In this article, Simran Sabhrawal discusses All you need to know about Section 498A.

Introduction

Most of the people are not aware of the Section 498A of the IPC or what to do when a case related to Section 498A is registered. It is important to know more on what this law is all about. Section 498A was introduced in the year 1983 to protect a married woman from being subjected to cruelty. It claims to provide protection to women against dowry-related harassment and cruelty. On the other hand, it became an easy tool for women to misuse it and wreak revenge from their NRI husbands or to file a false case. Section 498A is one of the most controversial sections of the IPC.

What is Section 498A?

Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with the violence done on women after her marriage by her husband or her in-laws or any relative of the husband. It prescribes punishment for 3 years and a fine. It gave a new definition to cruelty. Cruelty can be defined as –

  • If the act done is of such a nature that the woman is enticed to commit suicide or cause an injury to herself, which may prove fatal. This was added in the case of Shobha Rani v. Medhukar Reddy.[1]  It was held in the case that evidence is required to prove cruelty.
  • If the act done is to harass women or any other person related to her to meet unlawful demands.

Need for Section 498A

Women have always been subject to cruelty by male society. Laws like these help women to fight back. Woman feel they are being heard. There is a lot of need for laws like these in a country like India –

  • 9 out of 10 cases are always related to dowry. So, there is dire need for these laws to prevent women from the cruelty.
  • Woman are continuously forced, tortured, threatened or abused for demand for something or the other. The Section 498A of the IPC helps the woman to approach the court of law and punish the wrongdoer.
  • In many cases, the woman are also subject to mental cruelty. There is no law which can help the woman to ease the mental pain caused to her. Acts like these help woman in every possible ways.
  • No matter if the laws are misused,they cannot be removed from the Indian Penal Code. As the laws can always be amended. There will be certain loopholes but always a provision can be added to rectify the problems.

The Indian Constitution is using the section 498A to protect married women from cruelty at the matrimonial home. The section was added to IPC to protect women from any domestic violence. Though there is wide misuse by the women. This section is the most fiercely debated section of the IPC. The IPC crimes against women have increased over the years. Most numbers of cases are reported from Delhi, India. A major number of crimes are committed against women every year :

Section Offence Punishment Cognizable or  Non Cognizable Bailable or Non- Bailable By what court triable
498A Punishment for subjecting a married woman to cruelty Fine and imprisonment for 3 years Cognizable if the information relating to the commission of the offence is given to the officer. Non bailable Magistrate of the first class

Surely, there is a need for Section 498A because even if there may be misuse, but the actual cases cannot be foregone on this basis. Measures can be taken to overcome the loopholes but entirely scrapping the law can prove to be detrimental to the society.

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Misuse of the law

Supreme Court calls the Section 498A as ‘Legal Terrorism’. The misuse or abuse of the law is mostly done by urban and educated women. Also, in most of the cases, the husband and two of his relatives are prosecuted.   

  • Women use it as a weapon than to shield themselves. In Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar,[2] it was stated that bedridden grandfathers and grandmothers and even relatives living abroad were arrested. So, women have started using it as a weapon to get their husbands arrested if they are not satisfied with them. There are many false cases registered every year, as a result, it increases the pendency of cases in the courts.
  • There have been a number of cases when the male is not of India and he comes to India to marry the lady. Due to extortion and fear of jail, he is made to do acts which he otherwise would not have done. He is under the fear of Section 498A.
  • Police visit the office premises of men and his reputation is harmed. Police can also pick up the relatives if the complaint is harmed. Also, it does not require any proof before arrest. Even no investigation is required. So, if there is a small dispute woman can use the section to seek revenge.
  • Gifts are sometimes misunderstood as dowry. So, this can again pose a problem.

So, pro-women laws should not become anti-man laws.

Past Records

The National Crime Record Bureau releases All India Crime Data every year. The cases registered under Section 498A are increasing every year, though the conviction rate each year is falling. The conviction rate under Section 498A is ¼ of the total crimes conviction rate.

Proportion of Crimes against women (IPC) against total crimes

SI. No. Year Total IPC Crimes Crimes against women (IPC cases) Percentages to Total IPC Crimes
1 2012 23,87,188 2,44,270 10.2%
2 2013 26,47,722 2,95,896 11.2%
3 2014 28,51,563 3,25,327 11.4%
4 2015 29,49,400 3,14,575 10.7%

Out of the above filed cases against women, major cases are related to dowry death or comes in the ambit of Section 498A :

Year Total cases where trial completed in that year Convicted Acquitted Withdrawn Total case pending at the end of the year Conviction rate of cases under Section 498A in % Average conviction rate of all IPC crimes in %
2012 46054 6916 39138 8162 372706 15 38.5
2013 45423 7258 38165 8218 412438 16 40.2
2014 46853 6425 40428 8922 443885 13.7 45.1
2015 46217 6559 39658 10318 477986 14.2 46.9
2016 44681 5433 39248 8437 515904 12.2 46.8

The falling conviction rate shows a critical stage and proves to be an alarming call for the judiciary. The continuous fall in the rate of conviction needs a deeper analysis.

Arguments on the Section 498A  

The law can only be invoked by women and her relatives. This proves to be a demerit. The Justice Malimath Committee report says, “The harsh law, far from helping the genuine victimized women, has  become a source to blackmail and harassment of husbands and others. Once a complaint (FIR) is lodged with the Police under s.498A/406 IPC, it  becomes an easy tool in the hands of the Police to arrest or threaten to arrest the husband and other relatives named in the FIR without even considering the intrinsic worth of the allegations and making a preliminary  investigation.”

