The article is written by Tushar Singh Samota, a law student from University Five Year Law College, Rajasthan University. The notion of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, is discussed in this article. The discussion will be facilitated by understanding its historical background and ingredients along with the punishment provisions of this Section.
This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.
Table of Contents
In these modern days of equal rights, the antiquated rituals of dowry and female servitude are still revered. Section 498A was added to the Indian Penal Code, 1860 to prevent the threat of dowry and cruelty to women. Section 498A of the IPC protects women’s rights and empowers them. Extortion of any kind of property by subjecting a woman to cruelty is criminal under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code,1860 On December 26, 1983, the Government of India revised the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) with the Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, 1983, inserting a new Section 498(A) under Chapter XX-A of the Indian Penal Code. The Section was passed in response to the possibility of dowry deaths.
Section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act, of 1872 was inserted by the same Act to enhance the presumption of abetment of suicide by a married woman. The primary goal of Section 498A is to protect a woman who is being mistreated by her husband or his family. It is the sole part of the IPC that criminalises domestic abuse against women.
The author has explored Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, in this article by explaining its historical context and elements. The article will also discuss the importance of this Section, as well as its penal measures.
Historical background of Section 498A IPC
Cruelty instances were frequent earlier as well, with occurrences such as humiliating women and stripping occurring notably among women of lower castes, but no such research on women and marital cruelty was undertaken. Therefore, very little data is accessible before the British Era. Family and marriage have been crucial in both the pre-independence and post-independence movements in India. The women’s movement in the 1970s and 1980s emphasised such assaults on women as cruelty inside the family; it also highlighted and attacked the techniques through which the state rejected and ignored instances of cruelty.
Section 498A was enacted in 1983 in response to a great concern about women meddling with the rise in fatalities of young women caused by “accidental kitchen fires.” It was later determined that the fatalities were caused by dowry harassment of married women. Furthermore, Section 304B, also known as “dowry death,” was introduced in IPC in 1986. The present remedies were implemented to reinforce the Dowry Act of 1961. Women have since invoked Section 498A in cases of cruelty and other forms of abuse. Until 2005, this was the sole remedy available. Women found it difficult to report it to the local police station.
Unless they showed proof, the police did not take their cases seriously. To lessen the horrible occurrences, the Government of India adopted the Dowry Prohibition Bill, 1959, on April 24, 1959. The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 was passed in a joint session of Parliament and took effect on July 1, 1961. In 1984 and 1986, the Act was revised twice. Certain campaigns, such as the demonstrations against Rameezabee’s rape in Hyderabad in 1978 and their call for a fresh trial of the acquitted officers accused of rape in 1980 in Mathura, as well as the absurd accusations of dowry-related killings, became symbols of a new phase in feminist public protest. There were incidences of violence against women during the colonial period.
With the conclusion of the Emergency in 1977, India’s Women’s Movement entered its second phase. Many fatalities occurred in Delhi around this period, disguised as suicides or accidents. Even during the anti-dowry campaign, feminists linked many forms of violence against women to dowry demands. They were solely focused on spouses’ brutality towards women. As the movement gathered traction, many formerly taboo topics were brought to light and examined. Women began to speak up and share their stories. Many incidences of violence emerged as the campaign progressed throughout the 1980s. Before 1983, there was no specific legislation governing domestic violence. In response to the demands of women’s campaigners for laws against violence, the Indian government gladly altered the criminal Act provisions in 1983 and 1986.
Section 498A IPC
In recent years, marriage disagreements have increased dramatically. In this nation, the institution of marriage is highly cherished. Section 498A was created with the express purpose of combating the threat of harassment a woman could experience from her husband and his family. According to Section 498A, whoever, being the husband or a relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty must be punished by imprisonment for a term of up to three years and a fine. The term cruelty, as defined under the Act, means;
- Any intentional behaviour that poses a serious risk to the woman’s life, limb, or health (whether physical or mental) or that is likely to provoke suicidal ideation;
- Harassing the woman with the intent to coerce her or any person connected to her into satisfying any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or because she or any connected person failed to satisfy the demand.
