This article is written by Sanjana Santhosh, a law student at Christ (Deemed to be University), Bengaluru. The article elucidates the nature, significance, and constitutional validity of the offence under Section 498A of IPC along with the potential misuse of the provision with the remedies for its misuse. The article also explains the concept of cruelty and the procedure for seeking protection against Section 498A, along with landmark judgements on the topic.

It has been published by Rachit Garg.


The term “domestic violence” refers to any act of violence or abuse, including mental, physical, and sexual abuse, that takes place in a domestic environment, such as a marriage or a cohabitation relationship; the term “intimate partner violence” is another prevalent name for domestic violence. The cultural norms of dowry, male dominance, and joint family structures in India make this phenomenon more common than elsewhere. As a result, these elements contribute further to the likelihood that women may become victims of domestic violence. Where dowry is expected and not received or where the amount of dowry received is not adequate, women often face abuse from both the husband and his family.

Because of the social stigma associated with reporting such matters and the general Indian preoccupation with what other people think, the figures paint an inaccurate picture. When a victim dies from his injuries, commits suicide, or seeks medical attention, only then does the matter make its way to the police and courts. Abuse of a lesser severity is typically concealed. There was no provision in Indian law addressing domestic abuse prior to 1983. Amendment to the Indian Penal Code, 1860 inserting Section 498A was enacted in 1983. ‘Matrimonial Cruelty’ against a female spouse is the subject of Section 498A. With the recent legislation in India, matrimonial cruelty is now a punishable crime that cannot be negotiated out of court.

About Section 498A of IPC

In 1983, with the passing of the Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, Section 498A was added to the IPC. The goal of this clause is to prevent the husband or other family members from torturing his wife for dowry and to punish him or them if he or they do so. The general sections of the IPC dealing with assault, hurt, seriously hurt, or homicide applied prior to 1983 to harassment of a wife by her husband or in-laws. However, increased incidences of bride burning and other violence against women, especially young ladies who are newly married, caught everyone’s attention. General IPC provisions were deemed insufficient to address the heinous crimes committed against women. The Parliament decided that three layers of legislation were necessary to address this issue head-on:

  • To define the underlying offence of cruelty to women by spouses and relatives of husbands.
  • To implement policies that require an investigation into specific deaths of women.
  • In order to more easily bring perpetrators of violence against women to justice, it is necessary to amend the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

In light of this problem, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was amended to include both Section 498A and Section 304B (dowry death). Subsequently, Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Code was revised to require inquests to be conducted by executive magistrates in the event of a suicide or suspicious death involving a woman within seven years of her marriage. A new Section 113B of the Evidence Act states that if it can be proven that a woman died shortly after being exposed to cruelty or harassment by a person in connection with a demand for dowry, then it will be presumed that the harasser was responsible for the lady’s death.

The purpose of Section 498-A is to safeguard married women from abuse by their husbands or their spouse’s family members. A maximum sentence of three years in prison and a Rs. 30,000 fine has been set. The term “cruelty” has been broadly defined to include acts of harassment with the intent to pressure the woman or her family into meeting any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security, as well as acts of bodily or mental harm to the woman’s body or health. The harassment based on a woman’s ability to pay a dowry falls under the purview of the section’s final subsection. One element of “cruelty” is engineering a circumstance in which the woman is motivated to take her own life.

Essentials of Section 498A

For this Section to apply, certain prerequisites must be met. The following are some of these:

  1. It’s essential that she should be a married woman. This provision was added to shield wives and female relatives from abusive treatment at the hands of their husbands and/or male relatives.
  2. That woman must have experienced either brutality or harassment. The term “cruelty” can refer to a wide variety of behaviours. To demand a dowry is harsh in and of itself.
  3. Such brutal harassment should have been demonstrated by either the spouse or the husband’s family, if not both.

Nature of offence under Section 498A

Section 498A offence has the following nature:

  1. Cognizable: Cognizable crimes are those where the police can arrest without a warrant, whereas non-cognizable offences are those where the police cannot arrest without a warrant. Law enforcement has an obligation to report and investigate any crime that meets the legal definition.
  2. Non-bailable: If a complaint is lodged under Section 498A, the magistrate can refuse bail and send the accused to court or police custody without the need for a bail hearing.
  3. Non-compoundable: A petitioner cannot withdraw from a non-compoundable case i.e. cannot settle outside court (such as a rape or 498A charge) with the exception of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, where the latter charge has recently been rendered compoundable.

