Marriage under all religion is a sacred and unbreakable bond between husband and wife for lifetime. It is believed under the Hinduism that once the husband and wife are in a bond of Marriage they cannot get separated until death and it is a purest form of love and this is the reason why India is having lowest divorce rate in the world. Marriage is very important in India and according to Hindu customs and traditions, bride’s family gift something to the groom and his family as per their wish and desire and that gift could be anything for example any movable or immovable property, jewellery, cash etc. But as time passed, the tradition of giving gifts to the groom and his family become dowry. Initially, the things that was given by the bride to the groom’s family was considered as a gift and so is given according to the affordability and capability of the bride’s family but later on it become dowry and an important condition of marriage. And it is important to note that the whole scenario of dowry death and matrimonial cruelty started from dowry. Those brides whose family gives dowry according to the groom’s family stay happy in her matrimonial home and those who can’t afford it face problems and trouble in her matrimonial home. Sometimes the women face a lot of trouble and problem there, which in turn compels them to commit suicide and in most of the cases the husband of the bride and his family beat the bride and even burn them for the demand of dowry.

Matrimonial cruelty is a burning issue in India. Matrimonial cruelty is basically cruelty in marriage. Section 304B of the IPC deals with dowry death but in some situation the husband and his family do not kill the women directly but they ill- treat and harass her, causing her physical and mental torture because of which some of the women commit suicide. the women in our society get ill-treated and get tortured in her matrimonial home, all of this thing happens because of the demand of dowry. when the cases related to dowry and matrimonial cruelty started rising at a rapid rate, our law makers decided to make this a punishable offence and to save the women at her matrimonial home. As a result of which section 498A was inserted in the IPC in the year 1983.

Matrimonial cruelty is a very sensitive issue that we are facing right now and even after strict Implementation of this section, the cases related to matrimonial cruelty is increasing day by day. According to the national crime record bureau, 103275 cases have been reported in the year 2018 out of which only 18 cases are convicted. This important section of law has been added in the IPC for the good cause and the sole purpose of this section was to protect women from the cruelty and harassment that they face at their matrimonial home but some women in today’s society are using this section as a weapon for blackmailing their husband in demand of money and property and for torturing them so that they fulfil their demand. as our society has become more modern with the literacy increasing day by day, the more radical and feminist women started using this section as A weapon rather than a shield. Each year more than 1,50,000 families are hit by this draconian law,98% are falsely accused of the same. The section 498A has the provision of direct arrest which means, the husband and his family gets arrested directly without any investigation on the first place of complaint and this offence is cognizable and non-bailable.so,some womenstarted misusing this section to harass their husband and his family to meet their unreasonable demand. The Supreme court in many cases has observed that the false cases under section 498A has been increasing in a rate that it is questioning the base of the law. There are certain cases in which the supreme court observed the false charges placed by the women against her husband and gave its judgement regarding the same. Recently, in the case of Arnesh Kumar vs. State of Bihar and ANR on (2 July,2014), Supreme Court of India gave its judgement that no direct arrest should be made under section 498A but it should be done according to the parameters of section 41 CR PC.police have to follow certain checklists as given under section 41 CR PC and the arrest will be made only if the police are satisfied that the case is true and arrest is reasonable.

The national crime record bureau releases a report regarding crime in India. The report titled “crime in India” has detailed information regarding every kind of crime registered under Indian Penal Code. The report also has the number of cases registered under the important section of IPC and their disposal by the courts.

YearTotal cases for trial during the yearCases convictedCases Acquitted or dischargedCases pending trial at the end of yearConviction Rate
201346607972583816541243815.6%
201449964264254042844387813.7%
201553443165593956847798614.2%
201656968554333924851590412.2%
201756214667773415350655315.9%
201858938949823169153919913%

As shown in above figure that the cases field under the section 498A IPC is on rise and there is roughly a rise of 9% in the number of pending cases each year. At the starting of 2013, total number of cases pending for the trial was 4.66lakh but at the beginning of year 2018 this number has rose to 5.89 lakh which means that 26.4% cases have been rose in 5 years.