The concept of cruelty
Cruelty has been defined broadly to encompass inflicting physical or emotional injury on the woman’s body or health, as well as engaging in acts of harassment to persuade her or her relatives to satisfy any unlawful demand for any property or valued security. One of the components of ‘cruelty’ is creating a circumstance that drives a woman to commit suicide.
In Kaliyaperumal vs. State of Tamil Nadu (2003), cruelty was ruled to be an essential feature of crimes under both Sections 304B and 498A of the IPC. People who have been found not guilty under Section 304B for the crime of dowry death may nevertheless be found guilty under Section 498A of the IPC since the two provisions do not overlap, but each constitutes a separate offence.
The definition of cruelty is provided in the explanation of Section 498A. Section 304B does not define it, but the definition of cruelty or harassment in Section 498A applies to Section 304B as well. The IPC’s Section 498A defines cruelty as an offence when it occurs by itself, but Section 304B defines dowry death as an offence when it happens during the first seven years of marriage. However, Section 498A makes no mention of such a time frame.
In another case, Inder Raj Malik vs. Sunita Malik (1986), It was found that pestering a woman to force her or any associated parties to comply with an unlawful demand for any property or valuable security falls under the concept of ‘cruelty’. The husband was found guilty of aiding in his wife’s suicide under Section 306 of IPC because the husband had an unlawful connection with another woman and used to beat her, which constituted continuous cruelty as defined by Section 113A of the Evidence Act of 1872.
Ingredients of Section 498A IPC
The following elements must be present for an offence under Section 498A to be committed:
- The woman must be married;
- She must have experienced abuse or harassment; and
- The abuse or harassment must have been perpetrated by the woman’s spouse or a relative of her husband.
A cursory examination of this provision reveals that the term ‘cruelty’ encompasses the occurrence of the following act(s):
- Any deliberate actions that put a woman’s life, limb, or safety in peril or that might force her to commit suicide;
- A woman’s physical or mental well-being;
- Harassing a woman if she is being harassed compels her or any other person associated with her to comply with an unlawful demand for any property or valued security.
Status of offence
When discussing the status of an offence under this Section, the following points must be considered.
- The accusation under Section 498A is considered a serious offence and is a non-bailable offence under the law. Bail is the temporary release of a suspect/prisoner in exchange for the provision of security for presence at a later hearing.
- Because of the egregious nature of the offence, Section 498A is a cognisable offence. Cognisable offences are those in which a police officer has the authority to arrest a person without a warrant.
- Apart from this, Section 498A is non-compoundable.
|Section||Offence||Punishment||Is it cognisable or not?||Is it bailable or not?||What court will hear the case?|
|498A||Punishment for cruelly treating a married woman.||Three years in jail and a fine.||Cognisable if the officer is provided information about the commission of the offence.||It is not bailable.||First-class Magistrate.|
Observation of the Malimath Committee
The Home Ministry formed the Justice Malimath Committee in 2000 to look into ways to improve the criminal justice system. Following a thorough examination of Section 498A, it was concluded that the statute had some flaws and recommended revisions. The committee highlighted that Section 498A, being non-bailable and non-compoundable, works against both the husband and wife’s interests because;
- It presents a significant barrier to the return of marriage connections between the split couple, as such complaints taint partnerships for life.
- Because the case against the husband/relatives is non-compoundable, the case against them remains, notwithstanding the parties’ reconciliation.
- Because it is not bailable, it creates severe harassment of husbands and families in the event of spurious allegations.
Concerned about the egregious abuse of this rehabilitative tool, “the crime being non-bailable and non-compoundable causes an innocent person to suffer disgrace and hardship,” the committee proposed making 498A a bailable and compoundable offence.
Section 498A and Section 304B IPC
The Hon’ble Supreme Court dealt with a conviction for dowry death under Section 304B of the IPC in Smt. Shanti & Anr. vs. State of Haryana, (1990). The issue at hand was whether the provisions of Sections 304B and 498A of the IPC were mutually exclusive and whether the appellants’ exoneration from the violation punishable by Section 498-A made any difference at all. Since there was an acquittal under Section 498A of the IPC, the Apex Court examined the above-mentioned provisions in paragraph 4 of the decision. The court did, however, make the following observation that the mere acquittal of the appellants under Section 498A, under these circumstances makes no difference in this case.
