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Misuse Of Section 489-A Of The Indian Penal, Code By Disgruntled Women

The cruelty against women is not a new issue, this social evil has been in our society over the years.

Cruelty itself means behaving like a n animal with someone, beating and harassing someone. Cruelty against women is commonly seen in Indian society. Every single minute a woman, girl becomes the victim of cruelty against her either by her own family or by a closely known person. Some stereotypes men even take pleasure in beating, harassing women as they think it's the symbol of Machismo.

So in order to put an end to this the law of our country had made section489-A in the Indian penal code that particularly dealt with cruelty against women. This section is truly a blessing for the women who are actually dealing with the cruelty . But in the light of recent scenarios the section489-A of Indian penal code has been used by some disgruntled women just to harass their husband or their relatives to make money out of it.

The section489-A of Indian penal code that is made to provide justice and security to women, to save them from cruelty is being used as a weapon to harass husbands and other family members. In this research paper the misuse of this law is elaborated upon and a critical analysis is being done.

Judicial interpretations have been discussed to give a clarity about this law and its misuse. This law needs to be amended in a way that these loopholes are being taken care of. in order to make Sec 498A more effective, we must implement a new policing approach, such as the victim empowerment model.

Introduction:
Section 489-A of the Indian penal code was enacted in 1983 to save women against the cruelty done by her husband or other relatives . The offence of matrimonial cruelty is defined under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code

(IPC), which was added to the IPC by an amendment in 1983. Section 498A of the IPC is a punitive provision that works in conjunction with other articles in the Code of Civil Procedure to have a deterrent effect. The offence is non-bailable (you must appear in court and obtain bail from the judge), non-compoundable (the complaint cannot be withdrawn), and cognizable (arrests without investigation or warrants) on a complaint submitted to the police officer by the victim or designated relatives. Indian Penal Code 498A, passed by the Indian Parliament in 1983, is a criminal law and not a civil law which is defined as follows:
"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. The offence is Cognizable, non-compoundable and non-bailable.

The section provides an explanation that elaborates the meaning of cruelty as follows:
  1. Any willful conduct which is of a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to her life, limb, or health (whether physical or mental) of the woman; or
  2. 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.

498A can only be used by the wife/daughter-in-law or a relative of the wife/daughter-in-law. The majority of cases in which Sec 498A is invoked turn out to be fake, since they are merely blackmail attempts by the wife (or her close relatives) in the face of a difficult marriage. In the majority of situations, a 498A complaint is followed by a demand for a large sum of money (extortion) in order to settle the issue outside of court.

Essential Elements Of This Section;

For the commission of an offence under Section 498-A, following necessary ingredients require to be satisfied:
  1. The woman must be married;
  2. She must be subjected to cruelty or harassment; and
  3. Such cruelty or harassment must have been shown either by the husband of the woman or by the relative of her husband.

This section's bare perusal points out that the word 'cruelty' covers the occurrence of the following act:
  • any willful behavior which might lead a woman to suicide or cause serious damage or
  • danger to life, limb, or life;
  • a woman's health (mental or physical);
The harassment of a woman in the event of such harassment, with a view to obliging her or any other person related to her to fulfil an illegal requirement for any property or valuable things..

Kinds of cruelty covered under this section includes following:
  1. Cruelty by vexatious litigation
  2. Cruelty by deprivation and wasteful habits
  3. Cruelty by persistent demand
  4. Cruelty by extra-marital relations
  5. Harassment for non-dowry demand
  6. Cruelty by non-acceptance of baby girl
  7. Cruelty by false attacks on chastity
  8. Taking away children

Misuse of the section489-A by disgruntled women to harass their husband:
Misuse of Section 498A is no longer a myth. In India's last 20 years of criminal law reform, a recurrent argument levelled against laws dealing to violence against women has been that women exploit such laws. In various precedents, married woman have filed a falsified accusation using Section 498A of the IPC and formed her husband as a result of the regulation.