Cruelty covered under Section 498A

Cruelty is the intentional or reckless infliction of pain or distress to another person or animal. Under criminal law, cruelty can refer to punishment, torture, victimisation, cruel behaviour, etc. It could also mean ‘inhumane’ treatment towards individuals. When one person intentionally causes harm to another or does nothing when they could prevent harm, this is called cruelty. Cruelty, undoubtedly, is a fairly general phrase that encompasses a vast range of concepts. Any form of cruelty, whether physical, mental, or emotional, is unacceptable. Intentional and unintentional psychological and bodily harm are both protected under Section 498A. 

As per its terms, the following constitute acts of cruelty and/or harassment towards women:

  • To intentionally provoke a lady to the point where she commits suicide or
  • If one’s actions are intentional and could result in serious harm to a woman, one could face charges.
  • Any intentional act that poses a risk to the woman’s physical or mental health or her life,
  • Harassment of the lady with the intent of compelling her or her family members to comply with an unlawful demand for any property or valued security,
  • Abusive behaviour against the woman if she cannot provide the dowry.

Harassment and cruelty, in their ordinary sense definitions, mean to subject someone to unending mental anguish by means of persistent and hostile interference or threats. If the wife or her family is harassed in this way with the intent of forcing them to give up property or important security, this violates Section 498A. Using force or threats to get someone to do what you want them to is called “coercion.”

In the case of Kaliyaperumal vs. State of Tamil Nadu (2003), it was ruled that cruelty is a necessary element of both Section 304B and Section 498A offences. It is possible to be found guilty of a felony under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code even if you were found not guilty of a felony under Section 304B for a dowry-related death. Section 498A’s explanatory notes define “cruelty.” Although no definition is provided in Section 304B, the definition of “cruelty” or “harassment” provided in Section 498-A is applicable to Section 304B as well. To be considered a dowry death under Section 304B of the IPC, the victim’s death must have occurred during the first seven years of the couple’s marriage, while under Section 498A, cruelty alone constitutes an offence. However, Section 498A makes no mention of such a time frame.

In the case of Inder Raj Malik vs. Sunita Malik (1986), it was determined that the explanation to Section 498A defines the term “cruelty,” which includes acts such as harassing a woman with the motive to compel her or any associated persons into meeting any unlawful demand for any property or any valuable security.

In a case where the husband has an extramarital affair and regularly assaults his wife, the circumstances satisfy the definition of “persistent cruelty” under Explanation (a) of Section 498A of the IPC, and the husband can be found guilty of abetment of suicide under Section 306 of IPC.

The infliction of physical suffering is what is known as physical cruelty. Any form of physical violence, including but not limited to beating, burning, punching, biting, twisting limbs, hitting, strangulation, etc., is considered to be physical cruelty. In most instances, the naked eye will be able to detect physical cruelty. As the term “physical cruelty” implies, this type of cruelty involves the infliction of actual physical pain or suffering on another person. Abuse on the physical level leaves obvious signs, such as bruises and broken bones. Any act of physical aggression that causes harm or poses a risk to one’s life, limbs, or health.

Any form of verbal or nonverbal abuse, such as yelling, name-calling, threatening, or intimidating another person, is an act of mental cruelty. Negative words and thoughts are just as harmful as physical violence. In contrast to physical abuse, evidence of mental cruelty is more challenging to gather.

The Indian Penal Code, specifically Section 498A, punishes both actual and attempted acts of abuse against a person’s mental state. Consequently, if the husband or the husband’s family members subject the husband’s wife to cruelty, whether physical or mental cruelty, that is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or cause any grave injury or danger to the woman’s life, limb, or mental or physical health, or if they harass the woman with the intent of coercing her or her family members to meet an unlawful demand for any property or valuable security.

The husband or his family members are the only ones who can be held liable under Section 498A. However, the word “relatives” is not defined here. Court rulings suggest that this provision is typically applied to the husband’s immediate family, including his parents, siblings, and in-laws. If the “husband” of the “second wife” marries her while his first legal marriage is still in effect, the “second wife” cannot sue the “husband” under Section 498A for any cruelty committed against her by the “husband” or his relatives, as was argued in the case of Nalla Thirupathi Reddy and Others v. The State of Telangana (2014). The Supreme Court disagreed, citing the legislative objective behind 498A.

Constitutional validity of Section 498A

It was asserted that Section 498A is against Article 14 and Article 20(2) of the Constitution in the case of Inder Raj Malik and others vs. Mrs. Sumita Malik (1986). The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 addresses similar issues. Hence, the application of both laws combined constitutes what is known as double jeopardy. However, the Delhi High Court has ruled that this provision does not give rise to double jeopardy. In contrast to Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, which criminalises only the demand for dowry without any additional element of cruelty, Section 498-A addresses the more serious aggravated form of the crime. It penalises demands for money or valuable security from a wife or her family that are accompanied by violence or other forms of abuse. As a result, a person can face charges under both this provision and Section 4 for the same set of conducts. The courts are given extensive flexibility in this provision to determine how to apply the law and to determine appropriate punishments. This section is not beyond the scope of judicial authority. The judicial system is not given the ability to decide cases arbitrarily.

