IPC 498A: The term ‘cruelty’ has been interpreted broadly to include inflicting physical or emotional injury on a woman’s body or health, as well as harassing her or her relatives in order to persuade them to meet any unlawful demand for property or valuable security. Harassment for dowry falls under the purview of the Section’s latter limb, and forcing a woman to commit suicide is also one of the ingredients of ‘cruelty.’
According to the figures of National Crime Records Bureau there were 8233 dowry deaths reported under section 113 B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and 106527 cases of cruelty by a husband or his relatives reported under section 498 A of the IPC. Article 15 of the Indian constitution provides all citizens, particularly the marginalized, the right to live a life of dignity and respect. India has also accepted international treaties such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). To remedy this disparity, India developed particular measures for women.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860, Sections 113 B, 498A, and 304B, the Dowry Prohibition Act (DPA), and the Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) all address violence against women. These also establish the position that marriage and family structures are not immune to government involvement, particularly if there is abuse against women inside such organizations.
The Requirement of Section 498A
Dowry death is the assassination of a young woman by her in-laws for failing to comply with their oppressive demands for money, items, or property, generally referred to as dowry. Cases of cruelty by husbands and their relatives culminating in the suicide/murder of innocent helpless women make up a small but heinous fraction of all cases of cruelty.
With an increasing number of cases of cruelty, domestic violence and dowry deaths in India, the Govt. of India amended the Indian Penal Code, 1860 by Criminal Law ( Second Amendment ) Act, 1983 and inserted a new section 498(A) under Chapter XX A ( Of cruelty by husband or relatives of husband ) in the year 1983. The amendment also focused on cruelty to women by husbands along with the concept of Domestic violence.
The only part of the IPC that recognizes domestic violence against women as a crime is Section 498 (A). The amendment was also used to change several sections of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) and the Indian Evidence Act, 1972 (IEA).
Ingredients of IPC Section 498A
The basic prerequisites for the application of Section 498A are:
- The woman must be married.
- There must be cruelty or harassment towards the woman.
- Such cruelty must be shown by the husband of the woman or the relatives of the husband.
The word Cruelty contains the following elements:
- Such a ‘willful’ act that is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide;
- any act that is likely to cause grave injury to the woman; or
- any act that is likely to endanger the woman’s life, limb, or health, whether physical or mental;
- any act that is likely to endanger the woman’s life, limb, or health.
As we can see, this legislation addresses four different sorts of cruelty:
(i) Any conduct that is likely to drive a woman to commit suicide,
(ii) Any conduct that is likely to cause grave injury to the woman’s life, limb, or health,
(iii) Harassment with the intent of forcing the woman or her relatives to give some property, or
(iv) Harassment because the woman or her relatives are either unable to yield to the demand for more money or refuse to give some share of the property.
Landmark Judgements (Analysis)
The Supreme Court held in Ramesh Dalaji Godad v. State of Gujarat that it is not necessary to show or put forth that the woman was beaten up to prove cruelty under Explanation a) of S.498A IPC; abusing her verbally, denying her conjugal rights, or even not speaking to her properly would fall under the category of mental cruelty.
The Supreme Court in the case of Srinivasulu v. State of Andhra Pradesh stated that, “In order to bring home the application of Section 498A IPC, consequences of cruelty that are likely to compel a woman to commit suicide or inflict grave injury or risk to her life, limb, or health, whether mental or physical, must be proven.”
The Supreme Court in the case of Suvetha v. State by Insp. of Police and Ors held that:
- Clause (a) deals with severe kinds of cruelty that result in serious damage. To begin with, willful conduct of such a serious kind that is likely to cause the women to commit suicide is covered by clause (a). Clause as second part establishes that ‘cruelty’ is defined as purposeful action that causes grave injury or risk to the woman’s life, limb, or health (whether mental or physical).
- The Explanation in clause (b) covers dowry-related harassment. When the FIR, along with the victim woman’s statement, reveals cruelty of a serious character that falls under clause (a), the police officer must act quickly and decisively, especially if there is proof of physical assault.
- In the first place, competent medical support and counsellor assistance should be offered to the injured woman, and the inquiry procedure should begin without delay.
- The term ‘cruelty’ has been interpreted broadly to include inflicting physical or emotional injury on a woman’s body or health, as well as harassing her or her relatives in order to persuade them to meet any unlawful demand for property or valuable security. One of the characteristics of ‘cruelty’ is encouraging the woman to commit suicide.
Misuse of Section 498A
The more autonomous and radical feminists have turned to Section 498A of the IPC as a weapon rather than a shield as the rate of school, financial stability, and modernity has increased. As a result, many hapless spouses and relatives have been victims of their house’s vindictive daughters-in-law. Many situations whereby Sec 498A is cited these days turn out to be bogus cases, as they are just blackmail tactics by the wife or her closest family when the marriage is problematic. As a result, the Section 498A complaint is frequently followed by a demand for a large sum of money to resolve the issue outside of court.
The lawmakers drafted and put Section 498A into the legal structure with the goal of safeguarding women from cruelty, harassment, as well as other offences. However, when cross-investigations were conducted to examine the legality of these legislation, the number of acquittals was higher than the number of convictions. As a result, the Supreme Court, which enacted 498A with the intention of protecting women from cruelty, now views it as legal terror. Because its actual credibility is harmed by its exploitation of Section 498A. Its one of numerous reasons why it is said to as an anti-male legislation. Despite extensive complaints and the fact that large-scale misuse has indeed been acknowledged by the courts, there really is no solid evidence based on empirical investigation about the degree of the claimed misuse.
