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All you need to know about Section 498A of the IPC

January 14, 2019
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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 –

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 –

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.   

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 –

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

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.

Conclusion

“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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