18th January 2014

Punish misuse

Misuse of dowry harassment laws sees to be assuming worrying proportions. According to a study by Bangalore-based women’s helpline, Vanitha Sahayavani, most complaints of dowry harassment lodged with the helpline are unfounded. Of the 92 harassment complaints filed with the helpline in November 2013, it found that just 20, allegations had substance.

Studies in other parts of the country have revealed a similar trend. It appears that urban middle and upper-middle class Indians are using the anti-dowry law as a weapon against their husbands to settle scores, teach them a lesson, opt out of marriage, pressure them into forking out more alimony, etc. Enacted in 1983 amid growing concern over bride-burnings and dowry-related murders in the country, Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code deals with ‘cruelty’ meted out to a woman by her husband and his relatives over demands for dowry.

This is a stringent law, which allows the police to arrest without a warrant and even before an investigation, the accused named in a complaint. Offences under this law are non-bailable, and conviction could mean a prison term of up to three years. Section 498A has empowered women to act to protect themselves in the event of dowry harassment. Its timely use prevented thousands of dowry-related murders.

Its misuse is therefore unfortunate. When unfounded complaints are filed, the accused – this often includes aged parents of the husband and other relatives – suffer undeserved jail time and public humiliation. This law’s misuse has prompted calls its dilution. In 2010, the Supreme Court called on the government to relook the law and the Law Commission is said to be considering making dowry harassment a bailable and compoundable offence.

The government must think through the consequences of some of these amendments. The dowry problem persists in the country and number of dowry deaths has grown. In the circumstances, dilution of the dowry harassment law could render women helpless again. Making dowry harassment a bailable offence will enable the accused to tamper with evidence and to pressure witnesses. A stringent dowry law therefore continues to be relevant in our society. However, steps to prevent misuse have become necessary. The government should consider stern punishment for those who misuse this law or who file complaints on flimsy grounds. Misuse may be difficult to establish but it must be clearly defined in an amended law.


 23rd November 2013


Government acts on an I Paid A Bribe complaint: Aadhaar operator blacklisted

Shubham Khandelwal of Chennai is not your average citizen. He has dutifully gone ahead and taken the trouble to get himself enrolled for the Aadhaar card at an Aadhaar centre in Chennai. Impressed with the government’s drive to enrol citizens for the Aadhaar card, he had presented himself at the centre along with his father.
However, he had the shock of his life, when the official manning the centre asked him for a steep bribe to give him a receipt. Shubham Khandelwal reported to that he was asked to pay a bribe of 2000/- by the enrolment officer in Chennai to get his father’s and his Aadhaar receipt. After refusing to pay for three days, he finally gave in and paid Rs 350/- to the officer. Despite this, the officer gave him only his father’s Aadhaar receipt and not his.
Shubham Khandelwal in his complaint mentions that after the official told him that he could not give his receipt as ‘it was not there’ he asked the official to return the bribe money, which was refused.
Now, Shubham Khandelwal was peeved by the behaviour of the official and put down his  experience on, and it worked wonders. And he took care to put out the complaint in as detailed a manner as possible. He mentions the name of the officer, and also gives out the name of the company the official belonged to and the mobile number of the person. This adds authenticity to the report, and vigilance agencies take such complaints seriously.
The letter sent from to Unique Identification Authority of India in Bangalore was received and duly acknowledged by the organisation, and it referred the complaint to the Director, Directorate of Census Operations (DCO) Tamil Nadu, Chennai for enquiring into the allegations of corruption. It also mentioned in the letter that for Tamil Nadu, the Registrar General of India was carrying out enrolments for Aadhaar and not the UIDAI.
The Diectorate of Census Operations, Tamil Nadu based in Chennai took note of the complaint forwarded by the UIDAI from Bangalore, and stated that disciplinary action has been initiated against the concerned operator, Macro Infotech Pvt Ltd and the operator has been blacklisted.
Now this is great news that the government departments had acted with such alacrity on a simple complaint and had not only blacklisted the operator, but has also initiated disciplinary action. not only collects bribe experiences from citizens, but also sends it to officials of the various departments and the vigilance branches of the respective departments. The vigilance departments then take up the complaints on a case to case basis and conduct internal enquiries into the matter. Then, official action is taken.
Apart from the vigilance agencies of various departments, the central vigilance agency also intervenes if is a matter of serious concern.
Official action might be as drastic as the one taken in the above mentioned case, or it could be just an internal enquiry. But even a mere enquiry at a departmental level damages the career chances of officials. Though nothing might come out of an enquiry, the fact that an enquiry is being conducted is enough to scare officials and make them fall in line.

Shubham Khandelwal is an MBA student now studying in Bangalore and is overjoyed at the reaction of the government in blacklisting the Aadhaar operator. “ I never knew a simple complaint  could make such a difference” .  I was in Chennai when the incident happened and after that I was furious and was searching all over to look for a complaint mechanism, when I stumbled upon  It is a great day and event for me and for me to share with my friends.”

Use Speak out against corruption and watch out to see if action is taken.

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