Although the circumstances surrounding the death by burning of a young married woman in the landmark case Wazir Chand vs. State of Haryana (1989) did not establish either murder or an abetted suicide, the in-laws were still caught in the web of this newly enacted section for the prevention of harassment for dowry. The fact that the girl’s father took many of her possessions from her marital home after her death is evidence that pressure was being applied by the girl’s in-laws for financial and material support from the time of her marriage until her death.

Developments in modernization, education, financial security, and a newfound sense of independence have given radical feminists the power to wield Section 498A as a weapon. Many husbands and parents-in-law have paid the price for their vengeance. When a wife (or her close relatives) tries to blackmail their husband with a claim under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, the courts almost always rule that they are fabricating it. The usual outcome of a 498A complaint is an extortionate demand for a large sum of money to “settle the case” before it goes to court.

Complaint under Section 498A

A woman who has been the victim of any form of abuse, whether physical, mental or sexual, should not feel afraid to report it. The victim should report the incident to the police in order to protect herself from further harm at the hands of the husband or his family members. If you haven’t already, you should hire an experienced criminal defence attorney and then submit a First Information Report (FIR). The victim should report the crime to the police right away.

A friend or family member can go to the police station on the victim’s behalf if she is too injured to do it herself or if she does not feel comfortable going there. If going to the police station in person is impossible, then dialling 100, which is the Police Helpline, is the next best option. The police officer receiving such a report must document it as soon as possible; doing so will aid the victim in moving forward with legal action. The first step in pursuing legal action against an accused person or wrongdoing is filing a police complaint, often known as a First Information Report (FIR).

Upon a complaint by the aggrieved wife or by her father, mother, brother, sister, her father’s or mother’s brother or sister, or with the leave of the court, by any other person related to her by blood, marriage, or adoption, the court shall not take cognizance of an offence punishable under Section 498A of the IPC.

The filing of a First Information Report (FIR) or criminal complaint with the police begins the trial or criminal court process. Below is a description of the trial process in detail:

  1. One must first file a police complaint or FIR (Initial Information Report) as the first step. The relevant provision of the Criminal Procedure Code is Section 154. An FIR initiates the legal process.
  2. After the First Information Report (FIR) is filed, the Investigation Officer will conduct an investigation and submit a report. The officer concludes the investigation and makes preparations for it after conducting all the necessary processes, including looking into the background of the case, gathering evidence, questioning potential witnesses, and so on.
  3. The police then present the charge sheet before the magistrate. All of the criminal accusations against the defendant are included in the charge sheet.
  4. After the parties have had an opportunity to present their cases and arguments before the Magistrate, the Magistrate will next define the charges and schedule a date for the trial.
  5. Section 241 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 addresses the plea of guilty. When the charges have been framed, the accused may enter a plea of guilty. It is the judge’s job to ensure that the plea of guilty was entered voluntarily. Conviction is at the discretion of the court.
  6. After the allegations have been laid out and the defendant has entered a plea of not guilty, the Prosecution presents its case in court, bearing the first (and usually greater) burden of proof. Evidence can be presented orally or in writing. The magistrate can issue a witness summons to anyone and require that individual to bring in any evidence.
  7. When prosecution witnesses are presented in court, the accused or his or her attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine them.
  8. At this point, the accused may submit any supporting evidence to the courts. He or she is being given the chance to bolster their argument. However, the accused is not compelled to produce evidence because it is the prosecution, or the claimed victim, who has the burden of proof.
  9. If the defence presents witnesses, the prosecution will conduct cross-examinations.
  10. When all evidence has been given from both sides, the judge or court will reach a verdict.
  11. The judgement is almost at hand, and the last stage is oral arguments. Final oral arguments are presented to the judge by both sides (the prosecution first, then the defence).
  12. The court then renders a final decision after considering all of the arguments presented and the evidence presented in the case. The court then explains its decision to either exonerate or convict the defendant.
  13. The ultimate verdict might result in either an acquittal or a conviction depending on whether or not the accused is found guilty.
  14. If the defendant is found guilty, a hearing will be convened to determine the length of his or her sentence in the event of a conviction.
  15. If the situation permits it, one may file an appeal with a higher court. The case can be taken all the way to the Supreme Court if the case is lost in the Sessions Court and the High Court.

