Cruelty By Husband

“The scars from mental cruelty can be as deep and long-lasting as wounds from punches or slaps but are often not as obvious. In fact, even among women who have experienced violence from a partner, half or more report that the man’s emotional abuse is what is causing them the greatest harm.”-

                                                                                                                              Lundy Bancroft.


Laws like section 498-A and Domestic violence Act have been enacted to protect women who have been victims of cruelty and domestic violence. Cruelty is a violation of the fundamental right to life and dignity ensured by the Indian Constitution. The term „cruelty‟ and „love and affection‟ are repugnant to each other and therefore, cruelty is a strong ground for dissolution of marriage.

These laws are framed to protect women who are victims of cruelty and domestic violence. Cruelty is the violation of the fundamental right of life and dignity which the Indian Constitution entrusts. The term cruelty and love and affection relate to each other. Hence, cruelty is a major ground for dissolution of marriage. Cruelty against woman after the wedding is unstoppable increasing as days rolling. Therefore, Section 498-A was added within the Indian legal Code by the criminal law (second amendment) Act, 1983. Women have always been subject to cruelty by male dominated society. This section helps women to fight back against her husband or his relatives. Woman feel they’re being heard. There’s plenty of need of such laws for helping woman’s to raise voice against crime. No matter if the laws are misused, they cannot be off from the Indian legal code. because the laws can always be amended. there’ll be sure loopholes but always a provision are often added to rectify the issues.

Keywords – Domestic violence, harassment, dowry death, mental cruelty, suicide,Matrimonial issues etc.


Criminal law Amendment Act, 1983 inserted the Section 498A (Chapter XX-A) relating to the cruelty by the Husband or the relatives of the Husbands to combat the social evil of dowry and matrimonial atrocities against the married women. This measure was to make better family system for greater society. One side to protect society from crime against the women and other side to put matrimonial cruelty in penal code for making it more stringent to curb wife battering, dowry system which made society more polluted. There are several provisions in penal law relating to offences of matrimonial nature. A married woman is subjected to cruelty under Indian Penal Code, 1860 by her husband or his relatives (498A) or by same husband and his relatives in demands of dowry preceding unnatural death within seven years of marriage (Section 304B) or causing woman’s death (Section 302) Amounting to murder.

Under Section 498-A the expression “cruelty” has been defined in wide terms to incorporate inflicting physical or mental damage to the body or health of the woman and indulging in acts of harassment to force her or her relations to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security. Harassment for dowry falls within the sweep of the latter limb of the section. Creating a situation driving the woman to commit suicide is also one of the ingredients of “cruelty”. Chapter XXA was inserted in the Indian Penal Code in the year 1983. The object of adding new chapter XXA in the Indian Penal Code is to punish a husband and his relatives who torment and harass the wife intending to coerce her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demands or to drive her to commit suicide.


Hindu marriage is a holy sacrament in the life of a Hindu with other various sacraments, which are known as important for the complete life. Marriage is the valid way for male and female to live together and perform their duties and husband-wife are considered to be one in law. In 1869 the Indian Divorce Act was passed but it had remained in applicable to the Hindus and after the Independence on 18th may 1955 The Hindu Marriage Act has been passes which governs all the matters and situations related to Hindu marriages.


Prior to the 1976 amendment in the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 cruelty was not a ground for claiming divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act. It was only a ground for claiming judicial separation under Section 10 of the Act. By 1976 Amendment, the Cruelty was made ground for divorce. The words, which have been incorporated, are “as to cause a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the petitioner that it will be harmful or injurious for the petitioner to live with the other party”.

Cruelty is an inhuman treatment and it is an act that causes mental sufferings and endangers to the life and health of the other. Cruelty may be in the form of physical as well as mental by the act either of the husband or the wife. Though it is the women who have always been subjected to be tortured and harassed by the husband and relatives, in fact saying this will not be proper as cases of torture and harassment against the husband by the wife is increasing day by day. 


According to Section 498-A  – “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.

Explaination. — For 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.

SectionOffencePunishmentCognizable or  Non CognizableBailable or Non- BailableBy what court triable
498APunishment for subjecting a married woman to crueltyFine and imprisonment for 3 yearsCognizable if the information relating to the commission of the offence is given to the officer.Non-bailableMagistrate of the firstclass


Women have consistently been subject to cruelty by male society. Laws like these assist women to retaliate. Women feel they are being heard. There is a lot of requirements for laws like these in a nation like India –

  • 9 out of 10 cases are consistently identified as dowry. So, there is a dire need for these laws to prevent women from cruelty.
  • Women are continuously forced, tormented, threatened, or abused for the demand for something or the other. Section 498A of the IPC encourages the woman to approach the court of law and punish the wrongdoer.
  • In numerous cases, the women are additionally subject to mental cruelty. No law can assist the woman in easing the physiological agony caused to her. Acts like these help women in each potential manner.
  • No matter if the laws are misused, they can’t be expelled from the Indian Penal Code. As the laws can generally be amended. There will be certain loopholes however consistently an arrangement can be inculcated to rectify the problems.

The Indian Constitution is utilizing section 498A to shield married women from cruelty at the marital home. The section was added to IPC to protect women from any abusive behaviour at their marital home. Despite the fact, there is wide misuse by women. This section is the most fiercely debated section of the IPC. IPC crimes against women have expanded throughout the years. Most numbers of cases are reported from Delhi, India.


