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Section 498A : Instrument for Justice or Blackmail?

- Khushi Dhanesha


ABSTRACT While it is important to maintain the integrity of a marriage as a holy institution, violence against women has long been recognised as one of the most common kinds of human rights abuse. As a result, under Act 46 of 1983, Section 498A was added to the Indian Penal Code (“IPC”), 1860, for the protection of women. However, it has been noted in recent years that women abuse Section 498A of the IPC for their individual gain. This section has obstructed in the current situation for men, as they are discriminated against. This blog aims to examine the concept of female cruelty and to demonstrate that Section 498A of the IPC, is being grossly misused. INTRODUCTION Although marriage is one of society's most sacred social institutions it has seen significant modifications in recent decades. Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 defines the term "dowry." Dowry was one of the prevailing customs in Indian society that was once seen as a gift. However, it took on a monstrous form and became a scourge for society, and women were particularly vulnerable to the darkest aspects of it. It gradually becomes a source of harassment and brutality towards women. Section 498A was enacted in response to the urgent need to end all forms of cruelty directed at married women, which was and still is, a major issue in the country. One important reality is that the desire for dowry, as well as the dowry system as an institution, is at the heart of this offence. This section was created to safeguard women from their husband’s and family members' atrocities. The part was added to ensure that women were not subjected to ill-treatment or torture. However, in the current situation, the law has turned into social abuse. Instead of being utilised for justice, this section is currently being exploited by women for blackmail, to threaten and harass men for personal accomplishment and profit. As a result, Section 498A is being utilised as a weapon by women who merely exploit the provisions of this section for their individual gain.


SECTION 498A OF THE IPC 498A1 – “Husband or relative of 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.” As previously noted, in 1983, a new chapter XXA, entitled "Of Cruelty by Husband or Relatives of Husband2" was created by the IPC to combat cruelty to women by husbands and in- laws, which was endemic on an unprecedented scale in the country. A corollary modification to the Evidence Act was also made, moving the burden of proof of innocence from the prosecution to the accused in the case of abetment of suicide by a married woman and the death of a wife within seven years of marriage3. The purpose of adding this chapter is to penalise a husband and his family who abuse and harass their wives or daughter in law to force her or anybody associated with her to comply with any unlawful requests or persuade her to commit suicide. Consequently, to make the crime more deterrent, Section 498A imposes a three-year term as well as a fine on the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman who subjects her to cruelty4.

GROSS MISUSE OF THE SECTION A basic analysis of Section 498A indicates that an arrangement that was originally enacted to protect women from torture and harassment by their spouses or relatives has been extremely misused to cause problems for the husband and his family. In one of the cases5, the court clearly stated that the rules were being abused and exploited to the point that they were being used to attack the foundation of marriage itself, which ultimately proved to be a bad indicator for the health of society and the general public. In another case6, the Supreme Court stated that if the clause is misused, a new form of legal terrorism can be unleashed. The provision is meant to be utilised as a tool for justice, and not as a weapon for assassination. In the Malimath Committee report7 on criminal justice reforms from 2003, it was said that there is a "general complaint" that Sec 498A of the IPC is vulnerable to egregious misuse, and further, The same report recommended that the provision be amended.


According to the figures published by National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs8, 1,97,762 people were arrested in India in 2012 for violating Section 498-A of the IPC. In 2012, nearly a quarter of individuals detained under this clause were women, implying that the husbands' mothers and sisters were freely included in their arrest net. It accounts for 6% of the total number of people detained for offences under the IPC. The charge-sheeting rate in instances under Section 498A of the IPC is as high as 93.6 percent, while the conviction rate is only 15%, the lowest of all heads. There are 3,72,706 cases awaiting trial, with approximately 3,17,000 expected to result in acquittal, according to current estimates.


Thus, Section 498A IPC, 1860 is sometimes referred to as a gender-biased law because the arrangement only protects women in the fight against their spouse and his relatives. This is why the part has been labelled as "legitimate fear-based oppression" because it is prejudiced against men and can quickly devolve into a heinous scheme if it falls into the wrong hands.


CONCLUSION


This section only assists to women, and it has recently become a contentious subject. If this issue is not handled through legislation, it will become a terrifying evil for civilization. This law will be another weapon in the hands of unscrupulous women who would exploit it for their own ends. Everyone who is dependent on the man is bound to suffer when he is thrown out of his own home based on genuine or false claims of domestic abuse or cruelty. Even if an accused father is indeed abusive, it is wrong to punish an entire family. Unfair is a nuanced phrase to describe a circumstance in which the law is used to torture an innocent man and his family. Though Section 498-A of the IPC, 1860 was enacted to safeguard women from the brutality of their husbands and family, It is increasingly being misused.



Khushi Dhanesha is a third year student at Pravin Gandhi College of Law, Mumbai.


(khushidhanesha9@gmail.com)


  1. The Indian Penal Code, 1860, Act No. 45, Acts of Parliament (India).

  2. This Chapter has been inserted by the CriminalLaw (Second AmendmentAct, 1983), Act 46 of 1983. (India).

  3. Indian EvidenceAct, 1872, Act No. 1, Acts of Parliament, § 113A and 113B (India).

  4. L.V. Jadhav v. Shankarrao Abasaheb Pawar, AIR 1983 SC 1219 (India).

  5. Savitri Devi vs Ramesh Chand And Ors., 2003 CriLJ 2759 (India).

  6. Sushil Kumar Sharma v. UOI, 2005 (6) SCC 266 (India).

  7. Malimath Committeereport, 2003.

  8. National Crime Records Bureau,Ministry of Home Affairs, 2012.

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