The law should never be misused
TheNari o Shishu Nirjaton Daman Ain 2000 (amended in 2003) was enacted to make the necessary provisions for the elimination of crimes against women and children.
However, it is also reported in various media that this law is often misused by women for whose protection the law was enacted.
As the rate of divorce is increasing in our society, the number of fake cases under section 11 of this act is also increasing every day, research shows. When a divorce notice is served by a husband, some women, not everyone, use this section 11 as a means of taking revenge against the person who served the divorce notice. It is essential for us to understand that marriage is not the only identity we have as women. In some families, girls are raised in a way that compels them to think their husband is everything that matters in their life. In this process, they gradually lose their self-identity. Even if they are educated, they start believing that divorce is the end of the world.
Of course, some women want to make their marriage last for the sake of their kids, but some are there in our society who take it personally and take revenge when a divorce notice is served upon them.
They find it easier to file a dowry case under section 11 of the act to compel their husbands to come back and reconcile. Among the three sub-sections of section 11, 11(ga) is the most common one used by women.
In order to construe an offence under 11(ga) -- two conditions are required to be fulfilled: (a) the accused must demand dowry and (b) he must assault the victim.
In Subroto Halder vs the State 2014 34 BLD High Court Division 635, the allegation of demand of dowry and assault on the victim was not proven. And hence, the court ordered that framing a charge under section 11(ga) is not sustainable in law.
Section 250 (1) and (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 of Bangladesh empowers the magistrate, to punish anyone who, in the opinion of the magistrate had filed a false and frivolous or vexatious case. Section 211 of the Bangladesh Penal Code, 1860 states: “Whoever, with intent to cause injury to any person, institutes or causes to be instituted any criminal proceeding against that person, or falsely charges any person with having committed an offence, knowing that there is no just or lawful ground for such proceeding or charge against that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”
Furthermore Section 17 of the act also punishes a complainant who files a false case knowing there is no ground for filing a case against the accused with rigorous imprisonment of not more than seven years and a fine. Hence, victims of false cases in Bangladesh are not without remedies. It is also important to note that mere dismissal of a case or lack of conviction does not make it a case of false accusation. The new Bangladeshi law and existing provisions make it adequately clear that the accused of a dowry-related offense has a remedy only when the case is clearly proved to be a false one. For it to be termed as a false case, the court would have to hold, beyond any doubt, that the case was completely baseless, motivated and meant to injure the accused.
In May 2018, the cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was brought about to bring an amendment to the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1980 of Bangladesh.
As per the draft law, the punishment for filing any false case would have been maximum of five years’ imprisonment or maximum Tk50,000 as fine or both. This provision was proposed with an aim to protect citizens of Bangladesh who do face false dowry cases. However, the sad part is these amendments were not made into law, and the same is not reflected in the Dowry Prohibition Act 1980.
Even though the provision mentioned above is not reflected under the Dowry Prohibition Act 1980, the victims of false cases still do have ways out.
The government needs to take substantive steps to make sure that no innocent is accused or convicted of the offense of demanding dowry. For this, creating awareness may help.
Judiciary and law enforcement agencies need to be more alert on this matter. At the same time, we must educate our girls that taking revenge in this way undermines their dignity.
If a person does not want to be her partner in life, she can’t compel him to come back to her through filing false cases. If one woman adopts these means, it undermines all those who believe in women’s empowerment.
Tasmiah Nuhiya Ahmed is an Advocate of Bangladesh Supreme Court.