Bail under Section 498A

For those who have been arrested but have not yet been convicted of a crime, bail can be used to secure their release from jail pending trial. Offences that are normally penalised by a sentence of three years or less in prison or a fine are considered bailable, and where bail is a matter of right for such offences are called “bailable offences.” It is possible in the current time to obtain bail for a person accused of violating Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, which was enacted in 1860. It is a non-compoundable, cognizable offence. Only the Magistrate can issue bail under Section 498A once the police have registered a “First Information Report” (FIR) based on a complaint made by the complainant. However, over time, the menacing arrests conducted under Section 498A of the IPC have been limited, thanks to rulings from the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, such as the Arnesh Kumar and Rajesh Sharma cases (discussed later).

As a result of amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure, the police are now required to notify the accused of their duty to appear before the police for investigation in accordance with Section 41A of the CrPC. If the accused continues to cooperate with such inquiries by appearing whenever the relevant investigating officer requests their presence, arrests under Section 498A are rarely made. Thus, the court ordered the police to follow the method outlined in Section 41A of the CrPC in an effort to reduce the number of unnecessary arrests.

Actions have been taken throughout time with everyone’s best interests in mind. Pre-trial mediation through the CAW Cell/Mahila Thana, etc., is one example of these procedures. In the event that the woman still desires to file an FIR after undergoing pre-FIR mediation and counselling, she may do so. The FIR cannot be withdrawn by the complainant, but the High Courts have the authority listed in Section 482 of the CrPC to quash the FIR.

But after the FIR is filed, it’s ideal to be released on anticipatory bail. When an accused person petitions the court for anticipatory bail, the judge has the discretion to impose specific restrictions on the defendant. One of the criteria might include depositing a demand draft in the name of the wife or other dependents in an amount equal to the required maintenance, etc.

Appeal under Section 498A

A judgement or order from a lower court can be challenged by filing an appeal with the appellate court. Anyone involved in a case in a lower court can submit an appeal of the case’s outcome. An “appellant” is one who has filed or is continuing an appeal, and “the Appellate Court” is the one to which the appeal has been submitted. There is no automatic recourse for a losing party to appeal a court’s decision to a higher court. Only in those cases where an appeal is expressly permitted by law and if doing so in the required fashion and before the required Courts is an option is it possible to file such a motion. The appeal must also be submitted within a specified time frame.

If there are sufficient grounds, one may file an appeal with a higher court. Sessions court hears appeals from the lower-level magistrate court. It is possible to appeal a decision rendered by the Sessions Court to the High Court and from there to the Supreme Court. If necessary, either the wife or the accused might file an appeal.

If you or someone you know has received a sentence of more than seven years in jail as a result of a trial before a Sessions Judge or an Additional Sessions judge, or any other court, you have the right to appeal your case to the High Court.

Misuse of Section 498A

In India, one of the most common arguments against laws against violence against women over the last 20 years has been that women take advantage of these laws. The police, civil society, politicians, and even judges from the High Courts and Supreme Court have all strongly argued that laws are being “misused.” The misuse claim is made against Section 498A of the IPC and Section 304B, which is about the crime of dowry death. In an article called “Justice for Muslim Women,” which was published in The Hindu, former Justice K.T. Thomas wrote about a similar point of view. The “general complaint” that Sec 498A of the IPC is subject to gross misuse was also noted in the 2003 Malimath Committee report on reforms in the criminal justice system; the report used this as justification for suggesting an amendment to the provision but did not provide any data to indicate how frequently the provision was being misused. It is crucial, then, to address these “arguments” so as to offer a more accurate picture of the current factual condition of the impact of various criminal laws designed to protect women.

Marital and family member abuse are complicated behaviours, yet the judicial system, law enforcement, and cultural attitudes consistently undervalue domestic violence instances because of this. Despite the institutionalisation of legislation and policy to criminalise domestic abuse, the government has not conducted any adequate evaluation of the reforms over the previous 20 years with respect to their deterrence goals. Section 498A was added to the IPC in 1983. The existing level of understanding of the consequences of legal punishments for domestic violence requires an immediate programme of research and development. In stark contrast to the significant efforts of activists, victims, advocates, and criminal justice practitioners in mobilising law and creating policy to combat domestic abuse, law enforcement agencies have done little to no research on the deterrent impact of legal consequences for domestic violence. This research is necessary to dispel the widespread belief that women are utilising the legal system to harass and victimise their spouses and in-laws. When it comes to domestic violence legislation, the state and its agencies need to shift their focus from shielding spouses and in-laws from “misuse” to enforcing the laws’ true intent: protecting women who muster the fortitude to file complaints against their abusers.

