Supreme Court Judgments on Section 498A of IPC

From many years Supreme Court has been giving judgments on Section 498a of Indian Penal Code where court has also found that this section has been misused by many women and thus asked the law ministry to consider amending the same.  Before arresting under 498a, the police have got circulars, under which they have to investigate before arresting or higher police like DCP has to be consulted, before arresting someone under this section.(1)

In a bench headed by Justice Chandramauli Kr. Prasad and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose, gave a judgment in Arnesh Kumar vs State Of Bihar & Anr on (2 July, 2014) where the Supreme Court gave certain guidelines to be followed, they are, all state governments has to instruct its police officers that they cannot automatically arrest a person under Section 498a of IPC but and under parameters of Section 41 of Cr PC.  These police people should be given check list specifying the Section 41(1)(b)(ii).  Then these officers should fully add in the reasons which made them to arrest a person and then produce him before magistrate without delay for further actions.  Magistrate can then authorise detention of such person only after perusing the reports produced by police officer and then record the same.  If a decision has to be put for not arresting the accused, then it must be done within 2 weeks from the institution of the case and it has to be in writing to the Magistrate.  Under Section 41A of Cr PC notice of appearance should be served on the accused and it should be done within 2 weeks from institution of the case in writing.  If any police officer fails to comply with these directions then he can be liable for departmental action and authorising detention without recording reasons can also be liable for departmental actions and these directions of court will apply even to Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act along with Section 498a of IPC.  It is a judgment that was awaited by a lot of common men in India. Supreme Court has said that women were using the anti-dowry law just to harass their in-laws and family and their relatives too and so has restrained police from arresting the husband on mere complaint that they lodge under Section 498a of IPC.  (2)

Abha Singh who is an advocate and women rights activist said that Supreme Court has given a correct statement regarding Section 498a which is usually being misused by women and it is a landmark judgment.  Police should investigate the case properly and later make arrest.  Since the main object of Section 498a of IPC was to fight the harassment that the woman go through in her husband’s family.(3)

In another case Parveen Mehta vs Inderjit Mehta 11/07/2002 court clearly explained the meaning of the term cruelty as matrimonial offence and cause for granting divorce decree. In this case the defendant and appellant were husband and wife and the wife was suffering from some ailment and under treatment which was not disclosed to the husband during marriage. Thus the husband had appealed for a divorce decree on the grounds of cruelty and desertion which was granted by the High court and confirmed by Supreme Court when appealed against that order.  Supreme Court thus dismissed the appeal from the wife and upheld the decision of High Court favouring divorce.  Court considered another case G.V.N.Kameswara Rao vs. G.Jabilli, (2002) where it was also held that social life of the parties in the marriage was also to be considered.  Mental cruelty is that which occurs on the party such mental pain and suffering that it will become impossible to live together but it need not be proved that such cruelty can cause injury to the health of the petitioner.  In this case, the base of cruelty in the matrimonial offence is based on the allegations that husband says that wife never cooperated with him to have sexual intercourse and so marriage could not be consummated. Wife also abused him and scolded him.(4)

In another case Pinakin Mahipatray Rawal vs State Of Gujarat on (9 September, 2013) court observed and it viewed that just because the husband had an intimate relation with another person, even though he was married and failed to discharge of his martial obligations, would not amount to cruelty and not so severe mental cruelty that it leads the wife to commit suicide to fall under Section 498a of IPC.  Mental cruelty varies from person to person where some meet with courage and some suffer in silence and some end their life.  Although under this section if a woman commits suicide within 7 years of marriage then her husband or relative of husband is held liable for cruelty but the burden of proving the same that the offence occurred under Section 498a of IPC is on the prosecution.(5)

Misuse of Section 498A IPC has been given by Law Commission in its report where it has said that Supreme Court and High Courts have judicially found such misuse.  In rural areas we need to spread awareness of the provisions and available remedies for both men and women is a must where law students, NGOs, media should play a vital part.  In every district there is a necessary to form panels to help the aggrieved women. Offence under Section 498a shall be compoundable and non-bailable but it should be observed with the conditions of Section 41 and 41A of Cr PC.  When an NRI’s comes under Section 498a their passports should not be mechanically seized but instead bonds and sureties for a huge amount of money can be taken.  Judiciary has to consider to dispose such cases which come under Section 498a by giving them special attention.  States and Union Territories must provide necessary aid to the helpless women who go to the police station with genuine grievance.  All those women who do not have parents should be taken care of by allowing her to find a home to stay.  Women from poor and middle class background are the worst hit if assistance is not provided.(6)

  1. No automatic arrest in 498a, says Supreme Court
  2. Arnesh Kumar Vs State Of Bihar & Anr, Supreme Court of India
  3. Abha Singh calls Supreme Court decision on Section 498A a landmark judgement
  4. Parveen Mehta vs Inderjit Mehta, Supreme Court of India
  5. Pinakin Mahipatray Rawal vs State Of Gujarat
  6. Law Commission Recommendations On Misuse Of Section 498A IPC

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