These Sections 498A and 304B address two different offences. True, “cruelty” is a common essential in both parts, and this must be proven. The definition of “cruelty” is given in the Explanation to Section 498A. There is no such definition of “cruelty” in Sec. 304B, but given the similarities between both offences, we must assume that “cruelty or harassment” has the same meaning as that given in Sec. 498A, which states that “cruelty” by itself constitutes an offence and is penalised.
As previously stated, “dowry death” is penalised under Sec.304B, and such death must have happened within seven years of the marriage. There is no such term indicated in Section 498A, and the husband or his relative would be responsible for ‘cruelty’ to the wife at any point after the marriage. It should also be noted that a person accused and acquitted under Sec.304B can be convicted under Sec.498A without a charge if such a case is made out. However, from the standpoint of practice and procedure and to avoid technical flaws, it is necessary in such cases to frame charges under both Sections. If the case is established, they can be found guilty under both Sections, but Section 498A does not require a separate sentence because Sec. 304B already provides a substantive sentence for the major offence.
In the case of Arun Garg v. State of Punjab (2004), which was reported much later, this issue was raised once more. The Hon’ble Court concluded that Sections 304-B and 498-A of the IPC are not mutually exclusive. They address a variety of specific offences. Cruelty is a frequent theme in both parts. Cruelty, on the other hand, is an offence and is penalised under Section 498A. Dowry death is punishable under Section 304B, and it must have occurred within seven years of the marriage. Sec. 498A makes no mention of such a time.
Furthermore, if a case is made out, a person prosecuted and acquitted under Section 304B might be convicted under Section 498A without a particular accusation. In the current matter, the learned Session Judge, in addition to condemning the accused to imprisonment for up to ten years under Section 304B, levied a fine of Rs. 2,000. The Supreme Court ruled firmly against the lower court’s ruling, stating that it was not authorised to impose a fee as a penalty under Section 304B.
498A IPC and Section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872
Section 113A of the Evidence Act, coupled with Section 498A of the Penal Code, 1860, was enacted in 1983 to establish the presumption of abetment of suicide by a married woman.
According to the Section, if a woman commits suicide within 7 years of marriage after being exposed to cruelty by her husband or in-laws, it is presumed that such suicide was aided by the husband or the husband’s relatives. In such a circumstance, the husband or his family bears the burden of proving the opposite in court as held in the case of Pinakin Mahipatray Rawal v. State of Gujarat (2013).
Section 498A IPC and domestic violence
The introduction of Section 498A IPC prohibiting cruelty towards married women is crucial to the Domestic Violence Act of 2005 (DV Act). The distinction between 498A and DV Act is that proceedings under the former are governed by the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, whilst procedures under the latter are governed by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Thus, proceedings under IPC 498A and DV Act can go concurrently.
Dowry and Section 498A IPC
Dowry was a customary practice in India’s old marriage system, in which riches were handed to the groom’s family from the bride’s. The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 made this practice both socially unacceptable and a criminal offence. The terms ‘unlawful demands’ bring up the link between 498A and dowry laws.
Need for Section 498A IPC
Male culture has traditionally treated women with harshness. Laws like this assist women in fighting back. Women have the impression that they are being heard. In a country like India, regulations like this are desperately needed –
- In 2021, there were almost 6.8 thousand recorded dowry death cases in India. As a result, these laws are desperately needed to protect women from maltreatment.
- Women are constantly coerced, tormented, intimidated, or mistreated to obtain something. Section 498A of the IPC allows women to go to court and punish the perpetrator.
- In many situations, a woman is subjected to emotional torture as well. No legislation can assist the woman in alleviating her emotional anguish. Acts like this benefit women in a variety of ways.
- The laws, no matter how misapplied, cannot be removed from the Indian Penal Code. There will be some gaps, but a provision may always be inserted to close them.
Section 498A IPC punishment
All those found guilty will either be sentenced to a term of jail that may last up to three years or will be required to pay a fine under the Section 498A penalty. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005, the Indian Evidence Act of 1872, and other laws are relevant to this Section of the IPC.