Well-educated women realize that it is both cognizable and non-bailable, meaning that it can be triggered by a woman's simple accusation, placing the male behind bars. Such "misuse" claims were fiercely pushed by the police, civil institutions, politicians, and even High Court and Supreme Court judges. But at the same time, there are no regulations in place to safeguard men from the exploitation of women. Furthermore, section 498A of the IPC was misapplied in each and every district court case.

The section has been misused by some women to harass their husbands or in-laws. The court has seen a tremendous increase in such cases and around 90 percent of the cases were found to be false where the plaintiff just wanted to harass or to make money out of it.. The lawmakers drafted and put Section 498A into the legal structure with the goal of safeguarding women from cruelty, harassment, and other offences.

However, when cross-investigations were conducted to test the validity of these laws, the number of acquittals was higher than the number of convictions. As a result, the Supreme Court, which enacted 498A with the intention of protecting women from cruelty, now views it as legal terrorism. Because overuse of Section 498A weakens its genuine credibility. That is one of numerous reasons why It is said to be an anti-male statute. Although there have been numerous complaints and even large-scale misuse has been acknowledged by the courts, there is no credible empirical data on the degree of claimed misuse.

In case of, Savitri Devi v. Ramesh Chand & Ors, the Hon'ble Court specifically regulates the abuse connected with the manipulation of the laws to such an extent that it was totally influenced by the influence of marriage itself and thus found not to be intelligent for the welfare of the giant community. The court considered that authorities and lawmakers had to review the case and the legal provisions to prevent it from happening.

In the case of, Saritha v. R. Ramachandran, the Court noted the reverse trend and requested a non-cognizable and bailable offence from the Law Commission and Parliament. However, it was the court's requirement to condemn wrongdoing and to shield the victim from what happens once the victim becomes the abuser. Here is what remedy the husband will have. On this ground, the lady gets to divorce her husband and remarry or in the form of compensation may gain cash.

In the case of Anju v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi, In the case, the wife of the Petitioner challenged the order of the Lower Court, whereby the Court discharged the charges against the respondents under section 498A/34 of the Indian Penal Code.

In appreciating the facts of the case, the Court noted that in the FIR, the wife of the Petitioner in one breath named all members of the family without any specific role being assigned to any of them. Thus, no details were provided as to when the recorded instances allegedly occurred, or any facts to substantiate or corroborate the allegations against relatives of the spouse. The Court also noted that the allegations against the respondents were fairly general and unspecific.

The plaintiff did not mention a date, time, month, or year when she was subjected to beating them. In view of the aforementioned facts and circumstances of the case, the High Court of Bombay upheld the order of the Revisional Court and held that the Court had made no mistake in concluding that, apart from the general and omnibus allegations that roped in all relations, there is no recorded material to justify the framing of charges under Section 498A IPC.

In the case of, Chandra Bhan v. State, the Hon'ble Court introduced the steps to prevent the misuse of this Section:
  • FIR should not be regularly reported as such;
  • Police endeavour should be to carefully screen complaints and then register FIR;
  • No case should be registered under section 498-A/406 IPC without the prior authorisation of DCP / Addl. DCP;

Before FIR registration, all possible reconciliation efforts should be made and, if it is found that there is no possibility of settlement, necessary steps should be taken in the first instance to ensure that stridhan and dowry articles are returned to the complainant;

The arrest of the key accused can only be made after a proper investigation and with the prior approval of the ACP / DCP has been performed;

In the case of collateral accused such as in-laws, prior approval of DCP should be there on the file.

In the case of, Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India and others, the Supreme Court held that the purpose of the provision is to prevent a threat to the dowry. But as the petitioner rightly satisfied that many instances have come to light where the complaints are not bonafide and are filed with oblique motives. In these cases, the acquittal of the accused will not wash out the ignominy incurred during and before the court in any case. Adverse media attention also contributes to the situation.