A large number of women have taken advantage of the enormous authority afforded to them by the implementation of Section 498A to harass their husbands and in-laws and to gain unfair benefits for themselves. Women seeking vengeance against their spouses use Section 498A to threaten and blackmail their relatives.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has recognised the increasing trend of males being falsely accused of violating Section 498A, calling it a “phenomenon” and “social ill.” As the Supreme Court put it in the case of Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India and Ors (2005), “Legal Terrorism” describes the abuse of Section 498A. In addition to the husband, innocent third parties like elderly parents or distant relatives are often unfairly implicated and made to undergo enormous hardship as a result of the criminal justice system’s misuse of Section 498A.

The purpose of this law, which is to safeguard women in genuine cases of cruelty, is jeopardised by the rising number of fake claims that are being witnessed today. The offence under Section 498A is both cognizable and non-bailable, and educated women nowadays are aware of the enormous power available to them under this section. With a single complaint, a woman can have her husband and his relatives behind bars. Defence of an accusation under this clause can also be challenging, as the woman’s word is often elevated and it becomes more difficult to contradict the narrative established by the woman in her complaint. A woman can force her husband and his family to comply with her requests for divorce, increased alimony, or even blatant extortion once she has filed a complaint. Here, we have a classic example of the misuse of a law intended to protect fairness in true cases of cruelty.

Women are increasingly bringing false claims against their spouses in order to ruin the family or to get rid of them, a trend that goes against the spirit and letter of this provision. Abuse of this provision is on the rise, and many educated women are aware that it is cognizable and non-bailable, so authorities can act swiftly on a woman’s complaint to have her husband arrested.

In Mukesh Bansal vs. State of UP (2022), the Hon’ble High Court of Allahabad has ruled that the Court issued an order requiring all districts to create Family Welfare Committees (FWCs) and bring them functioning within three months. The Court expressed concern that the continued thoughtless abuse of Section 498-A will cause the traditional aroma of our age-old institution of marriage to dissipate altogether. As a result, the Court ordered the following:

  1. No arrest or coercive action shall be taken against the husband or his family members after the FIR has been lodged but before the “Cooling-Period” of two months has expired and the case is brought before the FWC.
  2. Only instances involving violations of Section 498-A IPC, together with no injury under Section 307 and other parts of the IPC in which the punishment is less than 10 years, would be sent to the FWC.
  3. The relevant Magistrate should immediately submit to the Family Welfare Committee all complaints or applications filed under Section 498A IPC and the other associated sections.
  4. Within two months of the complaint’s filing, the Committee will hold a meeting and create a detailed report that will be referred to the Magistrate/police authorities with whom the complainant originally filed the complaint.
  5. Family Welfare Committee members shall receive such periodic training from the Legal Services Aid Committee as the latter deems appropriate.
  6. These Section 498A IPC and allied provisions shall be probed by competent Investigating Officers in response to First Information Reports or other complaints.

In cases like Savitri Devi v. Ramesh Chand & Ors (2003) the Court ruled unequivocally that the rules were being exploited and misused to the point where they were threatening the institution of marriage itself, which was ultimately bad for society as a whole. The Court found that it was necessary for officials and legislators to examine the situation and legal requirements to ensure that nothing like this could happen again.

In Saritha v. R. Ramachandran (2003),  the Court did notice the contrary trend and ordered the law Commission and Parliament to make the offence a non-cognizable and bailable one, strongly condemning the misuse of this clause by a small number of women. The court has attempted to answer intricate issues- What happens when the abused becomes the abuser? It has always been the court’s responsibility to punish misconduct and protect the victim. What options does the husband have in this situation?

The woman can file for divorce from her spouse on this basis, allowing her to remarry or possibly get monetary compensation. A lot of women’s rights organisations aren’t keen on the concept of making it a non-cognizable and bailable offence since they believe that the accused will be able to avoid justice that way. However, this would serve the objectives of justice by providing the individual with a chance to prove himself. When someone has been wronged, justice ensures that they are given a chance to seek restitution.

Justice delayed is justice denied, and when women accuse their husbands under S.498A IPC falsely, the guy who is innocent of the charge does not have an opportunity to receive justice promptly. So, legislators need to propose a mechanism to make this provision neutral so that justice can be served to both the guilty and the injured.

