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Sec.498A IPC: Boon or a Bane?

The Second Criminal Amendment Act 1983, inserted Sec.498 A in the Indian Penal Code, 1860, for the cruelty done against the women for dowry after their marriage. Before this amendment, such provisions were dealt with general penal provisions of assault, grievous hurt, etc. The provision states that whenever the women faces mental or physical harm for unlawful demand of any property due to her marriage, would be included in cruelty.

This amendment was done for the safeguarding the interest of a woman. According to Sec. 468 CrPC, as subject to any such cruelty u/s. 498A of IPC, the complaint can be filed within 3 years of the occurrence of such incident. However, Sec.473 of CrPC, gives the power to take the cognizance even after the limitation period if it is in interest of justice. This states that whenever there is continuing offence then, after that the 3 years period would start.

The conditions of anticipatory bail in the case of Sec. 498A IPC is that there should be demand draft deposition of an amount on the name of wife, only then the bail can be granted. The provision was inserted for a better society and to uplift the interests of women, but there is misuse of the same by women, for getting out money from her in laws. It has been observed that sometimes there is not even prima facie case or genuineness, but are still arrested u/s. 498A IPC or Sec.4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.

In the case of Manju Ram Kalita V. State of Assam, 2009 13 SCC 330, the SC held that the provision of Sec. 498A is made against for the women committing suicide due to the pressure from her in-laws for dowry, there should not be any misuses of the same. A two Judge Bench of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit observed that Section 498A was inserted in the statute with the laudable object of punishing cruelty at the hands of husband or his relatives against a wife particularly when such cruelty had potential to result in suicide or murder of a woman as mentioned in the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Act 46 of 1983.

There have been guidelines laid down by the SC in the case of Arnesh Kumar Vs. State of Bihar & Anr., The Court in strong words possible has expressed its dissatisfaction as to how the power of arrest and detention is dealt with equally by Police and Magistrates.

The following are the guidelines issued by the Court:
All the State Governments to instruct its police officers not to automatically arrest when a case under Section 498-A of the IPC is registered but to satisfy themselves about the necessity for arrest under the parameters laid down above flowing from Section 41, Cr.PC; All police officers be provided with a check list containing specified sub- clauses under Section 41(1)(b)(ii);

The police officer shall forward the check list duly filed and furnish the reasons and materials which necessitated the arrest, while forwarding/producing the accused before the Magistrate for further detention; The Magistrate while authorising detention of the accused shall peruse the report furnished by the police officer in terms aforesaid and only after recording its satisfaction, the Magistrate will authorise detention;

The decision not to arrest an accused, be forwarded to the Magistrate within two weeks from the date of the institution of the case with a copy to the Magistrate which may be extended by the Superintendent of police of the district for the reasons to be recorded in writing; Notice of appearance in terms of Section 41A of Cr.PC be served on the accused within two weeks from the date of institution of the case, which may be extended by the Superintendent of Police of the District for the reasons to be recorded in writing;

Failure to comply with the directions aforesaid shall apart from rendering the police officers concerned liable for departmental action, they shall also be liable to be punished for contempt of court to be instituted before High Court having territorial jurisdiction; Authorising detention without recording reasons as aforesaid by the judicial Magistrate concerned shall be liable for departmental action by the appropriate High Court. the directions aforesaid shall not only apply to the cases under Section 498-A of the I.P.C. or Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, the case in hand, but also such cases where offence is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may be less than seven years or which may extend to seven years; whether with or without fine.

References:
  • Arun Vyas v. Anita Vyas, (1999) 4 SCC 690.
  • Narinder Kaur V/s State(NCT of Delhi) 2007(141)DLT 761
  • https://www.livelaw.in/breaking-misuse-of-s-498a-sc-directs-to-form-family-welfare-committees-to-examine-each-cases-no-arrests-before-committees-report-read-new-guidelines/
  • Manju Ram Kalita V. State of Assam, 2009 13 SCC 330
  • https://blog.ipleaders.in/top-5-supreme-court-judgment-on-misuse-of-498a/
  • https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2018/12/03/law-for-laymen-section-498-a-ipc-and-allied-sections-cruelty-to-women/
  • https://www.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2014/40984/40984_2014_Judgement_14-Sep-2018.pdf

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