  • Persistent refusal of eatables.
  • Insisting on continuous sexual conduct
  • Continuous locking a lady out of the house
  • Physiological violence, Taunting
  • Demoralizing and putting down the lady with the aim of causing mental harm
  • Confining the woman at the house and not allowing her normal social interaction
  • Threatening with divorce for dowry
  • Abusing children in their mom’s presence with the aim of causing her mental harm


Section 498-A IPC was introduced with the avowed object to combat the menace of dowry deaths and harassment to a woman at the hands of her husband or his relatives. Nevertheless, the provision should not be used as a device to achieve oblique motives, Onkar Nath Mishra v. State (NCT of Delhi)[1].

Who may file a complaint?

The complaint under Section 498-A may be filed by the women aggrieved by the offence or by any person related to her by blood, marriage or adoption. And if there is no such relative, then by any public servant as may be notified by the State Government in this behalf.

Cruelty by Husband in Modern Times: Some Illustrations

  • Unilateral decisions made by wife or husband not to have child from the marriage.
  • If the husband does nothing for livelihood but eats and sleeps, it may amount to social cruelty as held by Supreme Court.
  • False FIR by husband against a wife.
  • Using unnatural ways to have sexual intercourse.


For commission of an offence under Section 498-A, following necessary ingredients require to be satisfied: (a) The woman must be married; (b) She must be subjected to cruelty or harassment; and (c) Such cruelty or harassment must have been shown either by husband of the woman or by the relative of her husband, U. Suvetha v. State[2].


The saying goes that cruelty is a character of a man and if someone is just there should be a cause of why he is so. The Act deals with many kinds of abuses which were not earlier covered under the legal provision e.g. sexual abuse by husband (or marital rape) which was not there in IPC. It also covers emotional abuse by the husband or in-laws of the plaintiff on account of not having a child or not giving birth to a male child.


  • There are various grounds for claim on basis of cruelty and types of cruelty, which are identified by the court in their various judgements, and the court provide a legal backup for the sufferer in this sense. They have given following explanation within the scope of cruelty under section 13(1)(ia);
  • It is sufficient that if the cruelty is of such type that it becomes impossible for spouses to live together,
  • The leveling of false allegation by one spouse about the other having alleged illicit relations with different person outside wedlock amounted to mental cruelty,,
  • A husband cannot ask his wife that he does not like her company, but she can or should stay with other member of the family in matrimonial home. Such an attitude is cruelty in itself on the part of the husband,
  • Social torture by anyone of the spouses to the other, found to be as the mental torture and cruelty.
  • If the intention to harm, harass or hurt could be inferred by the nature of the conduct or brutal act complained of, cruelty could be easily established. But the absence of intention should not make any difference in the case. The cruel treatment may also result from the cultural conflicts between the parties.
  • A party can cause mental cruelty when the other spouse levels an allegation that the petitioner is a mental patient, or that he requires expert psychological treatment to restore his mental health.


In Inder Raj Malik v. Sumitra Malik[3], it was alleged by the wife that she was being continuously threatened by her in laws that her son would be taken away unless she met the demands of the accused by way of compelling her parents to sell their property, it was held that such threats come, within the purview of section 498-A, I.P.C.

In jagdish Chander v. State[4]it was held that drinking habits of the husband and his coming late at midnight haven’t been held to amount to cruelty.

In Pawan Kumar v. State of Haryana[5]the Supreme Court held that Cruelty or harassment under Section 498-A need not be physical , and mental torture in a grave case would be sufficient for conviction.

Mustaf Shaikh v. State of Maharastra  In this case Court held that where death of wife was caused due to poisoning within one year of her marriage, and there were evidence of witnesses clearly show that, after her marriage he was subjected to torture and harassment for demand of gold jewels and money by the accused. Accused is liable for punishment under Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code.    


Many instances have come to light where the complaints are not bona fide and have been filed with oblique motive. In such cases acquittal of the accused does not in all cases wipe out the ignominy suffered during and prior to trial. Sometimes adverse media coverage adds to the misery. By misuse of the provision a new legal terrorism can be unleashed. The provision is intended to be used as a shield and not as an assassin’s weapon. However, a mere possibility of abuse of a legal provision does not invalidate it. Section 498-A is constitutional, Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India[6].


Section 498-A was the section embedded for the protection of women from cruelty. Despite the fact it was used by many women for saving themselves from cruelty, some of the women were misusing this section. It is to be noted that generally women who were misusing this section were educated and some were uneducated.  A portion of the cases under this section as a result of the instigation of parents of women and sometimes it’s because of the ego problems in conjugal life. Some of the women were simply using this section for blackmailing the husbands.

These are some of the reasons how this section was misused in modern days. It was a significant section embedded for the protection of women in this man dominated society. Many women were misusing this section for their selfishness.  Because of the more false cases, the significance of this section is diminished. It is more often used as a weapon rather than a shield by disgruntled wives. So everyone must need to know the significance of this section and it must be utilized for the purpose it was embedded. So it has to be used as a shield instead of a weapon.

Thus taking into consideration, it can be concluded that Section 498-A of IPC is incorporated by Legislatures basically in interest of women and to safe guards them from harassment. But, it has become somewhat counterproductive. In the several cases, women are harassed, arrested and humiliated on complaints given under section 498-A IPC. The truth or otherwise of allegations is subject to proof. For giving complaint absolutely no authentic and prima facie material like medical evidence is required, but on such complaints, in several of cases, number of women are being arrested. In cases of arrest of married young women are being arrested.


[1] (2008) 2 SCC 561

[2] (2009) 6 SCC 757

[3] 1986 Cr Lj 1510

[4] 1988 Cr Lj 1048(P&H)

[5] AIR 1998 SC 958

[6] (2005) 6 SCC 281

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