Remedy against misuse

Several precautions the husband and his relatives can take against a fake case of Section 498A case have been listed below:

  1. A defamation lawsuit can be filed under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code. A man has the right to sue a woman for defamation if she makes false claims of cruelty against her husband or other family members.
  2. Proof of a criminal conspiracy: In addition, a prosecution can be brought against such a lady under Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code, which defines criminal conspiracy as an offence. A spouse can seek redress in court under this section of the IPC if he has reasonable grounds to suspect and can establish that his wife is involved in a criminal conspiracy that has resulted in false charges against him and his family members.
  3. Women typically bring in and try to rely on fabricated evidence to support their phoney Section 498A cases, which can lead to legal action. Section 191 of the Indian Penal Code defines ‘providing false evidence’ as a crime that can be committed in this situation.
  4. In circumstances where the wife has threatened physical harm to her husband or his family members, a counter-complaint can be filed under Section 506, which establishes the penalties for criminal intimidation.
  5. When a wife abandons her husband and moves back in with her parents, the husband has the right to initiate a petition for restitution of conjugal rights under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. This is applicable only when the accused is discharged or acquitted in a 498A case.
  6. Seek the counsel of a qualified criminal defence attorney who can advise you on the best course of action for your case.
  7. If you believe you have been falsely accused, it is to gather evidence and documents that support your case. You could collect evidence such as phone calls, video recordings, messages, and so forth.
  8. An FIR can be filed against the wife if the husband has reason to believe that she is fraudulently framing him in a 498A case, is blackmailing him or his family, or has otherwise caused them injury or distress.
  9. Revisions to this statute are warranted in light of recent findings and the growing incidence of violations of this section.
  10. Since the law is being abused to harass many more women in the husband’s family, women’s non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have a responsibility to conduct thorough investigations of complaints without favouring either gender. No woman should be encouraged to press charges against her in-laws for petty issues. It is the duty of international women’s groups to ensure that no baseless complaints are filed against NRIs in an effort to harass and extort large sums of money from them. These groups also have a responsibility to educate the public about the effects of the Act’s misuse through surveys and research. In the event that these groups are found to be facilitating the filing of fraudulent complaints, they should face legal consequences in the jurisdiction in which they are based.
  11. Male victims of domestic violence at the hands of their wives or in-laws have surfaced in large numbers around the country. There is hardly any group that can provide effective assistance to the harassed men and their families by listening to their side of the story and advocating on their behalf to the authorities. The establishment of family counselling facilities in cities around the country is urgently required to aid the affected families.
  12. A rapid trial of 498A cases will not only lead to prompt satisfaction of the grievances of true dowry victims but will also secure justice for the innocents who have been falsely accused.
  13. By decreasing the number of frivolous lawsuits, the judicial system will be relieved of some of its workloads, and legitimate cases will be processed more quickly.
  14. The statute provides a hazy definition of “mental cruelty,” which can be exploited in unintended ways. This needs to be more explicitly stated so that grey areas in the law are closed. Men should have the right to sue their wives for emotional mistreatment as well.
  15. Cognizance should be taken only after an investigation by civil authorities has confirmed the commission of the offence. In order to prevent its abuse, the government should raise awareness among police officers.
  16. The fact that those convicted under Section 498A cannot post bond is the primary reason why the law is so often abused to harass the defenceless. In order to prevent the unnecessary detention of elderly parents, pregnant sisters, and school-aged children, it is imperative that this subsection be made bailable.
  17. Once an FIR has been filed, it cannot be withdrawn, even if the wife sees she made a mistake and wishes to return to the marital home. This should be compoundable in order to save the institution of marriage. In addition, if the spouses decide to split amicably, the ongoing criminal processes will cause significant disruption to their lives.
  18. Only the principal defendant should have an arrest warrant issued after “taking cognizance” or being formally charged. Members of the husband’s family should not be subject to arrest.
  19. Strict action should be taken against those who make charges of a violation of Section 498A IPC when a court rules that such allegations are unfounded. Because of this, fewer people would approach the legal system with dirty hands and hidden agendas. All officials who conspire to unjustly accuse women and their families should face criminal charges. 

Landmark judgements under Section 498A

The Indian legal system has been employing this section to protect women from abuse in the context of marriage. In nine out of ten actual instances, the violence is connected to a dowry dispute, in which the wife is harassed, beaten, and intimidated until she gives in to her husband’s demands for more money and property.

Mohd. Hoshan, A.P. & Anr vs State Of A.P (2002)

The question of whether or not one partner has been unkind to the other is ultimately one of fact. Factors such as the victim’s sensitivity, social background, surroundings, education, etc. all have a role in how severely complaints, accusations, or taunting amounting to cruelty affect a person. What constitutes mental cruelty also differs from one individual to the next, based on their level of vulnerability, their bravery, and their resilience. Decisions on mental cruelty must be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Sushil Kumar Sharma vs. Union of India and others (2005)


Under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, a petition was filed seeking a declaration that Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is unconstitutional and ultra vires, or, failing that, for the establishment of guidelines to prevent the victimisation of innocent people by those with malicious intent. A further petition asked that whenever the court reaches the verdict and the claims made regarding the conduct of an offence under Section 498A IPC were unsubstantiated, rigorous action should be taken against the individual who made the charges.


