SECTION 498A OF INDIAN PENAL CODE (Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Polity)

News-CRUX-10     4th May 2024        

Context: Recently, the Supreme Court urged the Centre to review the dowry harassment provisions in the new Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), citing concerns over the potential misuse of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) by wives against their husbands and in-laws.

Section 498A of Indian Penal Code

  • About: It deals with the criminal offense of "cruelty by husband or relatives of husband" towards a married woman.
  • Introduced in: 1983 as an amendment to address domestic violence and harassment against married women in India.
  • Legal Provisions:

oOffenders, including husbands or their relatives, can face up to three years in jail for subjecting the wife to cruelty.

oApplies specifically to married women.

oText of Section 498A: “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”.

  • Definition of Cruelty: "Cruelty" includes conduct likely to drive the woman to suicide or cause grave injury, as well as harassment aimed at coercing her or others related to her.
  • Bail Under Section 498A: Enacted in 1860, Section 498A is a non-compoundable and cognizable offense.

oBail can only be granted by the Magistrate after an FIR has been filed based on a complaint by the aggrieved party.

  • Judicial Guidance: The Supreme Court emphasizes sparing use of Section 498A, reserving it for cases with genuine evidence of cruelty.

oIt should not be misused for personal vendettas or to settle scores.

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