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Arnesh Kumar V State Of Bihar (2014) 8 Scc 273: Landmark Ruling On Misuse Of Section 498-A Of The Indian Penal Code

Parliament of India has passed various enactments in order to protect the rights of women and to eliminate cruelty against women in all forms. Some of the significant legislation are Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act 1986, The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act 1987, Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, The National Commission for Women Act 1990, Immoral Traffic Prevention Act 1956, Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 and Criminal Amendment Act 2013 and 2018.

Case Name: Arnesh Kumar V State Of Bihar (2014) 8 Scc 273 - Court Name: In The Supreme Court Of India At Delhi - Judges: Justice Chandramauli Kr. Prasad And Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose - Petitioner Name- Arnesh Kumar - Respondent Name- State Of Bihar - Date Of Judgement: 2nd July 2014

Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code was added by Criminal Law 2nd Amendment Act which states, Husband or relatives of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty- Whoever being the husband or relative of husband of a woman, subject such women to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

The essential ingredient which can be deduced from Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code are:
  1. Woman must be married
  2. Woman is subjected to cruelty or harassment
  3. Such cruelty and harassment must have been inflicted either by Husband or relatives of husband.
Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code has been brought into existence for defending women right and protect woman from cruelty. But in the recent times Section 498-A has been subjected to the episode of misuse of power on the part of woman and there is a need to check the tendency of women to rope in all family members related to the crime of demanding dowry.

Facts Of The Case
The marriage between the Petitioner hereinafter referred as (Arnesh Kumar) and Respondent No.2 hereinafter referred as (Sweta Kiran) was solemnised on dated 1st July 2007. Arnesh Kumar was arrested under the provision of Section 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 after his wife Sweta Kiran affirmed that the petitioner has requested/ demanded dowry from her.

The said Respondent i.e. Sweta Kiran alleged before the court and levelled allegations that petitioner family has made a demand of Rupees 8 Lakhs, a maruti Car, an Air-conditioner, television Set etc. When Sweta Kiran brought the fact in the petitioner notice he supported his family member and threatened to marry another woman if the demand was not fulfilled.

Denying all the allegations made by the respondent, Petitioner applied for the anticipatory bail which was earlier rejected by Court of Session and thereafter by the High Court. Aggrieved from the order rejecting the anticipatory bail, Petitioner by way of Special Leave Petition appealed to the Supreme Court.

The only issue that was involved in this particular case was the grant of anticipatory bail. The Anticipatory bail was not granted by the High Court. The case further deals with two of the most important issues i.e.
  1. Right of accused person before and after arrest
  2. What are the remedies that is left to a person when there is a misuse of Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code by women.

The Supreme Court by way of its judgement has granted provision bail to the petitioner on certain grounds. In this landmark judgment the Court not only granted bail, but also discussed and touched upon those aspects which were not dealt earlier i.e. misuse of Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code. The court ended up with its judgment by giving 8 golden principles/ directions for arresting person under Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code.

While making the analysis of this judgement I have divided the context into two parts i.e. the observation context of the judgement where Supreme Court has given observation with regard to misuse of Section 498-A and Arrest of person under those section. While the mandatory direction part deals with the directions issued by the Supreme Court with regard to arrest under the Section of 498-A of the Indian Penal Code.

Observation Context
The Supreme Court while dealing with the issue of grant of anticipatory bail with regard to an offence under section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code first of all highlighted the misuse of Section 498-A and observed that:

6. Section 498-A was introduced with a prime object to combat the harassment and cruelty of woman at the hands of her husband and his relatives. The offence under Section 498-A is Cognizable and Non-Bailable which has made it a dubious place of pride amongst the provisions that are used as weapons rather than a shield by disgruntled wives. The simplest way to harass is to get the husband and his relatives arrested under this provision. In a quite number of cases bed ridden grand-fathers and grand-mothers of the husband, their sister living abroad for decades are arrested.

