Documentary on misuse of India’s anti-cruelty section 298A goes live on Netflix

Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj, a crusader against the misuse of anti-domestic violence laws in India, said that her documentary ‘Martyrs of Marriage’ is now available on Netflix.

Bhardwaj has won tens of thousands of fans and followers in India for her work towards exposing the misuse of the section.

The section, incorporated in 1983, promises three years of imprisonment for anyone subjecting a woman to cruelty at her husband’s home.

However, what makes the law different from other laws is that all the accused are immediately jailed and let out only if subsequent trial proves that the charges are false.

The section is considered to be among the most abused laws in India as it gives any woman the power to jail her husband and his relatives, such as his parents, siblings and their spouses, with just one complaint at a police station.

The Supreme Court, in July last year, issued guidelines that prohibited the police from immediately arrested the husband or his relatives on receipt of complaints under section 498A, noting that 85% of the people arrested turn out to be innocent.

This was followed by the issue of ‘guidelines’ by police forces across the country directing law enforcement officials not to make ‘automatic arrests’ on all such complaints and to carry out arrests only if a special committee set up for the purpose feels that the complaint is maintainable.

Bhardwaj started following cases of the abuse of section 498A after her cousin was slapped with a similar case six years ago and his family was forced to make a huge settlement.

Bhardwaj, a graduate of the Indian Institute of Media and Journalism at Bangalore, made the film with the help of many small contributions from her fans and followers on social media.