Misuse Of Section 498A Of The Indian Penal Code
It is said that with power comes authority. Power brings liberty with it which when misused could lead to abuse and such abuse results in some serious ramifications. One of the foremost example of such abuse is the misuse of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code,1860.The Section was inserted into the IPC by an amendment in 1983 and sought to check cruelty to women by their husbands or his relatives,rampant in an unprecedented scale in our country.The purpose of inserting this section was to penalize a husband or his relatives who harass the wife with a view to coerce her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand or to compel her to commit suicide.
Section 498A states that : Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman,subject 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 purposes of this section,cruelty means- (a) any willful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive a 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 Being a part of the Anti-Dowry laws in India,this section came as a blessing to thousands of women against the menace of ill-treatment and persecution by the family of the husband for dowry. However, this legal protection is being exploited by some women as a result of which the entire women fraternity is suffering. In various cases it has been seen that when the demands of a woman are not met by the husband or his family,or when faced with a strained marriage , she files a written false complaint of dowry harassment to a nearby police station as a mere blackmail attempt. Initially, a person accused under this section would be arrested immediately after a complaint was lodged by the aggrieved wife/daughter-in-law or her relatives, sometimes even before an investigation was being made by the police but the Supreme Court in a recent landmark judgement has stated that before making any such arrest the police must investigate the cases properly and then make an arrest.
The Apex Court has expressed its concern over misuse of the Anti-Dowry law and has restricted the police from arresting the husbands or his relatives on mere lodging of a complaint under Section 498A without making a proper investigation.The fact that every year,hundreds of women make false complaints under this section has prompted the Supreme Court to take such a step. Thus,we see that for a few vicious women making deliberate false use of the remedy available under Section 498A those women who need immediate aid from the police against dowry harassment are suffering since the police will now investigate all such matters sufficiently before making an arrest under this section. — About the author: The article has been contributed by our intern, Deepsikha Bhowal.