This article is written by K.Lasya Charitha pursuing BALLB in Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Visakhapatnam. In this article, the researcher discusses the meaning, constitutional validity and misuse of Section 498A of IPC.
The issue of reforming women’s rights and family law has increasingly aroused controversy over politics and the rights of minorities. Indeed, persuasive or effective religious freedom cannot overlook the needs and sufferings of all minority and majority women. Due to the social customs and traditions that existed at the time, the lives of ordinary women in India have always been difficult and unfortunate.
Meaning of Section 498 and 498A of IPC
Section 498A is mentioned in chapter XXA of the Indian Penal Code which deals with cruelty by husband or relatives of the husband.
Section 498A: “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.
Explanation – For the purpose of this section, cruelty means—
- 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
- 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.”[i]
Article 498A of the IPC is an important supplement to India’s 1860 Criminal Law, which was promulgated in 1983 to protect women’s rights and empower women. According to Article 498A of the Indian Penal Code, extortion of any form of property by subjecting a woman to cruelty is punishable. On December 26, 1983, the Indian government passed the Criminal Law (Second Amendment) to amend the Indian Penal Code (IPC) of 1860 and added Chapter XX-A, Of Cruelty by husband or relatives of husband which includes Section 498(A).
This part is passed to resolve the threat of death from the dowry. This was implemented in the Criminal Law through the Criminal Law Reform Act of 1983 (Act No. 46 of 1983). According to the same law, Article 113-A has been added to the Indian Evidence Act to increase the presumption of abetment of suicide by married women.[ii] The main purpose of Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code is to protect women who are harassed by their husbands or husband’s family members.
Constitutional Validity of Section 498A of IPC
In the case of Inder Raj Malik and others vs. Ms. Sumita Malik[iii], it was argued that this section is ultra vires Article 14 and Article 20 (2) of the Constitution. The Dowry Prohibition Act also applies to similar cases. Therefore, these two laws together constitute what is commonly referred to as double jeopardy. However, the Delhi High Court rejected this argument and ruled that the article will not create double jeopardy. Section 498-A is different from Section 4 of the Prohibition of Dowry Act because, in the latter, the simple request for the transfer of dowry is punishable and does not require cruel elements, while Section 498-A involves serious crimes and punishes the demand for the safety of valuable property or the woman or her relatives involved in the cruel treatment of her. Therefore, a person can be made liable for both the offenses punishable under section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act and section 498A.
This section gives the court extensive discretion in interpreting the words used in the law and imposing fines. This provision is not ultra vires. It doesn’t confer arbitrary powers on courts.
Justice Malimath Committee on Criminal Justice System Reforms, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, pointed out in 2003 and recommended that the law be amended. The code can be suitably modified to make the offense under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, bailable and compoundable. These are just some observations of the nobles, which proves this point indisputably:
Women (not necessarily all women) can be more violent than men (not necessarily all men). Section 498A of the IPC aims to protect people’s lives and put approximately a dozen innocent people’s lives at risk. As a result, the provision is discriminatory and violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. Instead of restoring the balance, the disposal has exacerbated the imbalance. Therefore, there is a failure of guarantee of Article 21 of the Constitution of India that is right to life. Due to the reasons given above, this position is not only unbalanced but also ultra vires.
The Malimath Committee proposed changes to this section in 2003, although such changes were opposed by women’s groups and radical feminists. The Social Research Center of India issued a survey report that refuted the changes to Section 498A in which in the studied cases there were no convictions based only on section 498A.
On July 20, 2005, Arijit Pasayat and H. Sima, Judges of the Supreme Court of India, declared that Section 498A was constitutional. The purpose is to attack the source of dowry menace. It’s a shield, not an assassin’s weapon, it is intended to be used only as a shield.
Non-compliance with the law is the principled position it occupies, which is indispensable for the spirit of enacting the law i.e., Violence is not negotiable and unacceptable under any circumstances. In this regard, any amendment to Article 498A will abolish the constitutional provisions of Article 14 and Article 15(3) this will be the reason why the country has failed to achieve its ambitious gender equality goals. The court also confirmed the effects of special measures in-laws and enforcement orders that benefit women (e.g. in Laxman Ram Mane vs the State of Maharashtra[iv], Nripen Roy and others vs State of West Bengal[v], Satya Narayan Tiwari @ Jolly & Anr. vs State Of U.P[vi], Inder Raj Malik And Ors vs Sunita Malik[vii], Gurbachan Singh vs Satpal Singh & Ors[viii]). It can be supplemented in accordance with the 2010 bill amending the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). Currently, the police have restrictions on arrests. Arrests can only be made after a proper investigation of the alleged matter.
Misuse of Section 498A and its Recovery
With the continuous rise of modernization, education, financial security, and new independence, radical feminists have made 498A a weapon in her hands. Many unhappy husbands and relatives became victims of these kinds of women. 498A proved to be wrong (recognized by the High Court and Supreme Court of India repeatedly) because it was merely an attempt to blackmail the in-laws by the wife (or her close relatives) when forced with a strained marriage. In most of the cases of section 498A, a large amount of money (extortion) was demanded to resolve the case out of court.
If his wife made false accusations against these men and he proved his innocence in accordance with the law, the abuse of 498A could be combated. The Indian government and judiciary continue to protect women, and the law does not ignore men. Justice continues to triumph over injustice. Individuals whose reputations have been damaged by false accusations seek compensation and protection from IPC Article 498A. They are:
- Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code allows husbands to file defamation suits.[ix]
- According to Section 9 of the CPC, the husband can claim compensation for the losses suffered by him and his family based on false accusations of cruelty and abuse.[x]
- Section 182 of the IPC is one of the safeguards against a wide range of false 498A cases. If the agency believes that the average value described is invalid, under Section 182 of the Indian Penal Code the culprit will be sentenced to 6 months imprisonment or both. The judicial system charges the person for misleadingly providing false information.[xi]
The misuse in Section 498A is not a rumor. It has now been proved that the woman made a false accusation under the provisions of IPC Section 498A. Men have no laws to protect themselves from abuse by women. IPC Section 498A has been misused in all district court cases. Unlike the men in society, women use this section as a weapon to obtain money from their husbands. Article 498A of the IPC is misused by women in respect of husbands and in-laws. This is a very controversial topic these days. If the legislation does not solve this problem, it will become a social nightmare and undermine people’s trust in the judicial system. Therefore, it is time to amend this section and bring some changes.
[i] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 498A.
[ii] Indian Evidence Act 1872, s 113A.
[iii] Inder Raj Malik and others v Ms. Sumita Malik, 1986 Cri L.J 1510(Del.).
[iv] Laxman Ram Mane vs State of Maharashtra, 2010 Indlaw SC 217.
[v] Nripen Roy and others vs State of West Bengal, 2010 Indlaw CAL 763.
[vi]Satya Narayan Tiwari @ Jolly & Anr. vs State Of U.P, NO(s). 1168 OF 2005  (Supreme Court).
[vii] Inder (n 3).
[viii] Gurbachan Singh vs Satpal Singh & Ors, 1990 AIR 209.
[ix] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 500.
[x] Civil Procedure Code 1908, s 9.
[xi] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 182.
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