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Section 498A: Prejudice To Men

The sacred institution of marriage means that both the husband and the wife live with understanding and respect for each other. However, in recent years, weddings have broken up significantly, and the majority of the time, this is due to dowry demands or abuse by the husband or his family.

According to the current legal situation, the husband or his relatives are the ones who are torturing the wife. What about, however, the pain and cruelty the woman inflicts on the husband, his family, or his relatives by falsely accusing them of crimes in violation of Sections 498A and 304B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860? The current study discusses the current legal system's one bias and how women utilize it to malign their husbands and families.

Historical Background
The crimes against women go back to earlier periods when they were seen as the father's and the husband's property, respectively. In cases where the families were unable to meet the demands for dowry made by the husband's family at the time of marriage or during the marriage, the wife was subjected to severe horrors. This escalated into the mistreatment of women in the in-laws' home and eventually led to a woman being murdered under the cover of darkness.

The term "accidental kitchen fire" came to be used to describe these fatalities. There are numerous more ways that women are harassed in marriage in addition to this one. This increased the need for tough regulations to protect the lives of young women, and in 1983 the Criminal Law (Second Amendment Act) enacted Section 498A of the IPC. "Crimes in India," a report from 2011 claims that 43.4% of all crimes against women are committed against women who have been the victims of torture.

In general, when a husband treats his wife cruelly, what is meant is any circumstance that makes the wife fearful of her safety and well-being while she lives with the husband.

According to Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, cruelty is defined as follows:

If a woman is subjected to cruelty by her husband or a relative of her husband, that person could face up to three years in prison and a fine in addition to their punishment.

The section defines cruelty as:
  1. Any wilful conduct that is likely to cause the woman serious harm or danger to her life, limb, or health (whether physical or mental); or
  2. Harassment of the woman when such harassment is intended to coerce her or any person associated with her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is as a result of her or that person's failure to meet that demand.
One of the requirements for this section's application is:
  1. That the woman be married.
  2. Either abuse or harassment must have been inflicted against the woman. The word "cruelty" can relate to a wide range of actions, including the demand for dowry.
  3. That the spouse, his family, or both should have displayed such violent abuse.
The crime is now considered cognizable and is not subject to bail or compounding. However, throughout the years, the woman has grossly abused the provision. Even when she is complicit in acts of cruelty toward her in-laws or when there are minor disagreements among them, women have been known to file false complaints against their husbands and their families in an effort to settle personal scores.

For the women who file true claims and fight for their rights, the rise in bogus cases would be a barrier. However, even in these bogus cases, it is always the husband and his family who are mistreated by the investigating authorities, detained in jails because the crime is punishable by law, and tortured.

These criminal trials that end in acquittal leave the husband and his family with serious psychological scars, damage their reputation, and frequently result in the separation of the marriage, obstructing any chance of reconciliation and marital reunion.

The irony is that although we discuss the mental anguish the husband causes the wife, we do not discuss the mental anguish the husband and his family experience as a result of erroneous claims of cruelty and erroneous cases being brought against them.

Development Of 498a

In the case of Kamlesh Panjiyar v. State of Bihar, one Janki Devi was subjected to cruelty and violence for want of a Buffalo after the marriage, which her family failed to fulfill. When her family visited her husband's family for conciliation, they found Janki Devi dead. The Sessions Court held the appellant guilty and sentenced him to 10 years imprisonment which was reduced to 7 years by the High Court. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the Court upheld the decision of the Sessions Court and held that "under Section 304 of IPC it was not necessary to give direct evidence of guidance of causing death. Cruelty before death is enough."

In the case of Pamiben v State of Gujarat, the mother-in-law of tried to burn her by pouring kerosene oil on her. On hearing her cries she was taken to the hospital where she died. The Court held the mother-in-law liable for her murder based on her dying declaration. The court held that there was no reason to believe that she committed suicide.

