"She is both.
Hellfire and holy water,
And the flavor you taste
Depends on how you treat her"
During the 1980s, dowry deaths were steadily rising in India. Women are
ill-treated, harassed, killed, divorced for the simple reason that they didn’t
brought dowry. For safeguarding the interest of woman against the cruelty they
face behind the four walls of their matrimonial home, the Indian Penal Code,1860
(herein after referred to as I.P.C.) was amended in 1983 and inserted S.498A
which deals with ‘Matrimonial Cruelty’ to a woman. The main objective of section
498-A of I.P.C is to protect a woman who is being harassed by her husband or
relatives of husband.
Section 498A of IPC
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—
a) any willful 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
b) 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.
Characteristics of 498-a, Indian Penal Code, IPC-498a is
· Cognizable – The accused can be arrested and jailed without warrant or
· Non-Compoundable – The complaint cannot be withdrawn by the petitioner
(chances of living together again are lost)
· Non-Bailable – The accused must appear in the court to request bail
In the present scenario, the abuse of this section is rapidly increasing and the
women often well- educated know that this section is both cognizable and non-bailable
and impromptu works on the complaint of the woman and placing the man behind
bars. Misuse of dowry laws is not a recent phenomenon and the judiciary of India
is totally responsible for the growing misuse of dowry law and the result is
abuse of innocent men in the process. In many cases, men have even committed
suicide, when their wives have harassed them to approach police or court, to
send them behind jail, for no reason.
Hon’ble Supreme Court and various High Courts have time & again showed concern
over this growing menace by observing that “By misuse of the provision (IPC 498a
- Dowry and Cruelty Law) a new legal terrorism can be unleashed. The provision
is intended to be used a shield and not an assassin’s weapon… says the Hon’ble
Supreme Court. Merely because the provision is declared constitutional, it does
not give licence to unscrupulous persons to wreak personal vendetta or unleash
Directives issued by the Supreme Court of India
In a landmark move, the Supreme Court of India has issued a set of directives
related to the application of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), with
a view to prevent the misuse of this provision in cases filed under it. The
order was delivered as part of a judgment in one such case from Uttar Pradesh.
No coercive action would be taken against the accused, or arrests would be made,
till the veracity of the allegations made by the victim are confirmed. These
exceptions would apply to only such cases where there's no visible sign of
injury suffered by the complainant. The court has defined specific guidelines
for the police and other law-enforcing authorities to follow while dealing with
cases filed under IPC 498A.
The SC's latest directives are not only meant to curb such flippant misuse of
the law but also to prevent, as the bench says emphatically, the "violation of
human rights". It should also be noted that the judges admit to being "conscious
of the reason" behind this law's existence, even as they acknowledge the flaws
inherent in it.
Among a slew of orders issued by it, the bench has asked for one or more family
welfare committees to be set up in each district in every state. From paralegal
volunteers to social workers to retired citizens to the wives of government
officials, almost anyone can apply to be part of such panels. Whoever is
selected to it will be given training for at least a week, sometimes
periodically, before they can commence their work.
Such committees will have one month to file their reports and based on their
findings suitable actions may be taken, including arrests. However, if "a bail
application is filed with at least one clear day's notice to the public
prosecutor/complainant, the same may be decided as far as possible on the same
Excess of power leads to its misuse same is happening in case of
Sec.498A. Though Section 498-A of IPC was brought in forth for the protection of
women from the cruelty of her husband and his relatives, it is being abused by
some thoughtless women’s. I fear that some of these orders may weaken the
grounds for genuine victims, who may be suffering from mental torture not
involving physical assault. The gap of one month, for instance, between filing a
complaint and the committee submitting its report is long enough for a major
turnaround in a legitimate case of emotional assault. The extent that a harassed
woman would now have to go through, just to register a case is beyond