The demand for repeal of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, dealing with cruelty to a woman in her marital home, made by some sections of society and even the judiciary is “male chauvinism,” Justice A. K. Ganguly of the Supreme Court said on Saturday. He was delivering the keynote address at a seminar on ‘Negotiating Spaces: Gender Concerns in Conflict Zones' here.
“There is a lot of argument that 498A should be repealed because it is being abused. I am sorry to say that even Supreme Court judges have said it openly in courts. Which law in this country is not abused? This [498A] is a law which empowers women. I am not saying it's not abused. Just because it empowers women and gives them a negotiating space, [there are demands] that it be repealed. This is male chauvinism.”
Justice Ganguly pointed out that Section 307 of the IPC was the most abused with instances of even a slap being construed as an attempt on one's life.
Urging that women's fight against injustice continue, he said: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Justice Ganguly drove home the importance of the Preamble in the delivery of justice. It was “the organic part of the Constitution” on which depended “the fulfilment of the constitutional promise.”
He also referred to his judgment last year on assessing the value of homemakers' work. “In the census, homemakers are equated with prostitutes, beggars and prisoners. It is said they are economically non-productive. Where is the dignity?”
Without mentioning his name, Justice Ganguly expressed dismay that Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, who was fined Rs. 10 lakh by the Supreme Court for protecting the interests of a moneylender family, continued to be in the Cabinet. “The [former Maharashtra] Chief Minister is still a Minister. He is looking after Rural Development…He continues in equal glory. We cannot pull him down from [there],” Justice Ganguly said.