The petitioner claimed that there was no prosecution but rather persecution in these situations. Several judgements were relied upon, in which the rise in the number of fraudulent lawsuits was highlighted. It was argued that the accusers carry more responsibility than the accused. Courts’ compassion in cases of alleged dowry torture is being abused by those who seek to profit from it.


The Supreme Court of India did not find any merit in the argument that Section 498A does not have any validity in either the law or the Constitution. The court held that there have been numerous occasions where it was shown that the complaints were not genuine and had been made with ulterior motives. Even if found not guilty at trial, the accused may nevertheless feel shame for their ordeal. Sometimes bad press from the media makes things even worse. Thus, the court must inquire as to what corrective steps might be implemented to stop the misuse of the provision. The provision is valid but does not give anyone the authority to utilise it for retaliatory or harassment purposes. Therefore, lawmakers may need to figure out how to effectively punish people who file baseless complaints or claims. Until then, the problem must be handled within the current framework by the Courts.

Neelu Chopra & Anr. vs. Bharati (2009)

Appellants Neelu Chopra and Krishan Sarup Chopra are a married couple, and respondent Bharti was their daughter-in-law. Bharati claims that her life as a married woman to Rajesh (appellants’ son) was rough due to his and his parents’ unreasonable expectations for doubt and misbehaviour. Accordingly, Bharati sued her husband and in-laws in 1993 for violating Indian Penal Code Section 498A. Since Rajesh passed away in 2006, his heirs are the sole parties involved in this dispute. The Court noted that the complaint lacked specificity about which defendants were charged with which offences and what specific roles each appellant had in the commission of the alleged crimes. The accusations were more specifically levelled at Rajesh, but he was no longer alive to defend himself. It would be an abuse of process to continue prosecuting Rajesh’s elderly parents on the basis of a generalised complaint that did not specify the specific actions that gave rise to the charges. As a result, the complaint was dismissed.

Bhaskar Lal Sharma & Anr. vs. Monica (2014)

Monica married the appellants’ son, Vikas Sharma, who already had two children from his former marriage. The couple’s marriage quickly went downhill, and Monica eventually left her new spouse. After that, she decided to press charges under Sections 498A, 406, and 34 of the Indian Penal Code against her husband and the two appellants (her father-in-law and mother-in-law). In addition to the interim maintenance, Monica asked for maintenance of 2 lakhs each month. As the Supreme Court noted, the prosecution failed to establish any of the necessary components for a violation of Section 498A of the IPC. Without making any attempt at mediation, the respondent employed all necessary coercive measures to ensure the appellants’ presence in India. The Court ruled that the abuse inflicted by the mother-in-law on the daughter-in-law and subsequent threats of divorce did not constitute cruelty under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. That being the case, the prosecution failed to establish the elements of Section 498A of the IPC, and the appeals court dismissed the case.

Arnesh Kumar vs. State Of Bihar (2014)

The woman said that her in-laws had made unreasonable demands, including that they pay 8 lakh rupees, provide a Maruti car, an air conditioner, etc. Her husband, upon learning of his mother’s demands, sided with her and vowed to marry another lady in her place. In addition, it was claimed that she was forced to leave the marital house because her dowry demands were not met. The spouse has denied the charges and sought anticipatory bail from the Supreme Court. Since violating Section 498A is a cognizable and non-bailable violation, the Court has observed that women frequently employ it as an offensive tool rather than a defensive one when attempting to intimidate their husbands and their families. On occasion, even the husband’s sick grandparents or far-flung relatives are falsely accused and extradited under this law. The Court has established rules requiring reasonable satisfaction and an adequate investigation into the veracity of the complaint prior to an arrest being made under this provision. The Magistrate may not issue a detention order on a whim or out of habit. Therefore, the Court ordered bail to be set at a nominal amount.

