The Section 498 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was introduced in the year 1983 to prevent the menace of dowry death and cruelty inflicted upon women. In the past, married women in India have been defenselessly suffering cruelty and domestic violence at the hands of men. It is the only Section in IPC that recognizes domestic violence against women as a crime. Under this Section, matrimonial cruelty in India is a cognizable, non-compoundable and non-bailable offence.
What is Section 498A IPC?
498A IPC deals with the cruelty to the woman by husband or relatives of husband. Cruelty means any willful conduct of the husband or relative of husband which drives the women to commit suicide, or cause grave injury or danger to her life, limb or health. Such cruelty can be both mental and physical. Harassment for any unlawful demand of dowry from her or any person related her like parents, siblings is also amounts to cruelty.
The maximum imprisonment under this Section may extend to 3 years and fine can also be imposed. To attract the provisions of this Section, following ingredients must be fulfilled:-
- The woman must be legally married.’
- She is inflicted with harassment or cruelty.
- The said harassment or cruelty must have been done either by the husband or his relatives.
Which relatives of the husband can be implicated?
The Supreme Court in Vijeta Gajra V. State NCT of Delhi 2010 (11) SCC 618 held that, in order to covered under Section 498 A IPC one has to be a relative of the husband by marriage, blood or adoption.
As per the judgement in U. Suvetha V. State (2009) 6 SCC 757, a girlfriend or a concubine being not connected by blood or marriage is not a relative of the husband.
Characteristics of the Section:
Cognizable: Under this Section police officer can arrest without warrant and start investigation with or without the permission of the court.
Non-Compoundable: Offence is of serious nature and no compromise is allowed. However, if there is a genuine compromise between husband and wife, then High Court can quash criminal complaint of matrimonial disputes under Section 482 of Cr.P.C., even if the alleged offence is non-compoundable. The offences are personal in nature and do not have repercussions on society unlike other heinous crimes.
Non-Bailable: Accused person have to appear in court to get bail. Judge has discretionary power in bail matters.
Who can file compliant?
Complaint can be filed by aggrieved or by any person related to her by blood, marriage or adoption or can be filed by any public servant in this behalf. Second wife can also file complaint if she subjected to cruelty. In case of A. Subash Babu V. State of A.P. (2011) 7 SCC 616, the SC held that Section 498A is attracted even in the case of allegation of cruelty to second wife.
Where to file compliant?
Aggrieved woman can filed at complaint at Crime Against Women Cell of the area where she resides permanently or temporary. Complaint can be made in writing or woman can make oral complaint. Then women cell called the in-laws of complainant and tries to settle the dispute among them. If the dispute settled down amicably then settlement is also written and got signed by the both parties. If mediation fails, then women cell forward the compliant to the concerned police station to register the FIR.
What is the limitation period to file complaint?
The complaint can be filed within the period of 3 years from the date of alleged incident. However, court can entertain the case after expiry of limitation period under Section 473 Cr.P.C. if is satisfied that it is necessary to do so in the interest of justice.
Inter-related Sections to 498-A IPC:
There are some Sections which interrelate with this Section. These are:-
Section 113 of Evidence Act: Where the woman commits the suicide within 7 years from the date of marriage and she has been abetted by her husband or any relative of her husband and they subjected her to cruelty, then the court may presume that such suicide by that woman had been abetted by her husband or by his relatives. In these cases, Section 306 of IPC is also charged along with 498-A of IPC.
Section 406 IPC: This Section is also charged in these types of cases as dowry articles were in the custody of husband or his relatives. To attract this Section there must be entrustment of dowry articles by the complainant to the accused. Demand of return of such dowry articles were made and accused refused to return the same and control or misappropriate such articles for his own use.
Abuse of Section 498A IPC:
As the Section was incorporated to protect women from cruelty and harassment at hands of their in-laws but the numbers of acquittals are more in comparison to the convictions in 498A cases. In most cases 498A complaint is followed by the demand of huge money to settle the matter out of the court. According to report of National Crime Records Bureau more than 1 lacs cases of 498A were reported in 2018 and only 4982 convictions were reported in 2018. Conviction rate falls to 13 % in such cases in 2018 which is the 2nd lowest in past 13 years.
In order to curb the misuse of 498A, SC issues some guidelines related to arrest in Arnesh Kumar V. State of Bihar (2014) 8 SCC 273, to ensure that police officers do not arrest the accused unnecessarily and Magistrate do not authorize detention casually and mechanically in cases under Section 498A IPC, the court gave certain guidelines these guidelines also applies to other cases offences where punishment is less than 7 years. These guidelines are:-
- The police will not automatically arrest the accused. They should first satisfy themselves that arrest is necessary under the parameters of Section 41 of Cr.P.C.
- Police officers shall fill the checklist and furnish the reasons and material necessitating the arrest.
- The Magistrate will only allow detention after recording its satisfaction on the report furnished by police officials.
- If police officials fail to comply with the directions then they will be liable for departmental action as well as for contempt of court.
- Failure of Magistrate to comply with the directions makes him liable for departmental action by the appropriate High Court.
In Rajesh Sharma V. State of U.P. 2017 decided on 27th July, 2017, SC passed some directions to prevent the misuse of 498A IPC, these directions further modified in 2018 in Social Action Forum for Manav Adhikar V. UOI. These modified directions are given below but it is notable that these directions will not apply in cases of tangible physical injuries or death.
- The complaints under Section 498A IPC and other connected offences to it to be investigated by a designated Investigation Officer of the area only.
- In case of settlement between the parties, it is open for them to approach the High Court for quashing the complaint under Section 482 Cr.P.C.
- If any accused file bail application at least one day notice must be given to the Public Prosecutor and complainant and such application may be decided on the same day, if possible. If maintenance or other rights of victim/wife/minor children can be protected by any other way then recovery disputed dowry can’t be ground to deny bail.
- The impounding of passports or issuance of Red Corner Notice should not a routine for the persons ordinarily residing out of India.
What options are available to men in case of misuse?
The men can opt for legal recourse in case of false implication under Section 498A IPC. He can file a case under Section 500 of IPC Code for defamation. Husband can also file application for damage recovery under Section 9 of CPC which he and his family have undergone for the false accusations of cruelty and harassment.
Section 182 of IPC is also one of the prevalent used measures against the false implications under 498A IPC. Under this Section, if authority finds that the averments made were bogus then the offender can be punished for 6 months or fine or both. The person will be charged on the grounds of misleading the judiciary with false information.
This Section has become support for wives to raise their voice against the wrong and cruelty faced by them whether it is physical or mental. But, like any other law this Section has also been misused frequently by women in order to score its personal gains and rage against their in-laws. The Supreme Court took are taking constant efforts to amend and regulate the misuse of this Section in view of many false reported cases.
Associate at Aggarwals & Associates, S.A.S. Nagar, Mohali