India is a patriarchal, male dominated society, where women have always had secondary status. Dowry deaths, physical and mental abuse, pressure for a male child, just general cruelty are very common. People never pay heed to cruelty against women because we come across it every day, either we see it happen or hear stories. When these instances become news and are published in the media only then do we feel a bit of remorse. The main reason women never speak up and people continue to trample on them and their voices is not because they are afraid but because they are not aware of their rights.
There are several provisions bestowed upon us in the Constitution of India which everyone should be aware of and exercise their power over. One such provision is Section 498A of the Indian Penal Court which talks about Cruelty by Husband and Relatives.
Section 498A in The Indian Penal Code
498A. Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.—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. Explanation.—For the purpose of this section, “cruelty” means—
(a) any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the 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.
Section 498A was introduced in 1983 to protect a married woman from being subjected to cruelty.
Meaning of Cruelty:
It was held in ‘Kaliyaperumal vs. State of Tamil Nadu’, that cruelty is a common crime in offences under both the sections 304B and 498A of IPC. The two sections are not mutually inclusive but both are distinct offences and persons acquitted under section 304B for the offence of dowry death can be convicted for an offence under Sec. 498A of IPC. The meaning of cruelty is given in explanation to section 498A. Section 304B does not contain its meaning but the meaning of cruelty or harassment as given in section 498-A applies in section 304-B as well. Under section 498-A of IPC cruelty by itself amounts to an offence whereas under section 304-B the offence is of dowry death and the death must have occurred during the course of seven years of marriage. But no such period is mentioned in section 498-A.
In the case of ‘Inder Raj Malik vs. Sunita Malik’ , it was held that the word ‘cruelty’ is defined in the explanation which inter alia says that harassment of a woman with a view to coerce her or any related persons to meet any unlawful demand for any property or any valuable security is cruelty.
Kinds of Cruelty under this section:
- Cruelty by vexatious litigation
- Cruelty by deprivation and wasteful habits
- Cruelty by persistent demand
- Cruelty by extra-marital relations
- Harassment for non-dowry demand
- Cruelty by non-acceptance of baby girl
- Cruelty by false attacks on chastity
- Taking away children
The basic essentials to attract Section 498A are:
- The woman must be married;
- She must be subjected to cruelty or harassment; and
- Such cruelty or harassment must have been inflicted either by the husband of the woman or by the relative of her husband.
|Section||Offence||Punishment||Cognizable or Non Cognizable||Bailable or Non- Bailable||By what court triable|
|498A||Punishment for subjecting a married woman to cruelty||Fine and imprisonment for 3 years||Cognizable if the information relating to the commission of the offence is given to the officer.||Non bailable||Magistrate of the first class|
Misuse of Sec 498A
The Supreme Court songs the Section 498A as ‘Legal Terrorism’. A destruction of this section, its goals is on the rise with the woman flippantly making false accusations against their husbands with the purpose of getting freed of them or simply hurting the family. The misuse of this section is swiftly increasing and the women, often well- educated, know that this section is both cognizable and non-bailable and unrehearsed works on the complaint of the woman and placing the man behind bars.
Like in the case of Savitri Devi v Ramesh Chand & Ors, the court held clearly that there was a misuse and exploitation of the provisions to such an extent that it was hitting at the foundation of marriage itself and proved to be not so good for the health of society at large. The court believed that authorities and lawmakers had to review the situation and legal provisions to prevent such from taking place.
Women usually procure divorce and hefty amounts of money under the pretence of alimony and compensation.