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Section 498A- A Weapon Or A Shield

A Bad System Can Destroy Good People

In a country like India which is full of different cultures ,customs it is believed that marriage is the purest kind of custom. For Hindus marriage is a Sacrosanct Union. Where it is believed that the wife is Ardhangini which means better half. In India husband and wife are seen as one entity (two bodies, one soul). In the holy book Ramayana the wife is said to be the soul of the husband (1).

Concept of Marriage is the oldest form of custom. Life of an Indian Married Woman has always been tough and pitiful because of the customs present, but the laws today have got an ease in their lives by recognizing the crimes which are committed within the four walls. Although the laws protecting women have been justified keeping in mind the olden times, the status of a wife. But the world is changing and so is the behaviour, thinking pattern of women.

Society has changed according to the time that criminality amongst women have achieved a new and higher stand. The constant misuse of legal protection can cause or can act as invitation to new legal terrorism. It is not fair to pre-decide that only women face the horror of domestic violence or abuse(2).

In India or around the world there are no special laws for the male community. The Dowry Prohibition Act, Section 489A of the Indian Penal Code i.e. cruelty by husband and his family, Section-125 of Criminal Procedure i.e. maintenance of the wife. But there are no acts or sections like 498B for cruelty by the wife or 125A maintenance of husbands. And because of the absence of laws for male the cries of the victimised husbands and his family goes unheard.

These laws and acts were made to protect but women today are just misusing it to extort, harass the husband and his family. These laws have given power in the hands of the women which somewhere spoils and damages the life of the husband and his relatives and in some cases even the reason of death because it's used for all wrongful purposes like blackmail etc (3).

Section 498A of Indian Penal Code has become a new standpoint for feminists. The accelerated and substantial use has failed to fulfil the objective of gender equality and social welfare. One false complaint and the mother-in-law, sister-in-law is taken into custody and to protect one woman the lives of the other two women is jeopardised(4). On 15th May’2020, Justice Jaishree Thakur of Punjab and Haryana High Court in the case of Amarjit Kaur & ors. Versus Jaswinder Kaur & ors stated that:
it has become a common practice to use the provisions of Section 498-A IPC as a weapon rather than shield by disgruntled wives(5).

What does section 498A of Indian Penal Code say (6)?

498A. Husband or relative of the husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty:
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.

Explanation: For the purpose of this section, cruelty means:
  1. any wilful 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 health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or
  2. harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing 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.

Concept of Cruelty

Cruelty includes both physical and mental cruelty. Cruelty is the res-geste (the event) that affects the mental and physical health, social status and lifestyle of the other party. The exact meaning of cruelty is not defined but explanation (a) of 498A can have a wider outlook.

Few examples of cruelty in today’s era are:
  • Repeated demand of dowry amounts to cruelty- if there is a continuous demand of dowry and torture or any type of harassment faced by a women, can amount to cruelty(7).
  • Repeatedly taunting- from the next day of her marriage she was taunted and tortured that she was ugly. Which caused mental torture to the bride which amounts to cruelty(8).
  • Husband Neglecting- if the husband is not fulfilling his duties and responsibilities towards the wife and infant child this also amounts to cruelty(9).

Why does section 498A get misused ?(10)

There are many reasons as why this particular provision is misused, some of them are:
  • Extortion:
    quick-rich scheme to extort large amounts of money.
  • Adultery:
    this provision is used as a shield or a source of bargaining.
  • Revenge:
    when the wife doesn’t get what she wants ex- property, money, separation from the in-laws etc are the reasons which led to the feeling of revenge.
Today every husband is an evil torturer. Without any proper investigation it's declared that the husband is the bad one. Media blows the news, for TRP purposes.

The statistics published by the National Crime Records Bureau(11), Ministry of Home Affair shows that 1,97,762 people were taken into custody all over the country during the year 2012 for offence under Section 498-A of the IPC, 9.4% more than the past years.. Nearly a quarter of those arrested under this provision in 2012 were women i.e. 47,951 which depicts that mothers and sisters of the husbands were liberally included in their arrest net.

Its share is 6% out of the total persons arrested under the crimes committed under Indian Penal Code. It accounts for 4.5% of total crimes committed under different sections of penal code, more than any other crimes accepting theft and hurt. The rate of charge-sheeting in cases under Section 498A, IPC is as high as 93.6%, while the conviction rate is only 15%, which is lowest across all heads. As many as 3,72,706 cases are pending trial of which on current estimate, nearly 3,17,000 are likely to result in acquittal.

Some Facts from NCRB 2016 data of crime: (12)

Total no. of 498a cases registered in India (2016) – 1,10,378. These are 32.6% of total cases registered under crime against women category.

Out of 1,10,378 498a cases, 12,218 cases were registered in major cities. Delhi being top with 3,645.

Again in cities, 498a contributed a major portion of crime against women i.e. 29.2%.

498a cases have gone since Arnesh Kumar judgement (2014) since 2014. From 1,22,877 in 2014 to 1,10,378 in 2016.

In 2016, 6745 cases under IPC 498a were considered false as per the final report. 2958 cases were considered as a mistake of fact. 8308 were considered as true but insufficient Evidence.

91810 chargesheets were submitted in the court of 498a cases. Chargesheeting Rate 83.3%.

Cases pending during the trial at the end of 2016, 5,15,904. Remember in 2015 it was around 4,77,000. More and more cases piling up with 90.6% pending rate!

Total no. of arrests were 1,98,851 under IPC 498a. Whereas people chargesheeted were 1,68,053 (Lesser than the ppl arrested). Even if we consider all charge sheets to be true, still more than 30,000 innocent people were arrested.

38817 females arrested in 2016 under 498a. Again less females being charged sheeted 31,734. The so called Law made for women going against women!

In cities, only 259 cases were convicted. Whereas 2464 cases acquitted. Conviction rate 9.5% lesser then of national average (12.2%).

169 children below the age of 18yrs were arrested under IPC 498a in 2016! Do they even know the meaning of dowry???

5371 senior citizens aged more than 60yrs were arrested under IPC 498a in 2016. Most of them can‘t even walk and forget about beating!

It can be seen very clearly that Section 498A is being abused on a huge scale and there is human rights violations occurring because of this particular Section.

Suggestions And Conclusion
Every time when we talk about equality does not mean it's about women. There are men who are suffering and tortured in the same equal manner as a woman is. Why is it that we laugh when we hear a man is being tortured by his wife. We talk as if a man doesn’t feel the pain. Instead of laughing try helping. This matter in our Indian society especially needs immediate attention. Because a woman just has to file a case and it takes years and years of the victim. And the only option he is left with is to hang himself to death and leave behind a suicide not to prove that he was innocent.

There should be strong actions taken against officers who take or file such false complaints. Cases under 498A should be continued as bailable offences that the innocents don’t suffer. The court should start imposing fine and penalties on those who file or report false complaints.

After doing an entire research on the topic- 498A of IPC was made to protect the women from husband and his relatives but now it’s being used the other way round. Hence, there should be some actions taken immediately before turns into a new form of Terrorism.

Written By: Palak Sinha

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