Rajesh Sharma & Others vs. State Of U.P. (2017)

Sneha’s father provided dowry to Rajesh at the time of their marriage. Furious over the sum of his dowry, Rajesh began abusing his new bride. Sneha sued her husband and his family members under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. The present appeal was filed by the family seeking certain directives to prevent the misuse of Section 498A of IPC. The primary argument advanced was that, in most instances, all members of the family are involved in resolving a marriage disagreement, even if they are not directly involved in the conflict. These were the Supreme Court’s directives:

Family Welfare Committee

  • Each district must have at least one committee made up of three paralegals, volunteers, social workers, or other willing citizens, formed by the District Legal Services Authorities.
  • The District and Sessions Judge of that district, who also serves as the Chairman of the District Legal Services Authority, shall conduct an annual review of the organisation’s bylaws and operations.
  • No member of the committee may be questioned as a witness.
  • The Committee is responsible for reviewing any reports filed with the police or the Magistrate under Section 498A of the IPC.
  • Within one month of the day the complaint was received, the committee’s report will be delivered to the Authority that received the complaint in the first place. Before that time, no one can be arrested.

Investigating officer

It is recommended that the Investigating Officer for complaints under Section 498A receive training for at least four months (not less than one week), depending on the circumstances.


After a bail application has been submitted to the Public Prosecutor/complainant with a day’s notice, a decision must be made the same day. If a wife or minor child’s rights to maintenance or other forms of support can be ensured, then the recovery of disputed dowry items cannot be considered a reason for bail.

Video conferencing

The trial court may not mandate the physical presence of all family members, especially those who live in distant locations and may instead give an exemption and allow video conferencing.


Violence against women at home is not only a violation of women’s human rights but also a crime under Indian law, which was created to protect the rights of all its citizens. India has accepted several international conventions that recognise women’s unequal status and include special provisions for women to remedy this disparity, including the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Domestic violence is prohibited in all contexts, including marriage and the family, by the Dowry Prohibition Act (DPA) and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDA), Sections 498A and 304B of the IPC.

But this Section 498A’s exclusive remedy for females has become a contentious topic of discussion lately. Without legislative action, this impasse will grow into a terrifying social menace. For the sake of the public’s faith in the judicial system, this provision should be updated immediately. Unfortunately, not all women who could benefit from this information or services will be aware of them, and even fewer will actually seek help for domestic violence. Unscrupulous women will utilise this rule as another tool in their arsenal. Everyone who relies on a man will suffer if he is expelled from his own home due to charges of domestic violence or cruelty, whether or not those allegations are accurate. The entire family should not be punished even if the accused man is abusive. It is a complex and significant concern that an innocent man and his relatives are often being subjected to unjust legal persecution through this provision.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Section 498A subject to the presumption of innocence?

The accused must have their guilt established beyond a reasonable doubt under India’s accusatorial system of criminal law. If the accused is to be found guilty, the prosecution must dispel all reasonable doubt. “Everyone charged with a criminal crime has the right to be assumed innocent unless proven guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the protections essential for his defence,” reads Article 11.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.

Article 20 of our Constitution provides for a presumption of innocence for a suspect; nevertheless, the Constitution does not affirm or forbid this, leaving it to Parliament to disregard this provision if it is deemed necessary or advantageous to do so. While the husband does not enjoy the presumption of innocence when facing charges under IPC Section 498A, he does have a higher burden of proof under Section 304B, which is governed by Section 113B under the Indian Evidence Act.

Is it possible to be arrested under Section 498A of IPC without prior police notice?

An individual can still be arrested, but after the Arnesh Kumar judgement, police officers will no longer automatically detain those suspected of violating Section 498A and instead will be required to adhere to the standards set forth in Section 41 of the Criminal Procedure Code. A person against whom a reasonable complaint has been made, credible information has been received, or reasonable suspicion exists that he has committed a cognizable offence punishable by imprisonment for a term that may be less than seven years and which may extend to seven years whether with or without fine if the following conditions are met, is subject to arrest under Section 41(1)(b) of the Criminal Procedure Code. An officer must provide written justification for deciding not to make an arrest under this part. They can make arrests at will, but they must adhere to all applicable laws and regulations.

Is there a difference between the 498A and dowry harassment?

The term “dowry” does not appear anywhere in Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. In order to “deal effectively not only with cases of dowry deaths but also with cases of cruelty to married women by their in-laws,” the Indian Penal Code (IPC) added Chapter XXA, which contains the solitary Section 498A. This was done in order to “deal effectively not only with cases of dowry deaths.” The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 is the piece of legislation that directly addresses dowry. Harassment of a married woman with the intention of forcing her or her relatives to comply with any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security that is in the form of dowry is a violation of Section 498A, which both defines and discusses the act of cruel treatment (both mental and physical) meted out to a married woman. Additionally, this section postulates harassment as a method of coercion.


Students of Lawsikho courses regularly produce writing assignments and work on practical exercises as a part of their coursework and develop themselves in real-life practical skills.

LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals, and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join:

Follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more amazing legal content.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here