The abuse of laws is forcefully stated by responsible authorities in society, including the police, legislators, and even judges of prestigious Courts. The charge of abuse is brought specifically against Sections 498A and 304B of the IPC.
Former Justice K T Thomas conveyed similar opinions in his article, as well as the 2003 Malimath Committee report on criminal justice reform proposals also depicted, importantly, more about “general complaint” of Sec 498A of the IPC being a subject to misuse; and thus the same report recommended an amendment to the impugned provision; nevertheless, it ended in failure to even provide data with regards how commonly the section is misused.
IPC 498A and Case Laws
The Hon’ble Court in Savitri Devi v. Ramesh Chand & Ors. expressly controls the misuse associated with the manipulation of laws to such a degree that it was completely affected by the impact of marriage itself and so deemed not to be intelligent for the benefit of the large community. Authorities and politicians, according to the court, needed to study the case as well as the legislative measures in order to avoid this from happening again.
In Saritha v. R. Ramachandran, the Court highlighted the reversal of trend and asked the Law Commission and Parliament to create a non-cognizable and bailable offence. Nevertheless, this was the court’s responsibility to condemn misbehaviour and protect the victim from the consequences of becoming the abuser. The husband’s cure will be as follows. On this basis, the woman may divorce her husband and remarry, or she may receive monetary compensation.
In the case of Anju v. Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, the Petitioner’s wife appealed the Lower Court’s judgement dismissing the charges against the defendants under section 498A/34 of the Indian Penal Code. In considering the circumstances of the case, the Court concluded that the Petitioner’s wife mentioned all family members in one breath in the FIR, without assigning any specific role to any of them. As a result, no information was supplied as to when the claimed incidents happened, nor was any evidence offered to establish or confirm the charges against the spouse’s family. The Court further pointed out that the charges levelled against the defendants were broad and vague.
The complainant did not provide a specific day, time, month, or year while she was beaten. In light of the foregoing totality of the circumstances, the High Court of Bombay affirmed the Revisional Court’s decision, holding that the Court did not err in concluding that, aside from the usual and omnibus accusations that implicated all parties, there really is no recorded content to justify the filing of charges under Section 498A IPC.
The Supreme Court concluded in Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India and others that the objective of the clause is to avert a menace of dowry. However, as the petitioner correctly points out, there have been several cases when complaints have been submitted that are not genuine and have an indirect motivation. In these circumstances, the accused’s acquittal would not, in any event, wash away the humiliation he or she endured before but before the court. The predicament is exacerbated by negative media attention.
The petition in the matter of the Social Action Forum for Manav Adhikar v. Union of India was filed in accordance with Article 32 of the Constitution. The petitioners contended that it is true that a lot of women are abused by their husbands and their families, and that the charge that Section 498A is being misused is really not predicated on such misuse beginning on a certain date. Because of several credentials and constraints faced by different decision making of this Court, along with Rajesh Sharma v. U.P. State, would further make the argument that the social intended result next to Section 498A IPC is just being ended up losing as the rigour of said provision has indeed been reduced as well as the offence has indeed been made bailable.
Constitutionality of Section 498A
It was contended that it was ultra vires Article 14 and Article 20(2) of the Constitution in the case of Inder Raj Malik and Ors. v. Sumita Malik. There is always the Dowry Prohibition Act, which addresses certain sorts of instances; consequently, these statutes together create a situation known as a double threat. However, the Delhi High Court rejected this claim, ruling that this clause does not create a scenario of double danger. Section 498-A differs from section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act in that the latter punishes pure dowry demand without requiring the existence of an aspect of cruelty, while section 498-A deals with aggravated version of the offence.
Suggestions and Conclusion
To begin with, in India, criminal cases, particularly those of a serious nature, are tried for 8 to 10 years, if not longer, depending on the severity of the offence. However, a swift trial is recommended to ensure that innocent victims caught under section 498A receive early remedy. As a result, it is critical that the judiciary, in addition to being effective, endeavour to speed the trial process in the 498A cases.
Second, a step must be made to ensure that the investigation into these 498A cases is conducted solely by civil authorities, but that the policeman’s actions are based solely on the discovery of reasonable evidence sufficient to show the individual’s wrongdoing.
Lastly, there is no institutional agency in our country that provides family counselling. It is critical to establish a recognised family counselling organisation so that individuals may express their sorrow and seek assistance from specialists and practitioners. Because this part lacks the deterrent factor for why dowry cases are developing at such an alarming rate, the Court should begin enforcing penalties and harsh measures against those who make false charges.
Ranchhoddas, Ratanlal. Ratanlal & Dhirajlal’s law of crimes: A commentary on the Indian Penal Code, 1860. 2nd ed. New Delhi: Bharat Law House, 2007.
Gaur, K. D. Textboook on the Indian Penal Code. Universal Law Publishers, 2011.
Law Commission Report
Crime in India-1999, National Crime Records Bureau, Government of India, page 202, http://ncrb.gov.in/StatPublications/CII/CII1999/CII1999/cii-1999/CHAPTER-5.pdf.
S.R. Subaashini and M. Kannappan, A Study on Cruelty against Married Women and Legal Framework in India (Section 498(a)), 119 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF PURE AND APPLIED MATHEMATICS 1381 (2018).
- The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
- The Indian Penal Code, 1860.
- The Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
- The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.