The Indian Evidence Act of 1872 deals with cases where the woman is believed to have died as a result of horrific physical and mental abuse or cruelty as part of the dowry. This Section’s application is still valid for another seven years. Therefore, it applies to situations where the wife kills herself or passes away during the first seven years of the marriage. In 498A proceedings, Section 306 of the IPC also has a considerable impact. The punishment for assisting someone in taking their own life is either a fine or a term of jail of any kind that can last up to 10 years.
FIR under Section 498A IPC
If a woman has been wronged, whether it be physical, emotional, or sexual mistreatment, she should not be afraid to seek help from the authorities. Authorities should be contacted in order to get justice, punish the wrongdoers, and protect the victim from future harm inflicted by such a spouse or his family. Aside from engaging a skilled criminal lawyer, the initial step is to submit an FIR. The police should be contacted right away, and an FIR should be filed on behalf of the victim.
If the victim has been seriously injured or is unable to travel to the police station to file a physical or written complaint/FIR, any other friend or family member may do so. If physically attending the police station is not possible, a call to the Police Helpline at 100 should be made. Once such a complaint is filed with the police, he or she must quickly document it in order for the victim to proceed with legal action. A police report, often known as an FIR, is the initial step in taking legal action against the accused or perpetrator.
Who is eligible to file a complaint under Section 498A of the IPC
A First Information Report (FIR) or complaint under Section 498A IPC is required to initiate criminal proceedings against the husband or his family, according to Section 198A CrPC. The following individuals may file such a complaint:
- The aggrieved party,
- The married lady,
- The aggrieved party,
- Her mother, brother, sister,
- father’s or mother’s brother or sister, and
- With the court’s approval, any individual connected to such a lady by blood, marriage, or adoption.
The limitation period for filing a 498A complaint
The complaint must be submitted within a specific amount of time. According to Section 468 CrPC, the complaint regarding the violations under 498A must be made within three years of the claimed last incidence of cruelty. When there is a pressing need for justice, the court may grant cognizance of such a crime even after the statute of limitations has expired.
Section 498A trial and court procedure
As previously indicated, the trial or criminal court procedure begins with the filing of an FIR or a police report. The following is a comprehensive trial procedure:
- FIR (First Information Report) / police complaint: The first step is to submit a First Information Report. This is addressed under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. An FIR is the starting point for the entire case.
- Officer inquiry and report: Following the filing of the FIR, the Investigation Officer begins an investigation. Following an appraisal of the facts and circumstances, evidence collecting, individual examination, and other applicable steps, the officer completes and prepares the investigation.
- Charge-sheet presentation to Magistrate: Following that, the police bring the charge sheet before the magistrate. The charge sheet is a list of all of the criminal charges brought against the accused.
- Framing of charges/discharge: After the accused and their attorneys have seen the charge sheet, the court moves on to framing the charges, which entails informing the accused of the offences with which they have been charged them. This is also the stage at which the Magistrate may decide that there is no prima facie evidence to prosecute the accused and discharge him.
- Arguments in court and charges framing: On the scheduled hearing day, the Magistrate hears the arguments from the parties on the charges that have been set before framing them.
- Plea of guilty: Section 241 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 discusses the plea of guilty. Following the formation of the allegations, the accused is given the opportunity to plead guilty, and it is the judge’s responsibility to ensure that the guilty plea was made voluntarily. At his or her discretion, the judge may condemn the accused.
- Prosecution evidence: Following the drafting of the allegations and the accused’s plea of not guilty, the prosecution presents the evidence first, bearing the initial burden of proof. Oral and documentary evidence can both be produced. The magistrate has the power to call anybody as a witness or to order the production of any document.
- Cross-examination of witnesses by the accused’s lawyer: When prosecution witnesses are called before the court, they are cross-examined by the accused’s counsel after examination-in-chief.
- If the accused has any evidence in his or her defence, it is offered to the Courts at this point. He/she is given this opportunity to strengthen his/her case. However, because the prosecution has the burden of proof, the accused is not compelled to produce evidence.
- Prosecution cross-examination of witnesses: The accused or his or her lawyer cross-examines prosecution witnesses in court.
- Evidence/conclusion: If the accused has any evidence, it is presented to the courts at this point. He or she is given this opportunity to bolster his or her argument. The accused, however, is not required to present evidence because the prosecution has the burden of proof.
