WHAT IS SECTION 498A OF THE INDIAN PENAL CODE,1860
Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with the violence done on women after her marriage by her husband or her in-laws or any relative of the husband. It prescribes punishment for 3 years and a fine. It gave a new definition to cruelty. Cruelty can be defined as –
- If the act done is of such a nature that the woman is enticed to commit suicide or cause an injury to herself, which may prove fatal. This was added in the case of Shobha Rani v. Medhukar Reddy. It was held in the case that evidence is required to prove cruelty.
- If the act done is to harass women or any other person related to her to meet unlawful demands.
MISUSE OF THE LAW
Section 498A is referred to by the Supreme Court as “Legal Terrorism.” Misuse or abuse of the law is primarily committed by urban and educated women. In addition, in the majority of cases, the husband and two of his relatives are charged.
- Women use it as a weapon than to shield themselves. In Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar, it was stated that bedridden grandfathers and grandmothers and even relatives living abroad were arrested. So, women have started using it as a weapon to get their husbands arrested if they are not satisfied with them. There are many false cases registered every year, as a result, it increases the pendency of cases in the courts.
- There have been several cases where the male is not from India and travels to India to marry the lady. He is forced to perform acts he would not have done otherwise due to extortion and the threat of imprisonment. He is terrified of Section 498A.
- Police visit the office premises of men and his reputation is harmed. Police can also pick up the relatives if the complaint is harmed. Also, it does not require any proof before arrest. Even no investigation is required. So, if there is a small dispute woman can use the section to seek revenge.
- Gifts are sometimes misunderstood as dowry. So, this can again pose problems.
Therefore, pro-women laws should not become anti-man laws.
CHANGES THAT CAN BE BROUGHT FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF INNOCENT MEN
During the early 1980’s when India observed an increase in the cases of cruelty against women by their husbands and other relatives a new section 498A was introduced to combat such incidents. It is evident by the National Crime Records Bureau’s Report (2012 data), 8233 incidents of Dowry deaths and 1,06,527 incidents of cruelty by husband were reported. Therefore, Section 498A was introduced after seeing rampant nature and prevalence of reported cases of cruelty against women by their spouses. It is a great initiative to uplift the women in the society and to ensure that all women of this country are leading an oppression and cruelty free life. The National Crime Bureau’s Reports,2019 was published and the data reveals how in every 16 minutes a woman gets raped in India; in every four hours a female gets trafficked; and how in every four minutes a woman is subjected to cruelty at the hands of her in-laws. It has been evident enough that still India has been under a chaos of not having our women safe from their own in law’s and even in the society as a whole. Moreover, the law makers of India have tried their level best to ensure that there are sufficient laws that could help women to a greater extent and ensure that their lives are better enough as human being and not allow society to divide women predicated along their gender identity. The ultimate goal of Section 498A is to ensure no married women is a subject to violence or cruelty by their husbands and this is the most significant way to transform India into a better and prosperous nation and as it is rightly said by our former and First Prime Minister of India Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru that “you can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women”. India has many laws to Protect the women and that’s indeed an incomprehensible feature to look at but there are lesser laws as compared to women when the laws that are provided to women are being misused against the men. There are many instances where there have been cases reported of deliberate misuse of Section 498A which is in turn not a fair deal for the men for example: in Jasbir Kaur vs. State of Haryana the Hon’ble Punjab and Haryana High Court stated “It is known that an estranged wife will go to any extent to rope in as many relatives of the husband as possible in a desperate effort to salvage whatever remains of an estranged marriage”, in Kanaraj vs. State of Punjab, the apex court observed as:
“For the fault of the husband the in-laws or other relatives cannot in all cases be held to be involved. The acts attributed to such persons have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt and they cannot be held responsible by mere conjectures and implications. The tendency to rope in relatives of the husband as accused has to be curbed”
Since, India has a democratic feature and equality happens to be the significant feature of any nation, the idea of laws for women as well as for men have to work both ways. There is no second thought in saying that India because of its patriarchal system has continuously been aggravating crime against women in the society but on the other hand there are cases where women by playing victim card deliberately implicating men for money and other valuables. Therefore, subsequently laws parallel to the laws made for women should be made applicable in cases where women fail to prove that she has been subjected to cruelty whether physical or mental. A law should be passed and enacted in the name of Protection of Male Rights (against misuse by women) Act,2020 and provisions for the law should be as follows;
- woman failing to prove that she has been under immense mental and physical torture and is further proven that the allegations made by the woman against her husband is fictitious. Then it will attract a hefty fine of Rs. 50,000/- which has to be paid by the women or her parents.
- woman failing to provide for the facts that her in law’s have been physically or mentally exhausting the woman; or has been trying to implicate in a crime which they have not been a part of will attract a jail term of minimum of 1 month and maximum 3 months with a fine of Rs.10,000/- or more if the woman is working.
- Woman implicating her spouse and in laws in a vindictive litigation for money or any other valuable will attract a hefty fine of Rs. 50,000/-
All the aforementioned clauses must have a place under the category of offence which is compoundable, Bailable and non-cognizable so that further misuse of this law won’t take place.
The reason behind keeping hefty fines and not inflicting punishments or keeping lesser punishments is to prevent the exploitation of women by the State and creating a reign of deterrence in minds of everyone that nobody has the authority to fictitiously role in the members of the family unnecessarily for the sake of anything valuable.
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