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MISUSE OF SECTION 498A AN IT’S IMPACT ON THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE

INTRODUCTION

Women and their families have recently utilized  Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code to level wide charges against every member of the husband’s family. The simplest way to harass someone is to have the husband and his family put in jail for breaking this regulation. Many times, the bedridden grandparents and the long-distance sisters of the couples’ grandparents are imprisoned. The provision that had been included to safeguard women against violence by their husbands and in-laws swiftly became a tool for extortion and blackmail. The ladies started using the clause and filing complaints against their husbands and in-laws to extract revenge in their tense relationships. Before 1983, harassment of a wife by her husband or her in-laws fell within the general categories of the Indian Penal Code that dealt with assault, hurt, grievous hurt, and homicide. However, the IPC’s general prohibitions became insufficient to curtail crimes against women as bride-burning incidents and violence against women, particularly young, recently married women, rose.

Section498A and Section 304B (dowry death) were consequently inserted into the IPC. Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act (CrPC) was subsequently revised to make executive magistrate inquests necessary in cases of suicides or suspicious deaths of women within seven years of marriage. The Evidence Act was amended to include Section 113B, It stipulates that if it can be shown that the harassment was related to a demand for dowry, it is assumed that the individual who tormented the woman just before she passed away was to blame for her passing.

SECTION 498-A

 Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code 1860 was adopted by the Indian Parliament in 1983. It is alleged that if a woman’s spouse or a member of her husband’s family subjected her to cruelty, they would be subject to a fine and a three-year jail sentence. The Indian Penal Code’s   Section 498 A, which reflects the tragic reality of domestic abuse occurring within a home’s four walls, is one of the most important defences against violence against women. Subjecting a woman to abuse in the same way her husband or a relative would: Anyone who submits a woman to abuse in the same way their husband or a relative would face a fine and a sentence of up to three years in jail.[1]

Explanation – “Cruelty” is defined for this provision: As any intentional behaviour that poses a serious risk to a woman’s life, limb, or health (whether physical or mental); or [2] Harassment of a woman when such harassment is intended to compel her or any person associated with her to comply with an unlawful demand for any property or valuable security, or when such harassment is necessary because she or any such person failed to comply with the demand.[3]

MISUSE OF SECTION 498-A

Both the High Courts and the Supreme Court of India have frequently acknowledged that many cases in which Section 498A is invoked nowadays end up being phoney cases since they are merely extortion attempts by the wife (or her close relatives) who are coping with a troubled marriage. As a result, a demand for a sizeable quantity of money to settle the dispute outside of court is frequently made after the Section 498A complaint. In order to harass their husbands and other family members, especially an elderly couple who are lying on the bed, women illegally invoke section 498 A of the IPC. Despite their education, many in the modern era struggle to understand how 498 A is employed as a weapon against men. The legislators intended for Section 498A to protect women from harassment, abuse, and other offences when they developed and enacted it into the law. However, there were more acquittals than convictions when cross-investigations were carried out to gauge the effectiveness of this legislation. Even though there are many complaints and the judiciary has acknowledged widespread misuse, there is no reliable evidence indicating the scope of the alleged abuse that is based on actual research.

In the case of Arnesh Kumar v. the State of Bihar[4]

The Hon’ble Court ruled that, In an effort to ensure that police officers do not arrest the accused without a good reason and that the magistrate does not permit casual and mechanical detention in cases in accordance with Section 498A IPC, the Court gave specific instructions (although the directions also apply to other cases where the offence is punishable by imprisonment not exceeding seven years)[5]

Mukesh Bansal versus the State of Uttar Pradesh[6]

Intriguingly, broad allegations of sodomy, attempted rape, an illegal abortion, etc. have been levelled at every member of the family, with special focus being placed on her husband Sahib Bansal. The charges against the informant that were dropped after a careful investigation have been listed on the charge sheet the police have provided. Therefore, the Court feels that these gruesome representations of the complainant’s allegations should be ignored while rendering its judgement on the current problem. These claims were made by a woman who, under the guidance of counsel, spread slander against her husband and other members of the family.[7]

 HOW IT IS AFFECTING THE INSTITUTION  OF MARRIAGE?