On the other hand, Section 428A  is useful too. This has been the only section which helps the women to fight against the atrocities by man. A woman can file a complaint if she has been subject to any kind of cruelty. The misuse can be curtailed, but the complete scrapping of the article will prove futile.  A married woman approaches the court only when she is left with no other option and no remedy. So, the existing law should be there rather than overhyping the misuse point. Also, in the procedure of mediation, the woman may face several threats. So, the section is important.

Grey areas under the Law

The judiciary has always ensured to provide equal rights to women and to protect them. It ensures that women do not get discriminated as it is also mentioned in our Constitution. The government has always been enthusiastic enough to protect the rights of women.  Therefore, the government of India formed Domestic laws and section 498A. But there are certain grey areas in it. There are lacunas in the existing law which can hamper the successful implementation of the law. Some of the grey areas are –

  • Judiciary acts as an ‘agents of wives’. There are cases in which wives side brutally hit husband and husband’s relatives. The attacks are fatal in nature. But there are no laws on this. The wife has got a free licence to hit the husband and have an easy escape. Also, the judiciary accepts this behaviour as normal.
  • Judges do not dismiss the case if the wife does not attend the case proceedings. Even if she does not attend the proceedings for years, the case continues to go on. Also, judges take months and sometimes years to decide upon one bail petition. This makes the men neither free of charge nor lets him live a happy life.
  • The Section 498A is non-bailable and a cognizable offence. The judiciary should change it to a bailable and non-cognizable offence. Bails should be granted to the husband so that if the case is filed on false grounds, there is a course of action left.

How can men protect themselves from false allegations

There is more number of women victims than compared to men. But there also cases when men fall prey to false allegations. There are also cases where women in order to demand maintenance after marriage, hides the fact that she is employed and if they fail, they threaten the husband to file false allegations in the courts. There are cases when men, even commit suicide, to which judiciary is responsible. So, men need to protect themselves against these unjust practices as women are not always the victims

  • Men need to collect all the evidence and documents. One must collect as many evidence it can prove innocence in the court of law. Indian Judiciary is pro-women, so it may become quite difficult for men to prove the guilt. Men can even keep voice recordings as they can help in the court. Text messages or any conversation which can be claimed as a substantial proof can be kept by the man. Also, if there is any proof which shows that no demands were made by the husband’s side for dowry before and after marriage can prove to be a strong evidence.
  • Try to get an anticipatory bail – if you feel that your wife is going to file a false case against you, hire a good criminal lawyer and get an anticipatory bail. This will help you and your family members from getting arrested. This was held in Rajesh Sharma v. Union of India[3], and allowed the men to take anticipatory bail.   
  • You can also file an FIR case against your wife for false 498A complaint. Though the police in India do not file such cases, if you have full proofs, they will consider filing your case. Draft a complaint by a good criminal defence lawyer, so that the police does not reject it.
  • You can get the FIR quashed by approaching a High Court under Sec 482 of CrPc. Courts are hesitant to quash an FIR which has been filed by police, but if you have substantial evidence to claim your side you can easily get the FIR quashed.
  • You can also file a defamation case against your wife for all the lost reputation. Man is a social animal so reputation is very important for him. So, a man can file a case of defamation under Sec 500 of IPC.
  • You can also file a damage recovery case under Sec 9 of CPC. If your wife lies that you have physically or economically or emotionally harassed her and all her claims are false, you can file a suit against her, it has no risk involved.
  • Also, prove that the wife moved out of the marriage on her own and without any valid reason.

Remember, evidences are everything in court of law. Without evidence, the court may favour the woman but if you want to be proven innocent, start collecting proofs.

  • The Government has already formed :Family Welfare committees in every district. The committee will comprise of three members appointed by the District Legal Aid. The committee will be of volunteers, retired officers or any person who may be willing to work. The government should ensure that these committees function properly and  there is no corruption involved in the committees.
    • Every received complaint will be looked by these committees. This will also ensure speedy trials for the complaints.
  • The government should ensure that no frivolous cases are filed under the section 498A. For that, there should be stringent punishment prescribed by the government. This will help to stop the woman from filing false cases and take it as an easy escape.
  • Also, there should be courts which can help for speedy redressals of the complaints. So, the complaints can be disposed of in a better way.
  • The power to arrest should only be exercised after meeting certain standards. The police should not be free to arrest anyone solely on the complaint rather there should be standards fixed by the government.

Conclusion

  • Section 498A can prove to be a weapon as well as a shield to a woman. It is necessary for the government to ensure that no false cases are filed and prove it to be a balanced act – both for husband and wife.
  • Women’s emancipation is the need of the hour and every measure should be taken to stop harassment and dowry deaths.
  • Also, Helpline Number for Women – 1091. The number can be called by the woman incase of emergency and there is a need for urgent help.
  • Therefore, the section is much needed for the society though with certain amendments.

“All the strength and succor you want is within you. Do not be afraid.”

-Swami Vivekananda.

 

Endnotes –

  1. 2010 SCC OnLine Mad 4195.
  2. (2014) 8 SCC 273.
  3. (2007) 9 SCC 158.

 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. this article rightly mentioning various ground realities and there is a need to make a law to save man and his family from cruel clutches of police and wife. otherwise society is going to face very rough time which will more harmful for family including women than men.

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