- Oral/final arguments: The stage of final arguments is nearing the end of the process. In this case, both sides (the prosecution and the defence) take turns making final oral arguments in front of the court.
- Court’s decision: The Court bases its judgment on the facts and circumstances of the case, as well as the arguments and evidence offered. The Court renders its final judgment after explaining its grounds for acquitting or condemning the accused.
- Acquittal or conviction: If the accused is found guilty, he or she is convicted; if found not guilty, the accused is acquitted.
- Hearing to determine the quantum of the sentence if convicted: If the accused is found guilty and sentenced to jail time, a hearing will determine the quantum, or extent, of the sentence.
- Appeal to higher courts: An appeal to the higher courts is possible if the conditions allow. The person can file an appeal with the High Court and in further stages can file an appeal with the Supreme Court.
In a case under Section 498A, is bail an option
When someone has been charged with a crime, the court may issue a written authorization called bail that will let them avoid going to jail. Only the magistrate may issue bail under Section 498A once the police officer has recorded the complainant’s FIR. However, as time progressed, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India issued judgments that gradually restricted the threat arrests made under Section 498A of the IPC.
In the landmark case of Arnesh Kumar v/s State of Bihar & Another (2014), the Supreme Court ruled that no arrest should be made just because the charge is non-bailable and cognizable, and hence it is permissible for police personnel to do so. The fact that the ability to arrest exists is one thing; the rationale for using it is quite another. Aside from the authority to arrest, police personnel must be able to defend their actions. A person cannot be arrested routinely just on a mere accusation of committing an infraction. It is smart and wise for a police officer to make no arrest until reasonable satisfaction is gained after some examination of the veracity of the claim.
Over time, actions have been conducted with the interests of all of society’s members in mind. Pre-litigation mediation at Crime Against Women (CAW) Cell/Mahila thana is one of these processes. In spite of the pre-FIR mediation and counselling, the woman has the option of filing the FIR if she so chooses. The FIR cannot be withdrawn by the complainant, but the High Courts have the authority to nullify it under Section 482 of the CrPC.
However, it is better advised to get anticipatory bail once the FIR has been filed. The court may set specific restrictions on the accused when he or she requests anticipatory bail. One of the requirements might be depositing a demand draft in the name of the wife or other dependents as part of maintenance or another obligation. However, when there is a particular provision for wife and child maintenance, conditional anticipatory bail issued under Section 498A would be illegal.
Is it possible to file an appeal in a Section 498A case
A lower court’s/subordinate court’s decision or order can be appealed to a higher court using this process. Either party to the dispute before the lower court may file an appeal. The person who is appealing or reversing a decision is known as the appellant, and the court to which the appeal was submitted is known as the Appellate Court. A party to a case has no inherent right to appeal a court’s decision or order to a higher or more superior court. An appeal can be lodged only if it is expressly permitted by law and must be filed in the required manner in the relevant courts. An appeal should also be submitted within a reasonable time frame.
If there are strong reasons for it, an appeal can be filed with a higher court. A district/magistrate court decision can be appealed to the Sessions Court. An appeal from the Sessions Court can be brought to the High Court and from the High Court to the Supreme Court. If the facts warrant, both the wife and the accused may file an appeal. Any individual convicted on a trial before a Sessions Judge or an Additional Sessions Judge, or on a trial before any other court, and sentenced to more than 7 years in jail for himself or another person in the same trial may appeal to the High Court.
Issues with Section 498A
Protection is exclusively available to married women
Section 498A only protects married women from domestic abuse committed by their husbands or other family members. The definition thus ignores and delegitimizes the regular violence experienced by concubines, girlfriends and fiances.
Ambiguous definition of cruelty
The definition of cruelty provided in Section 498A is vague and narrow, and it does not encompass all types of abuse suffered by women. Women’s experiences demonstrate that they encounter physical, mental, linguistic, psychological, sexual, and economic assault. Section 498A only addresses aggression against the body and the mind. Due to the significant frequency of sexual violence in marriage and the fact that marital rape is notably not included in the definition of rape under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, sexual violence in particular has to be recognised as a form of cruelty.