“In the case of Mukesh Bansal v. the State of UP on Monday, the Allahabad High Court observed that live-in relationships, which are free of legal complications, are replacing traditional marriage as a result of the abuse of Section 498A IPC”. The term “live-in relationship” describes when two single people occupy their home together. A growing number of couples are choosing to live together. However, it may be claimed that the prevalence is higher in metro areas and tier 1 cities, especially among young people who aspire to move up the social ladder. Living together without getting married, an unmarried couple is exempt from the responsibilities, commitments, and legal ramifications that accompany marriage. It is a substitute for conventional marriage.[8] It was a consensual agreement for an unmarried man or woman in a passionate and sexual relationship to live together in the same house. This is actually a modified version of the traditional Indian marriage arrangement aimed to safeguard the couple from potential threats, legal issues, and interpersonal friction. The two young couples agree to have a romantic and sexual relationship.

PUNISHMENT FOR MISUSE OF SECTION

The Indian Penal Code’s Sections 182 (False information, with intent to cause public servant to use his lawful power to the injury of another person) and Section 211 (False charge of offence made with intent to injure) allow husbands and in-laws to seek refuge or counter-sue the wife or the daughters-in-law in cases where they have been wrongfully implicated in a Section 498A case. Additionally, they may seek compensation from the wife or daughter-in-law under Sections 250 (Compensation for accusation without reasonable cause) and  Section 358 (Compensation to persons groundlessly arrested) of the Criminal Procedure Code for unjustly being charged under Section 498A.

SUGGESTION

A swift trial in 498A cases will not only ensure compensation for those wrongfully charged but would also hasten the resolution of the issues faced by the real donation victims. If a court finds that the charges made regarding the commission of the offence under section 498a of the IPC are untrue, harsh punishment shall be meted out to the offender. It will deter people from going back to court with dirty hands and ulterior motives. Every official who aids in falsely accusing girls and their families should be subject to criminal prosecution. These organisations ought to fairly consider criticism without taking sides for the girl, given that the majority of girls in the husband’s family endure legal harassment. These organisations will also investigate how the action was misused and inform people of its consequences. It’s important to keep in mind that domestic violence and abuse by spouses and family members are incredibly complex behaviours and that domestic violence cases are frequently systemically undervalued by the police, legal systems, and social structures of courts.

CONCLUSION  

Because it is a cognizable and non-bailable offence, Section 498A has a dubious reputation for being one of the laws that angry women use as weapons rather than a defence. There is a growing propensity to exploit laws like the 498A IPC, which was designed to stop cruelty committed against a woman by her husband and her in-laws by permitting speedy state intervention, as tools to settle personal scores against the husband and his family. There was a clear human-centeredness to this story. Despite its intention to protect women, Section 498A refers to a spouse’s harassment of the husband and in-laws. This situation has a terrible effect on society. The court must grant permission before the offence can be made compoundable, and safety precautions must be put in place, per the commission’s recommendations.

Author(s) Name : Devashish Raturi (D.A.V( PG )College ,Dehradun)

References:

[1] Indian Penal Code 1860, Section 498-A

[2] Indian Penal Code 1860, Section 498-A

[3] Indian Penal Code 1860, Section 498-A

[4] Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar (2014) 8 Scc 273.

[5] Ibid

[6] Mukesh Bansal v. the State of Uttar Pradesh (2022) Scc1126.

[7] Ibid

[8] Ratna Singh, ‘Section 498A misuse affecting institution of marriage; live-in relationships replacing traditional marriages: Allahabad High Court’ (Bar and Bench,14 Jun 2022), <https://www.barandbench.com/news/litigation/section-498a-misuse-affecting-institution-marriage-live-in-relationships-replacing-traditional-marriages-allahabad-high-court >accessed 18 September 2022.