In the case of Reema Agarwal v Anupam, the appellant was harassed by her mother-in-law, father-in-law, and spouse. They attempted to kill her by placing an acidic liquid into her mouth. Since this was the second marriage of the spouse when his other wife was still alive, he took the defense that the marriage was not valid, to begin with, and thus section 498A cannot be attracted. The accused were acquitted by the High Court. When the matter reached the Supreme Court, the court stated that a liberal interpretation must be given to the meaning of the term husband."Husband means a person who has entered into the relation of marriage' and the interpretation must be flexible."

The court through its judgments reacted to this social evil by making the penalties stricter and harsher to create deterrence and fear amongst the offenders. But with time the courts were flooded with hundreds and thousands of false cases leading to the court changing its stance.

In the case of Kans Raj v State of Punjab AIR 2000 SC 2324, the deceased was found to be dead not under ordinary circumstances. The parents of the deceased accused the in-laws of the death of their daughter. The court upon inquiry quashed the FIR against the in-laws and the husband of the deceased.

In another case Neelu Chopra & Anr. v. Bharati the appellants, the in-laws, and the respondent, their daughter-in-law contended that her marriage with Rajesh (the appellant's son) was not smooth on grounds of misbehavior from Rajesh and his parents and thus filed a complaint against them. During the pendency of the proceedings, the husband died and the case presently was left only against the appellants. The Court held that the complaint does not specify which accused caused what offense. Only the precise allegations were made against Rajesh. Thus it would be an abuse of the process of law to allow prosecution to continue the case against the aged parents and the court thus quashed the complaint under 482 CrPC.

In Arnesh Kumar v State of Bihar, the wife leveled allegations against her mother-in-law and father-in-law that he demanded 8 lakhs, a Maruti car, an air conditioner, and a television set, and her husband supported them and threatened to marry another woman when she refused to fulfill these demands.

She alleged to have been thrown out of her matrimonial home. Upon these allegations, the appellant applied for anticipatory bail which was rejected by the learned sessions judge and the High Court. Thusthe petitioner knocked on the doors of the Hon'ble Supreme Court through SLP.

The Supreme Court held that arrest brings humiliation, and scars and curtails freedom. A person accused of an offense whose punishment may be less than 7 years or extend up to seven years with or without a fine cannot be arrestedmerely upon the satisfaction of the officer making an arrest that the person accused has committed the offence.

He must proceed with the arrest only when he considers it necessary on grounds of preventing the accused from further committing any offence or tampering with the evidence or witnesses of the case. Further, the officer must satisfy that the arrest is necessary for any of the purposes enclosed in clauses (a) to (e) of Section 41 Code of Criminal Procedure.

The Court further issued the following guidelines:
  1. All police officers be provided with the checklist containing all the sub-clauses of Sec 41(1)(b)(ii) of CrPC.
  2. The police officer must forward the checklist duly filled with all the reasons and materials necessitating such arrest while forwarding the accused before a magistrate for further arrest.
  3. The Magistrate shall authorize the detention only after recording to its satisfaction based on the report furnished by the police officer.
  4. The decision not to arrest the accused be forwarded to the magistrate within two weeks from the date of institution of the case. A copy to the magistrate to be extended to the Superintendent of Police for the reasons recorded in writing.
  5. Notice of appearance under Section 41A CrPC to be served within two weeks to the accused from the date of institution of the case which may be extended by the Superintendent of Police for reasons to be recorded in writing.
In Rajesh Sharma v State of U.P, the court gave a bundle of guidelines to prevent the misuse of Section 498A against the family of the husband and his relatives which includes minors or aged and diseased parents.