The difficulty of establishing cruelty “beyond reasonable doubt”
According to Section 498A of the IPC, the spouse and his family must be proven to have been cruel beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a prerequisite of criminal law. When abuse occurs inside the walls of a house, it is incredibly difficult and nearly impossible to demonstrate physical or mental abuse beyond a reasonable doubt.
Misuse of Section 498A
A breach of this provision, its purposes, and its ambitions is on the rise, with women bringing frivolous false claims against their husbands to get rid of them or just harm the family. Abuse of this Section is on the rise, and well-educated women are fully aware that it is both cognisable and non-bailable, and swiftly operates on the woman’s allegation and places the male behind the jail. Like in the case of Savitri Devi v. Ramesh Chand & Ors (2003), the court concluded unequivocally that the provisions had been abused and exploited to the point where they were undermining marriage itself and proving to be detrimental to society as a whole.
The court held that to stop this from happening, legislators and government officials needed to assess the current circumstances and applicable laws. This Section was designed to safeguard married women from dishonest husbands, but it has been abused by a few women, as stated in Saritha v R. Ramachandran (2002), where the court noted the contrary trend and requested the Law Commission and Parliament to make the offence non-cognisable and bailable.
Although making the offence non-cognisable and bailable is opposed by many women’s rights organisations, who believe that doing so provides the accused an opportunity to avoid prosecution. However, this would offer the individual a fair opportunity and, more importantly, assist achieve the goals of justice.
Justice must defend the weaker and make sure that the aggrieved person has an opportunity to recoup what is rightfully theirs. When wives accuse their husbands of crimes under Section 498A IPC, which makes the offence non-bailable and cognisable, the man does not have an opportunity to obtain justice as soon as possible if he is innocent, as justice delayed is justice denied. Therefore, the legislators must submit a suggestion for how to make this Section impartial toward everyone so that those who commit crimes are punished, and those who have been injured receive justice.
They still require rights to function effectively in society but frequently ignore others’ rights while their own are protected. Today’s educated women must support the idea of equality and demand it, but the tendency is gradually changing. Based on the rights guaranteed to them, women are taking advantage of the fact that they are considered the weaker sex and are abusing the rights of others.
The Supreme Court directives to the police to prevent misuse
From limiting the arbitrary use of the arrest authority under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, the Supreme Court issued some much-needed direction in Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar (2014) when police may arrest without a warrant and related topics. In this case, the petitioner, who was facing arrest in a case brought under Section 498A, filed an SLP before the Supreme Court after his previous attempt to obtain such relief was denied by the high court. The appellant-husband demanded Rs. 8 lakhs, a Maruti automobile, and an air conditioner, among other things, and threatened to remarry if such demands were not satisfied.
To minimise unwarranted arrests of the accused, the Apex Court issued the following required directives in this case to the police:
- All state governments should direct their police officers not to arrest automatically when a case under Section 498A of the IPC is lodged, but rather to determine the need for arrest based on the standards outlined above in Section 41, Cr. PC.
- All police officers are given a checklist comprising specific sub-clauses under Section 41(1)(b)(ii).
- The police officer shall send the legally filed checklist and provide the grounds and documents that led to the arrest when referring/producing the accused before the Magistrate for further detention.
- Before authorising the detention of the accused, the Magistrate shall read the report given by the Police officer in the conditions mentioned and only after recording its satisfaction would the Magistrate authorise detention.
- Within two weeks of the day the case was instituted, the decision not to arrest an accused must be sent to the Magistrate with a copy to the Magistrate; this time frame may be extended by the District Superintendent of Police for reasons that must be stated in writing.
- Within two weeks after the day the case was instituted, the accused must receive notice of their presence under Section 41A of the Criminal Procedure Code. The Superintendent of Police for the District may grant an extension for a cause that must be stated in writing.
- Failure to comply with the aforementioned directives would subject the Police officers involved to departmental action as well as punishment for contempt of court, which will be brought before a High Court with territorial jurisdiction.
- Authorising detention without documenting the aforementioned reasons by the Judicial Magistrate concerned is subject to departmental action by the competent High Court.
