIR as her husband was an IPS officer. They accepted her complaint three days later, but even then did not file an FIR. Soon, Aruna approached the High Court about the police’s refusal to file the FIR, which directed the police to take action based on the severity of the offence. However, even then the police refused to file an FIR immediately, saying that the only reason the case came to notice was because the accused was an IPS officer, said The Quint.
In another incident that took place in June this year, a woman allegedly died by suicide after her husband, a constable attached with the District Armed Reserve (DAR) in Mysuru, harassed her father for dowry.
In January 2020, a case was registered against a Congress corporator Siddheshwar Kammurti from the Bhiwandi Nizampur City Municipal Corporation (BNCMC) and his three family members for allegedly harassing his daughter-in-law for dowry, News 18 reported. The complainant alleged that her husband and in-laws had demanded money from her parents and tortured her physically and mentally, due to which she had to abort her child. Kammurti was earlier associated with the BJP as a corporator, but had switched to Congress after he was denied a ticket by the BJP during the previous civic polls.
Last year in September, CCTV footage surfaced of a retired judge who served at the Hyderabad and Madras High Court and his wife and son, physically abusing a woman in front of her child, The Quint reported. It was said that the woman had complained about the alleged dowry harassment in April last year, but was unable to find an advocate to argue her case due to the influence her father-in-law, Ram Mohan Rao held. The complainant had alleged that she had been physically assaulted for dowry and in April, she was reportedly assaulted to such an extent that she had to be rushed to the hospital. The Quint reported that at the time, medical reports had revealed that there were nail marks on her chest and abrasions all over her body.
In November last year, the daughter-in-law of a well-known BJP corporator from Pimpri Chinchwad filed a police complaint alleging that she was being physically and mentally harassed for dowry, Pune Mirror reported. She had accused her mother-in-law (the said BJP corporator) and her sons of domestic violence and had also alleged that her brother-in-law tried to molest her.
Legal Provisions in India for prohibiting dowry
Under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, Section 3 (penalty for giving and taking dowry), if any person after the commencement of the Act gives or takes, abets the giving or taking of dowry shall be punished with an imprisonment for a term not less than five years and with fine not less than Rs. 15,000 or the amount of the value of dowry, whichever is more.
Under Section 4 (penalty for demanding dowry), if any person directly or indirectly demands dowry from the parents, relatives or guardians of the bride or the bridegroom shall be punished with an imprisonment of not less than six months and which shall extend to two years and with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees.
Under Section 498 A of the Indian Penal Code (husband or relative of husbands subjecting woman to cruelty), the perpetrator shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine. It also allows for immediate arrest and imprisonment of a woman’s spouse and her in-laws in the case of harassment and cruelty on the basis of a complaint.
Factly reported that in 2014, the cases registered under 498 A crossed 1.2 lakh, however, this number fell to 1.03 lakhs in 2018, as per the data from the National Crime Records Bureau. As per the NCRB Crime in India 2018 report, there 7,166 cases of dowry related deaths (304B IPC) in the country. Under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, as many as 12,826 cases were registered in 2018, up from 10,189 in 2017 and 9,683 in 2016. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar accounted for the highest number of dowry deaths – 2,444 and 1,107 respectively.
Out of 7,166 reported cases of dowry deaths, 3,273 were pending investigation by the end of the year and out of the over 12,000 cases booked under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, as many as 7,425 were yet pending investigation. The conviction rate with regards to dowry deaths was only 39.6 percent and that for cases booked under the Dowry Prohibition Act was only 24.1 percent.
It is important that victims of harassment and domestic violence be given a safe atmosphere to safely file their complaints. While the struggle becomes even more difficult if people in power are involved, it is imperative that the chain of silence is broken and there is enough mettle in the laws to ensure protection to victims.