Section 498A: IPC

Section 498A: IPC


  • The Supreme Court in a recent judgment underscored the growing misuse of Section 498A of the IPC, saying that it is leading to conflict in marriage relations.
  • The object of section 498A is to prevent cruelty to a woman by her husband and in-laws by means of prompt state intervention.
  • The Court observed that there is an increasing tendency to use provisions like section 498A of the IPC as a tool to settle personal enmity against the husband and his relatives.

Section 498A of IPC:

  • Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code-1860 was passed by the Indian Parliament in the year 1983.
  • Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code is a criminal law.
  • It has been defined that if a woman’s husband or a relative of her husband has committed cruelty to a woman, it shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
  • Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code is the biggest defense against violence against women (VAW), which is a reflection of the reality of domestic violence that takes place within the confines of a house.

Domestic Violence Act:

  • Physical violence, such as slapping, kicking and beating.
  • Sexual violence, including forced intercourse and other forms of sexual harassment.
  • Emotional (psychological) abuse such as humiliation, intimidation, threats of harm, threats to take away children.
  • Controlling behaviour, including isolating a person from family and friends, monitoring their activities and restricting access to financial resources, employment, education or medical care.

Indian laws that help prevent incidents of violence against women?

  • Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
  • Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986
  • Sati Commission (Prevention) Act, 1987
  • Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
  • Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013
  • Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013

Misuse of Section 498A:

 Against husband and relatives:

  • It is misused by women for arrest in fake cases against husband and his relatives under 498A.

Attempts to blackmail:

  • In many cases these days, section 498A is made a means of blackmailing the wife (or her close relatives) when she is upset by a tense marital situation.
  • Due to this, a complaint under section 498A in most cases usually demands a large sum of money for out-of-court settlement.

Depreciation of the institution of marriage:

  • The court specifically observed that the provisions are being misused and exploited to such an extent that it is affecting the very basis of the foundation of marriage.
  • This ultimately does not prove to be a good sign for the health of the society at large.
  • Women have started abusing Section 498A of IPC as this law has become a tool for their vengeance or out of marital status.

Malimath Committee Report, 2003:

  • Similar views were expressed in the 2003 Malimath Committee report on reforms in the criminal justice system.
  • The committee had said that section 498A of IPC can be misused.

Way Forward:

  • It is important to note that a large number of accused get acquitted due to prolonged trial. Sometimes the police make such a weak case that the accused is acquitted of the crime.  At the same time, the complainants are either tired or forced to compromise or are ready to withdraw the case.
  • Therefore changing the attitudes of the state and the people, laws related to domestic violence need to be implemented for their real purpose by preventing possible “abuse” of them.

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