Constitutional validity of Section 498A IPC
Section 498A of the Indian Constitution protects married women from mistreatment in the marital household. The provision was included in the IPC to protect women from domestic abuse. Even though women are widely mistreated. This is the most hotly discussed portion of the IPC. The number of IPC offences against women has grown over time. The majority of instances have been recorded in Delhi, India. Every year, a large number of crimes are perpetrated against women. Section 498A is unquestionably necessary because, while there may be misuse, genuine cases cannot be avoided on this basis. Measures can be taken to close the loopholes.
In the case of Inder Raj Malik and others vs. Mrs Sumita Malik (1986), it was argued that this Section violated Article 14 and Article 20 (2) of the Constitution.The Dowry Prohibition Act also addresses situations of this nature; hence, the combination of both legislation creates a situation known as ‘double jeopardy’. However, the Delhi High Court rejected this argument, ruling that this Section does not create a scenario of double jeopardy. Section 498A differs from Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act in that the latter punishes just the demand for dowry and no element of cruelty is required, whereas Section 498A deals with the aggravated version of the offence.
It penalises those requests for significant security or property from the wife or her family members that are accompanied by maltreatment against her. Therefore, a person may face charges for both offences covered by Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. This Section also grants the court broad authority in determining how to interpret the laws’ language and how to punish offenders. This Section is not unconstitutional. It does not give courts unbridled authority.
In the well-known case of Wazir Chand vs. the State of Haryana (1988), the facts surrounding the burning death of a newlywed woman did not demonstrate either murder or suicide facilitated by a third party. As a result, the in-laws avoided the clutches of Sections 300 and 306 of IPC, but they were caught in the web of this recently enacted Section for the prevention of dowry harassment. Not to mention the items they continue to demand from the girl’s side, the fact that her father removed a significant amount of possessions from her marital home after she passed away indicated that pressure was applied to her in-laws and that it persisted up until her death to obtain additional funds and possessions.
With the growth of modernization, education, financial stability, and newly found independence, the radical feminist has turned 498A into a weapon. Many unlucky spouses and in-laws have fallen victim to their spiteful daughters-in-law.
Most cases in which Section 498A is used turn out to be fake as consistently acknowledged by Indian High Courts and the Supreme Court because they are just blackmail tactics by the wife or her close relatives when faced with a difficult marriage. In most situations, the 498A complaint is followed by a demand for a large sum of money or extortion to settle the issue outside of court.
India is a country with a diverse culture and tradition, but it also appreciates and honours the notion of family. This Section only provides remedies for women, and it has recently become a highly contentious subject. Marriage is thought to be a divine social institution. However, the sanctity of marriage has been jeopardised in recent decades due to an increase in lawsuits brought under the challenged clause. The widespread exploitation of Section 498A by women to exact revenge on their innocent husbands and in-laws is cause for severe worry. Such actions undermine the exact objective for which the statute was enacted. If this issue is not handled by law, it will become a frightening evil for society. Even if they are aware of it, many women who truly need protection from domestic violence will likely never utilise it.
This law will be just another tool in the hands of dishonest women, who will exploit it to their advantage. When a man is evicted from his own home on the basis of real or false claims of domestic abuse or cruelty, everyone who is reliant on him suffers. Even if an accused individual is indeed abusive, it is unjust to punish a whole family. As a result, it is imperative that appropriate modifications to the clause be made to combat such exploitation.
Frequently asked questions
Can a 498A petition be filed after 7 years of marriage?
Yes, there is no restriction on the number of years of marriage while filing Form 498A. However, this does not mean that a wife or a relative can file Section 498A against the husband at any moment. According to CrPC Section 468, the time restriction for filing a 498A is three years from the last claimed event.
What is the distinction between Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act?
Section 498A differs from Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act in that the latter punishes just the demand for dowry and no element of cruelty is required, whereas Section 498A deals with the aggravated version of the offence.
What occurs following bail under Section 498A?
After obtaining anticipatory bail, you will be given all of the conditions by the Court itself that you need to follow, including whether you must mark your presence at a specific police station after a specific amount of time or that you cannot leave the city or country without the court’s permission, among other things.
Is a case under Section 498A criminal or civil?
Section 498A makes it a crime for a husband and his relatives to subject a married woman to the cruelty that is likely to drive her to suicide or inflict substantial physical or mental harm, as well as harassment with the intent of coercing her or any of her relatives to fulfil any unlawful property demands.
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