Dowries and Distortions: Fighting False Accusations through International Law

India prohibits spousal exploitation, including dowry payments and harassment. But, these laws are often manipulated to extort innocent spouses and their families. For persons wrongly accused, expert legal advice can be the difference between a timely acquittal or a lengthy investigation involving police, the courts, and even Interpol.


What is the law?


India disallows dowries, or payment as a condition for marriage. Additionally, India’s criminal code orders fines and imprisonment for any husband, or relative of a husband, who “subjects [a] woman to cruelty.” This rule, known as Section 498A, prohibits any conduct likely to cause harm or coerce the surrender of property.


These laws are intended to protect at-risk women, but Indian courts are rife with cases involving unfounded accusations levied against husbands and their families. Additionally, because Section 498A is a criminal statute, India may request the arrest and extradition of an accused person located in another country. Interpol, the organization for international police cooperation, may also be asked to issue an arrest alert, called a “Red Notice.”


What is the risk?


Dowries are allowed in the United States, meaning that a person accused of violating India’s dowry laws will not be extradited on that charge. However, An Interpol Red Notice gives accusers leverage even where extradition is not possible. Individuals subject to a Red Notice may be detained at airports, denied entry to foreign countries, or even arrested by local police who are unclear on international law. The situation can quickly spin out of control, threatening the finances, welfare, and freedom of movement of the accused.


What is the solution?


Expert legal advice is essential for challenging a Red Notice. Interpol prohibits arrest alerts for charges involving “personal disputes” or “cultural norms,” criteria that describe most conflicts over dowry. The accused should also request that his details be removed the Interpol website and removed from internal databases. Depending on the facts of the case, the accused may also need to obtain counsel in a foreign country, develop a contact list for Interpol personnel and local law enforcement, and conduct an investigation to disprove the premise of the alert.

The Jayaram Law has experience representing persons accused of dowry abuse and other violations under Section 498A. We have successfully challenged these types of accusations, as well as Interpol Red Notices, and would be happy to discuss your matter with you.