As shown in the figure no. 1, the acquittance rate is more than the conviction rate in all of the year. For example – in year 2013, total cases for the trial was 4.66 lakh out of which only 7258 cases were convicted and 38165 cases were discharged and this process is being followed every year, which means the person that are actually guilty for the offence is not even the half of the person that are being discharged from the court but everyone is arrested and get investigated in the custody and get harassed by the trial process just because this section is non cognizable and non bailable. 

There are certain cases in which supreme court has observed that the section 498A is getting misused heavily by some women because of which the husbands are facing lot of trouble and problem, so as to protect husbands The Supreme court gave its judgement regarding the same and to protect this important section of law. 

Landmark judgements of supreme court regarding the abuse of section 498A

It has been generally observed that the complaint made under section 498A is because of the heat of the moment over some petty quarrels and on some general issues. Most of the complaint filed under the section 498A are not even bona fide and are filed because of cruel intentions. In many landmark cases, exemplary observations have been made on the misuse of this offence.

In the case of Arnesh Kumar Vs State of Bihar, the wife alleged that dowry was demanded from her and she was driven out from her matrimonial home on non fulfilment of the demand of dowry. The husband filed the anticipatory bail which got rejected. Then, by the special leave petition, he approached the supreme court. The supreme court observed that, the section is non cognizable and non bailable and the probability of using this section as a weapon is higher than using it as a shield by the women.So, the supreme court laid certain guidelines which the police need to follow before arresting any person under this section and ordered that the police should only arrest the person when the situation is reasonable and the charges alleged are satisfactory.

In Manju Ram Kalita Vs State of Assam, the wife made a complaint of section 498A against her husband and his relatives on the ground of physical and mental cruelty, The Supreme court in this case said that the cruelty must be done in context with the section 498A and it is determined by considering the intensity and seriousness of the act, mere normal quarrel and normal arguments is not covered under section 498A.

In Rajesh Kumar vs State Of UP, the accused and his relatives were charged with the offence of causing cruelty to the wife in demand of dowry. The other relatives in this case demanded certain guidelines to prevent the misuse of this section. Thus, a question of demanding certain guidelines to prevent the misuse of this section is raised in the appeal. The supreme court in this case laid down comprehensive direction to prevent the misuse of this section. The supreme court directed the constitution of family welfare committee in every district which looks into such matters, carriesout investigate and givesdetailed report to the magistrate. the magistrate on its own merit would decide the persons to be arrested in this section or not and then only he directs the police to arrest the husband and his relatives.

Conclusion

In a broader context, marriage is a sacred and eternal bond and it should be handled carefully with love and prosperity. Dowry death and matrimonial cruelty is a curse to our society, as many women are mistreated, humiliated and harassed because of it. No doubt, matrimonial cruelty and dowry death is unpardonable offence but after seeing such a rigorous misuse of this section, some strict policies should be made at earliest to protect the interest of male section in our society and to save our society from getting affected by it. This section should be made compoundable so that if any couple want to settle it outside, he or she will be allowed to do so. Secondly, it should be made a bailable offence and thirdly, the most important thing that it should be strictly followed is, if it has come to the notice of the court that the female has filed a false complaint then she should get punished so that the custom of filing false complaint slows down. If these measures are taken by the court then no doubt the problem of it being misused will come to an end and will bring peace, happiness and prosperity in our society.  

About the author

Abhay Yadav is a 2nd-year law student pursuing BBA LL.B from FIMT college, GGSIPU. He is currently working as a social media head at Legal Viabilities and he loves to write on different socio-legal issues.

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One thought on “PROTECTION OF WOMEN U/S 498A OF THE IPC: SHIELD OR WEAPON?”
  1. Perfectly explained. And the writing style is quite elegant. And the purpose of the article has been enough to define the evils behind indian marriages

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