Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Sati and Jauhar

It is reported that CBFC has decided to certify Padmavati UA after five modifications. One of them is to change the name to Padmavat. Another is to have a disclaimer stating the film does not subscribe to the practice of Sati or seek to glorify it.

There is difference between Sati and Jauhar. Sati is committed by widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. Jauhar is committed by married women as a group when their husbands are alive. It is during war. It is done to avoid capture by enemies. There is no hope of winning the war and defeat is certain. After women die, men go to war and fight till death. Some say Jauhar was the prerogative of Rajput women while Sati was for all Hindu women. It does not seem all Hindu widows committed Sati. Some lived with heads shaven and clothes that identified as widows.

Padmavati or Padmini and other women committed Jauhar, not Sati. The disclaimer against Sati is meaningless. It is said three Jauhars took place in Chittor. One was during Padmavati’s time. Second one was during Karnavati’s time in 1535. Bahadur Shah had surrounded the fort. Third one was in 1568. Akbar killed Jaimal and conquered Chittor.

The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act bans glorification of Sati. There is no law that bans glorification of Jauhar.

Dropping the last letter to change the name of the film from Padmavati to Padmavat ostensibly because the film is based on poem Padmavat by Malik Muhammad Jayasi has led to some jokes. The film is directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansal, starring Deepka Padukone, Shahd Kapur and Ranveer Sngh.

BJP 19 states

It was celebration time for BJP MPs as they gathered in the afternoon today, 20/12/2017. BJP had won in Gujarat for the sixth time in a row and had won Himachal Pradesh from Congress. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly told BJP MPs “We are now ruling 19 states. Even Indira Gandhi, when she was in power, was in 18 states.”
Now there are 29 states in India. When India Gandhi became Prime Minister in 1966 there were 16 states. Haryana became a state in 1966. Himachal Pradesh became a state in 1971. Meghalaya, Manipur and Tripura became states in 1972. Sikkim became a state in 1975. During Indira Gandhi’s lifetime the number of states was not more than 22. She died in 1984.
Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Goa became states in 1987. Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand (then Uttaranchal) became states in 2000. Telangana became a state in 2014.
In Jammu and Kashmir BJP is in coalition with PDP. In Goa, BJP is in coalition with regional parties. In Manipur, BJP is in coalition with NPP, NFP and LJP. In Bihar it lost the election in 2015. It is in power because Nitish Kumar dumped coalition partners RJD and Congress in July 2017 and formed a coalition with BJP. In Andhra Pradesh, BJP is junior partner to TDP. In Maharashtra it has Shiv Sena and some small parties as allies.
Congress rules Karnataka, Mizoram, Nagaland and Punjab, Left Front rules Kerala and Tripura, AIADMK rules Tamil Nadu, TRS rules Telangana, BJD rules Orissa, TMC rules West Bengal and SDF rules Sikkim.
It is a great achievement for BJP from two Lok Sabha seats in 1984 to 86 in 1989, 120 in 1991, 161 in 1996, 182 in 1998 and 1999. Then there was decline to 138 in 2004 and 116 in 2009. Then rise again to 282 Lok Sabha seats in 2014.
When Indira Gandhi was PM, Chhattisgarh was part of MP, Jharkhand was part of Bihar, Uttarakhand was part of UP and Telangana was part of Andhra Pradesh.

Adultery as crime

On 8/12/2017 Supreme Court dealt with Section 497 of Indian Penal Code which makes adultery punishable for man but not for married woman. The bench was headed by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. Justice Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud and Justice Ajay Manikrao Khanwilkar were other members of the bench.
IPC 497 says, “Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor.”

Section 198(2) in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 says “(2) For the purposes of sub- section (1), no person other than the husband of the woman shall be deemed to be aggrieved by any offence punishable under section 497 or section 498 of the said Code: Provided that in the absence of the husband, some person who had care of the woman on his behalf at the time when such offence was com- mitted may, with the leave of the Court, make a complaint on his behalf.”

The court was hearing a public interest litigation petition, challenging the constitutionality of Section 497 IPC read with Section 198(2) of the CrPC. Appearing for the petitioner, advocate for the petitioner said that Section 497 IPC was unconstitutional as it discriminates against men and violates Article 14, 15 and 21. “When the sexual intercourse takes place with the consent of both the parties, there is no good reason for excluding one party from the liability,” he said.

Justice Chandrachud said the provision which said that it would be an offence only if done without the consent of the husband “put the woman in a position of a commodity”. He added, “As if with his permission, there would not have been any problem.”

The bench, headed by the Chief Justice of India, said, “Ordinarily, the criminal law proceeds on gender neutrality but in this provision, as we perceive, the said concept is absent. That apart, it is to be seen when there is conferment of any affirmative right on women, can it go to the extent of treating them as the victim, in all circumstances, to the peril of the husband… A time has come when the society must realise that a woman is equal to a man in every field. This provision, prima facie, appears to be quite archaic. When the society progresses and the rights are conferred, the new generation of thoughts spring, and that is why, we are inclined to issue notice.”

The court issued a notice to the Centre on the constitutionality of the IPC provision dealing with adultery, saying it appeared to be “archaic” and did not appear to be gender-neutral.

Punishing a man for a crime and not punishing the woman for the same crime is sexual discrimination. Feminists have not argued against IPC 497. They have not demanded equality with men in punishment for adultery. They have not said this is commodification of woman, it reduced woman to husband’s property. There is no punishment for adultery when a married man has sex with an unmarried woman.

Adultery is a ground for divorce. Many married women when caught in adultery say they were raped. Law Commission of India in its 42nd report had recommended the retention of Section 497 with the modification that the wife, who commits adultery, should be made punishable for adultery. Parliament rejected the recommendation.

Either adultery should be a crime for both man and woman or it should not be a crime for any of them.

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