Protection from 498A for `tortured’ in-laws

A man so afraid of his wife filing a false dowry case against him that he would torture his parents at her behest today earned rare immunity for his family from a domestic violence law said to be loaded against husbands and in-laws.

Justice P.K. Chattopadhyay of Calcutta High Court issued an order barring Beauty Saha, 27, from filing a complaint under Section 498A against husband Prasanta, 32, and in-laws Prafulla Kumar and Swapna Saha after a tearful outburst turned the case on its head.

The court was hearing a petition filed by 74-year-old Prafulla, a government pensioner from Barrackpore, over police inaction on a complaint filed by him against his son and daughter-in-law when Prasanta broke down and blurted out the “real reason” for mentally and physically torturing his parents.

“The truth is that I am helpless. I have been doing my wife’s bidding all along lest she carry out her threat to lodge a false case of domestic violence under Section 498A against me,” Prasanta said, going down on his knees with hands folded.

When Justice P.K. Chattopadhyay asked him why he had arranged for a lawyer to represent his wife if he cared for his parents, the unemployed man said: “I have so far done whatever my wife has asked me to do.”

Prasanta later requested the court to provide him with legal assistance to contest any counter allegation by his wife.
“I am sure she will find new ways to torture us as soon as we reach home,” he said.

The court ordered the officer-in-charge of Titagarh police station to arrest Beauty if any member of the family lodged a complaint about torture by her.

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Section 498A, which deals with “cruelty on housewives by husbands and in-laws”, has been the subject of debate because of a glut of allegedly false cases filed by women trying to either use it as a tool for blackmail or settle personal scores. Organisations of husbands and in-laws facing false dowry cases are now common across the country .

Beauty’s counsel Pushpal Satpathy contested the allegations. He accused Prasanta of maligning his wife under pressure from his parents.

Prasanta and Beauty had a love marriage three-and-ahalf years ago and have since been living off the elder Saha’s pension. The couple have a one-and-half-year-old daughter.

According to Prafulla’s counsel Soumyajit Bhatta, Prasanta and Beauty started mentally and physical torturing his client and wife Swapna, 64, last July, in a bid to grab the family property .

“My client has a twostorey house on a four-cottah plot at Nonachandanpukur, under Barrackpore police station. His son and daughter-inlaw have been torturing him and his wife for months, pressuring them to write the property in their names,” the lawyer said.

On November 15, the couple needed medical attention after an alleged assault by Beauty. Bhatta submitted a doctor’s prescription to support the allegation. “On November 19, my client filed a general diary with Titagarh police station. But the police took no action and the torture continued,” the lawyer said.

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