Author :- Sonu Kumar of ICFAI university Dehradun
Most of the people are not aware of the law 498A or matter related to 498A of the Indian penal code.498A is an Indian law made to protect women from cruelty. In the year of 1987, our legislative assembly has introduced a law i.e. sec 498A for the protection of married women from being subjected to cruelty. It claims to protect women from dowry-related harassment and cruelty but nowadays it becomes an easy tool for women to misuse it and files false cases against her husband and his relatives. It is one amongst the most controversial section of the IPC.
What is section 498-A:
Section 498A of IPC deals with the violence made against the married women by her husband or by in-laws or any other relatives of the husband. This section provides punishment to 3 years and a fine in contravention to this section.
This section gives a new definition of cruelty as:
Cruelty can be defined as –
- In the case of Shobha Rani v. Medhukar Reddy, it was given that if the act done is of such a nature that the woman is enamoured to commit suicide or cause an injury to herself, which may prove fatal. It was held in the case that proof is needed to prove cruelty.
- If the act was done is to harass women or any other person related to her to meet unlawful demands.
The need for section 498-A:
Section 498A protects women from being subjected to cruelty by her husband or their relatives. This provision used to safeguard women from facing cruelty or harassment. 9 out of 10 of the cases are always related to dowry, wherein the woman is continuously threatened for want of more money and property which if remains unfulfilled, the spouse is tortured, threatened, abused- each physically and verbally and pestered. The main objective of this section is to protect married women from dowry-related harassment and cruelty which led to dowry death.
The constitutional validity of this section:
In the case of Inder Raj Malik v. Mrs.Sumita Malik, it was disputed that this provision is ultra-vires article 14 and article 20(2) of the Constitution. The dowry prohibition Act also deals with a similar type of cases, therefore, both the statutes constitutes a situation called as double jeopardy. But Delhi High Court rejected this contention and held that this section does not violate the aforesaid articles and does not create any situation for double jeopardy. Section 498A and section 4 of the dowry prohibition Act differ from each other because in the latter mere demand for dowry is punishable and there is no existence of the element of cruelty is necessary whereas section 498A deals with the aggravated form of the offense. It gives the punishment of such an act for the demand of property or money or any valuable securities from the wife or her relatives as are coupled with cruelty to her. Hence a person can be prosecuted in both the offenses punishable under section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act and also under this section.
The section provides a wide discretion to the court to interpret the words occurring in the laws and in a matter of awarding punishment. Therefore this provision is not ultra vires.
Misuse of section 498-A:
In the last two decades, it was observed that laws made against the matter related to violence against women in India have been that women misuse these laws. Many situations or examples have come in the light where the complaints are not bonafide and have come with a melafide motive. The legislative intent behind this section is to be used as a shield and not as an assassin’s weapon. However, a mere possibility ofabuse of legal provision does not invalidate this section. Thus this section is constitutional(Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India)
Supreme Court judgments and directions:
Rajesh Sharma v. the State of U.P.,in this case, the Supreme court has given direction to prevent misuse of section 498A of IPC which were further revised in the case of Social Action Forum for Manav Adhikar v. Union of India, the directions includes:
- The complaints under this section and other connected offences may be investigated only by the designated investigating officer of the area.
- If the settlement is reached between the parties, they may approach to High Court under section 482 of CrPC seeking quashing of proceedings and any other order.
- In case of a person ordinarily residing out of India impounding of passport or issuance of Red Corner Notice should not be a routine.
- These directions will not apply in case of tangible physical injuries or death.