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Section 498A Of IPC: An Analysis

Every dowry demand is a death threat.
In India after witnessing the rampant nature and prevalence of reported cases for cruelty against women, Section 498A was introduced in the year 1983 to deal with the issue of cruelty against women. As per the data collected in 2012 by National Crime Records Bureau[1], around 8,233 incidences of dowry deaths were reported under Section B of the Indian Penal Code and approximately 1,06,527 incidences of cruelty by husband or his relatives were reported under Section 498A of IPC.

It is quite evident that in India the malady of crime against women is a serious issue for decades, and it will take too long to cure the problem. So, in order to provide safeguard and protection to women from all violence, section 498A was inserted in Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005[2] was also implemented.

What Is Section 498A?

According to Section 498A of IPC Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be pun­ished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.[3] The offense committed under Section 498A is cognizable, non-compoundable, and non-bailable.


The word cruelty hereby means:
  1. Any willful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or mental and physical health of the woman; or
  2. harassment of the woman where such harassment is to coerce her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.[4]

The Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act[5] was implemented by the Government of India in the year 1983 on 26th December 1983 after the judgment of Social Action Forum for Manav Adhikar and Anr. v. Union of India and Ors.[6] which amended the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and inserted a new Section 498(A) under Chapter XX-A, of cruelty by husband or relatives of husband with the main aim to curb the menace of cruelty to married women, which often led to dowry deaths

In IPC, section 498A has brought a major amendment for safeguarding women’s rights and empowerment under which any kind of extortion of property, by subjecting a woman to cruelty is punishable under Section 498A. In approximately 80% of the cases, the incidents of domestic violence or cruelty against women are related to dowry. Therefore, these rules and amendments were necessary for preventing women from being abused and this section is one of the major anti-dowry laws in India.

Haruki Murakami very beautifully expressed the feeling of a woman who is a victim of domestic violence through his words I am living in hell from one day to the next. But there is nothing I can do to escape. I don't know where I would go if I did. I feel utterly powerless, and that feeling is my prison. I entered of my own free will, I locked the door, and I threw away the key. These lines made us feel the pain a woman victim might be suffering from.

Ugly Facets Of Section 498A Of IPC

Section 498A of IPC was designed and inserted into the legal framework by the law and policy-makers, with the main objective of protecting women against cruelty, harassment, and other offenses. But in records, there were more acquittals than convicts, and the cases of misuse of this section came up, which dwindled the actual credibility of it. The section was then named by Supreme Court as Legal Terrorism and it also came to known as anti-male law. The purpose of the statute is misused or violated by women. [7]

Many women for many varied purposes sue the husband and his family and make false allegations on her husband and family and make them suffer the humiliation and insult. Women use it as a weapon rather than as a shield. In the case of Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar[8], it was reported that there have been arrests of bedridden grand-parents of the husband and even relatives who are living in abroad in the case of cruelty and domestic violence, which was falsely claimed by the women.

Therefore, nowadays women have started using it as a tool to detain their husbands if they are not pleased with them. There are many such false reports filed every year which raises the pendency of court cases.

There have been instances when a person who is an NRI comes to India to marry a woman and is forced to do all such things that he would have never done otherwise, only due to the fear of extortion and being arrested for any false accusation under Section 498A. And due to these false accusations and immoral exercising of section 498A by women, the innocent husband and his family have to suffer exponentially. During this period of suffering and ignominies, some of the men give up and commit suicide. So, here comes the point of exercising power righteously with thorough investigation and cross-examination of the whole matter. [9]

Thus, section 498A IPC is a penal provision allied together with the provisions in the Code of Civil Procedure are so designed as to impart an element of deterrence. However, instances of false accusations and exaggerated allegations and implications imposed upon a husband and his family and several relatives, been pouring in a rampant manner leading to a widespread acknowledgment of these beneficiary laws as a means to exact revenge by disgruntled wives.

End-Notes:
  1. National Crime Records Bureau’s Report, 2012.
  2. Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
  3. Indian Penal Code, 1860 § 498A.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, 1983.
  6. Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 156 of 2017: Judgment Delivered on 14.09.2018.
  7. Mr. Ambransh Bhandari, 498A: Use and misuse. https://bnblegal.com/article/498a-use-and-misuse/ (18/06/2020 at 05.30 pm.)
  8. Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar (2014) 8 SCC 273.
  9. Cruelty against Women (Section 498A of IPC, 1860) https://www.soolegal.com/roar/cruelty-against-women-section-498a-of-ipc-1860 (18/06/2020 at 10.00 pm).
Written By: Bhakti Rathi

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