These guidelines were:
  1. District Legal Services Authority in every district to constitute one or more Family Welfare Committees whose work is to be reviewed from time to time and at least once by the Sessions Judge who will be the chairman of the same.
  2. Para legal volunteers, wives of officers, retired persons, social workers, and other citizens, willing and suitable, shall constitute the Committee.
  3. The Committee shall review every complaint received by the Police or the Magistrate, and the committee must provide its report about the facts and its opinion on the matter at hand within one month from the date of receipt of the complaint.
  4. No arrest can be made till the report of the committee is received and analyzed by the authority concerned on its merits.
  5. Complaints under Sec 498A shall be investigated only by a designated Police Officer, required to undergo training.
  6. In case a settlement is reached between the parties, the District or Sessions Judge may dispose of the case if it relates to matrimonial discord only.
  7. If the bail application is filled with at least one day's clear notice to the prosecutor or the complainant, the same may be decided on the same day if possible. Recovery of disputed property may not be the grounds for denial of bail.
  8. Personal appearance of all the members particularly outstation members may not be required, and exemptions must be granted without affecting the fairness of the trial.
  9. For persons residing outside India, impounding of passports and issue of red corner notices must not be a routine practice.
In Social Action Forum For Manav Adhikar v. Union of India, the court set aside the directions issued in Rajesh Kumar v. State of U.P. with regard to the Family Welfare Committee, its composition, and powers in that sense. With respect to the settlement if reached between the parties a modification was made that the parties can approach the High Court under sec 482 CrPC and the HC shall keeping in view the law, dispose of the case.

Section 498a And Its Compounding

An offense u/s 498A is non-compoundable, and the court cannot grant any permission to compound the same except in some situations.

In BS Joshi v State of Haryana, the Supreme Court observed that the purpose of introducing the legislature introduce a new chapter to prevent harassment and atrocities against women done for petty demands of dowry by the husband and his relatives. The court while iterating the powers under section 482 CrPC36 had stated that "The hyper-technical view would be counterproductive and act against the interests of women and against the object to which this provision was added. There is every likelihood that the non-exercise of inherent power to quash the proceedings to meet the ends of justice would prevent women from settling earlier. That is not the object of Chapter XX-A of the Penal Code, 1860."

This observation deduces that the High Court, exercising its inherent powers u/s 482 CrPC, can quash criminal proceedings or FIR or complaint u/s 498A IPC. Section 320 CrPC does not limit or curtail the powers of the High Court u/s 482 CrPC. In the BS Joshi case, the HC set aside the impugned judgment of the lower court and quashed the FIR

In the State of Rajasthan v Gopal Lal, a criminal case u/s 498A IPC was filed against Gopal Lal and his family for cruelty and oppression against his wife. The aggrieved wife later had moved a petition before the Magistrate stating that she had compromised the matter and was now living amicably with her husband. She prayed for the allowance of compounding of offense.

The learned Magistrate accepted the compromise and acquitted the respondent u/s 498A IPC. Aggrieved by this, the state filed an appeal challenging the compounding as per the provisions of sec 320 CrPC.

The Supreme Court held, "Where the spouses have started living amicably, and the wife has condoned the offense of matrimonial cruelty, the magistrate acted wisely in permitting the parties to compound the offense u/s 498A IPC."In a nutshell, albeit the offence under Section 498A is non-compoundable, in case both spouses have reached a compromise to either get separated or to stay together, mutually, the Court is allowed to quash the FIR or the proceedings in that case.

The Future Prospects Of The Issue
The number of crimes against women has been rising as society develops. This was clearly evident during the Covid 19 pandemic when numerous instances of domestic violence and brutality towards women were reported, and it is still evident now despite the fact that the situation has improved.

The majority of women in lower and middle-class families are still unaware of their rights, which only becomes apparent when they are killed or commit suicide, so it is important to educate them about their options in the event that their spouse or his family engages in any form of violence against them.

However, the law has been called into doubt since it has been abused, primarily by dishonest women who use it as another weapon in their arsenal. In the early years after its introduction, Section 498A's acceptance and integration seemed successful, practical, and effective. But in recent years, we have seen egregious violations of the laws that have an impact on marriage institutions and consequently on society as a whole.

Therefore, both the offense and the misuse of the remedy are risky, necessitating careful examination of the situation when it occurs so that neither the innocent nor the guilty be spared punishment. Under false pretenses of cruelty and making the elderly and infirm suffer, it is unfair to bring the entire family and all of your relatives before the court.

Furthermore, this event puts the sincere claims of individuals who have truly suffered maltreatment in jeopardy. Those who file fraudulent complaints in an effort to simply settle scores and get personal advantages should face harsh penalties.

  1. Indian Penal Code, 1860
  2. Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
  3. The Indian Penal Code by Ratanlal and Dhirajlal

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