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Misinterpretation about Section 498A of IPC

The section 498A of IPC was included in the Indian Penal Code to provide remedy to women, who often becomes victim of cruelty, dowry demand and other harassment. No matter whether the cruelty implemented was physical or mental, the husband or even the relatives of the husband will be punished. The punishment for cruelty under this section is imprisonment may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

A huge challenge faced by the validity of this section is that it is often used by women to falsely accuse men or to blackmail them. It may be because of the provisions of the section which states that:
  1. 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.
  2. Harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to meet any person related, 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.

Which is backed up by section 113A of Indian Evidence Act, 1872. The provisions of the section are:

�When the question is whether the commission of suicide by a woman had been abetted by her husband or any relative of her husband and it is shown that she had committed suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage and that her husband or such relative of her husband had subjected her to cruelty, the court may presume, having regard to all the other circumstances of the case, that such suicide had been abetted by her husband or by such relative of her husband.

For the purposes of this section, �cruelty� shall have the same meaning as in section 498A of the Indian Penal Code�.
But the section is often misinterpreted and believed that the husband or the relatives of the husband are automatically liable under section 498A of IPC. Not Withstanding whether he is actually the culprit or not.

Whereas in many cases the Hon�ble Court has stated that to make husband liable under section 498A certain ingredients are necessary to be proved,
Inder Raj Malik vs. Sunita Malik[1], This case defines the word �cruelty� and gives the kinds of cruelty under section 498A, IPC,
  • Cruelty by vexatious litigation
  • Cruelty by deprivation and wasteful habits
  • Cruelty by extra-marital relations
  • Cruelty by persistent demand
  • Harassment for non-dowry demand
  • Cruelty by non-acceptance of baby girl
  • Cruelty by false attack on chastity
  • Taking away children
Thus, the husband can be punished under section 498A, if he is liable for any of the above mentioned cruelty or harassment.

Manju Ram Kalita vs. State of Assam[2], The court held that �Cruelty� for the purpose of section 498A IPC is to be established in the context of section 498A, IPC. It should be determined by considering the conduct of the man, weighing the gravity of seriousness of his acts and to find out as to whether it is likely to drive a woman to commit suicide. It is to be established that the woman has been subjected to cruelty continuously or at least in close proximity of time of lodging the complaint.

The court further held that petty quarrels cannot be turned as �Cruelty� to attract the provisions of section 498A of IPC.

Ved Prakash vs. State of M.P.[3], The court stated that the presumption of suicide by a married woman is rebuttable. If the accused is able to prove that the woman has committed suicide by other reason or she was not harassed in her matrimonial house by her-in-laws in the name of demanding dowry. The presumption can be rebutted.

For this section to be valid �cruelty� must have the same meaning as given in section 498A of IPC. As stated by the council of defendant that the deceased was never subject to any cruelty by the defendant. Therefore, the defendant cannot be held accountable under section 113A of IEA.

The section 498A of IPC is made for the protection of the woman from various social norms of the society and is solely to safeguard their rights from the traditional evil like dowry and other social evils.

But, certain people takes undue advantage of the right provided to them. Despite this fact the victim of these undue advantage, does not have to feel trapped because of the presence of this section because while protecting the rights of women the law framers has taken in consideration that no citizen should be harmed or coerced because of the presence of any law made by them.

  1. 1986(2) Crimes 435, 1986(92) CRLJ 1510, 1986 RLR 220
  2. (2009)13 SCC 330
  3. 1995 CriLJ 893
Written By: Paridhi Butola

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