The Supreme Court also referred to the Crime in India Statistics published by National Crime Records Bureau by Ministry of Home Affairs. The data shows that 1, 97,762 persons were arrested in the year 2012 for the offence under Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code and out of which 47,951 were women which depicts the mother and sister of the husband that are caught in the net of this offence. The rate of filing charge sheet for the offence under section 498-A is 93.6% while the conviction rate is only 15% which may likely states that in pending trial maximum cases would end up in acquittal.  

The Supreme Court thereafter made observation with regard to arrest. Supreme Court observed that:

7. Arrest brings humiliation, curtails freedom and cast scars forever. Law makers know it so also the police. There is a battle between the law makers and the police and it seems that police has not learnt its lesson; the lesson implicit and embodied in the code of criminal procedure. It has not come out of its colonial image despite six decades of independence; it is largely considered as a tool of harassment, oppression and surely not considered a friend of public.

The need for caution in exercising drastic power of arrest has been emphasized time and again by the courts but has not yielded the desired result. Power of arrest greatly contributes to its arrogance so also the failure of the Magistracy to check it. Not only this, the power of arrest is one of the lucrative sources of police corruption. The attitude to arrest first and then proceed with the rest is despicable. It has become a handy tool to the police officer who lack sensitivity or act with oblique motive. 

Mandatory Directions
The Supreme Court of India under Para 13 of the judgement in order to ensure that police officer do not arrest the accused unnecessarily and magistrate do not authorize detention, the Court giving the following directions:
  1. All the State Government should instruct its police officers not to automatically arrest a person when an offence under section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code is registered. The necessity of arrest arises when the case falls under the parameter of section 41 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
  2. All police officers be provided with the check list containing specified clauses under Section 41 (1) (b) (ii).
  3. The police officer shall forward the check list duly filed and furnished with the reason and material necessitated the arrest while producing accused before the magistrate for further detention.
  4. The magistrate while authorizing the order of further detention shall rely upon the report furnished by the police officer and only after recording the reason duly furnished on Police report and on the satisfaction, the Magistrate will authorize further detention.
  5. The decision not to arrest an accused be forwarded to Magistrate within two weeks from the date of institution of the case with a copy of Magistrate which may extended by the Superintendent of police of the district for the reason to be recorded in writing.
  6. Notice of Appearance in terms of Section 41-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure be served upon the accused within two weeks from the date of institution of case which may be extended by the Superintendent of Police after recording the reason in writing.
  7. Failure to comply with the directions mentioned above shall rendered the police officer liable to be punished for contempt of court before High Court having jurisdiction.
  8. Authorizing detention by the Judicial Magistrate without recording the reason, the concerned Judicial Magistrate shall be liable for Departmental Proceedings by the High Court.
From the judgement of the Supreme Court the things which are crystal clear is that there are number of legislation that has been enacted for the protection and welfare of women. Apart from that, the scenario has come where these legislation enacted for women are being misused and section 498-A is amongst of those section which has reported the maximum misuse. Arrest of husband and relatives of husband under section 498-A without any reasonable cause brings humiliations, curtails freedom and cast scars forever. Thus I would like recommend the following:
  1. A commission must be established by the government to look into those provisions which has been enacted for women and which is now being misused.
  2. The government should enact penal laws for its violators where the law enacted is being misused so as to deter the person to prevent its misuse.

The landmark judgement of the Supreme Court headed by the bench of Justice Chandramauli Kr. Prasad and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose has beautifully carved out the issue of misuse of Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code where the court not only granted bail but also give directions to the state government and police officers how to dealt with arrest when a complaint or FIR is registered under Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code.

Thus the core issue of criminal jurisprudence and enforcement agencies power of arrest has been discussed by the Supreme Court in the light of Section 41 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The directions issued by the Supreme Court in the ruling reprieve the casual approach of the authorities in making arrest which earlier was based upon the mere allegations or insignificant claims of commission of offence.

  1. Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

    Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Pranav Kumar Kaushal
    Awarded certificate of Excellence
    Authentication No: JL119828479105-17-0721

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