Hence, the question is what remedial steps can be taken to discourage misuse of the well-intentioned clause. Just because the provision is constitutional and intra vires, it does not allow unscrupulous people to wreck personal vendetta or unleash harassment. Thus, it may become necessary for the legislature to find ways to deal appropriately with the makers of frivolous complaints or allegations. Until then, under the current system function, the Courts have to take care of the situation.

But new lawful terrorism can be unleashed by misuse of the provision. The object of the law is to use a shield and not the arms of an attacker. There is no question of the investigative agency and courts treating the allegations lightly. In matters relating to dowry torture, death and cruelty, they can not follow any straitjacket formula. It can not be lost sight that the ultimate aim of any legal system is to reach the truth, punish the guilty and protect the innocent. Some preconceived idea or perception has no scope.

The complainant strongly claims that the enforcement agencies and the courts begin with the presumptions that the accused are guilty and that the plaintiff speaks the truth. This argument is too broad and generalized. Some statutory presumptions are drawn which are again reprehensible. It should be noted that the role of the investigating agencies and the courts is a watchdog and not a bloodhound..

Suggestions and Conclusion:
The justice system must respond to domestic violence in a coordinated and systemic manner. Despite the fact that Sec 498A is one of the most significant criminal law amendments protecting women's rights, it is insufficient and we must remember that criminal law is a blunt instrument, as it is extremely difficult to change police culture; even if the law considers domestic violence against women to be a crime, the police may still fail to follow the law and properly apply it.

As a result, in order to make Sec 498A and other criminal law remedies more effective, we must implement a new policing approach, such as the victim empowerment model outlined above. It is necessary to develop a model that will implement pro-arrest processes and social service networks at the police station in order to provide victims with alternative support services. Most importantly, we must seek to improve standard and consistent policing, ensuring that domestic abuse is taken seriously.

A research and development plan are urgently needed to improve the current state of knowledge about the influence of legislative punishments on domestic abuse. Simply passing an Act and scribbling it on legal paper does not guarantee that its primary goal will be met.

If the laws against domestic abuse are to be enforced, the Court and legislation must improve.

In the light of the recent events, some suggestions to this act are as follows:
A speedy trial in 498A cases would not only assure restitution for innocent people who were  falsely accused, but it would also let the true donor victims' concerns to be addressed quickly.

The number of fraudulent cases will decrease, but the number of actual prosecutions will increase.

Because of their non-leasing behavior, 498 A are victims of unintentional mistreatment. This region should be ransomed to prevent innocent young people, pregnant sisters, and college students, from languishing in jail for weeks with no one to blame.

If the married lady realizes she made a mistake and has to return home after filing a FIR, the case cannot be dismissed. To save a lot of money on a wedding venue, this may be made compoundable. In fact, where the couple want to dissolve their marriage by consensual divorce, The continuation of criminal investigations is hampered.

Several incidents of men who have been assaulted by their spouses or in-laws have come to light from all over the world. Because there is currently no organization that can make it exceedingly easy for these busy people and their families to pay attention to their side of the storey and establish a goal of reading ahead of the government. The current objective is to establish family substance abuse centers across the country to aid those families who have been harmed.

In the understanding that most girls in the husband's family endure legal harassment, these organizations should appropriately analyze critique without prejudice to the girl. No woman should be able to make a criminal complaint against her in-laws for having extramarital affairs. Furthermore, these organizations will investigate the misuse of the action and educate the public about its consequences.

If a court decides that the charges levelled against the accused persons in connection with the commission of an offence under section 498a of the IPC are false, the accused persons shall face severe punishment. It will dissuade persons from returning to court with dirty hands and hidden agendas. All officials who help in unjustly incriminating girls and their families should face criminal charges.

Civil authorities scatter the investigation into these offences, and cognizance will be taken only after the conclusion on the crime's execution is reached. The government should educate cops on the danger of its misuse…

Reference: Written By: Poonam - BA LLB Ist Year - Punjab School Of Law, Punjabi University Patiala

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