In India’s last 20 years of criminal law reform, a recurrent argument levelled against laws dealing with violence against women has been that women exploit such laws. Such “misuse” claims were fiercely pushed by the police, civic society, politicians, and even High Court and Supreme Court judges. Misuse was asserted, notably in relation to IPC Section 498A and Section 304B’s dowry killing offence. Domestic abuse and harassment by partners and family members are complex actions that the established structure of courts and police habitually continue to discount domestic violence situations.
Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, which was enacted in 1983 to protect women’s rights and empowerment, was an important addition to the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Extortion of any kind of property by subjecting a woman to cruelty is punishable under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.
This section’s misuse is on the rise, as well-educated women realise that it is both cognizable and non-bailable, meaning that it can be triggered by a woman’s simple accusation, placing the male behind bars. After witnessing the widespread prevalence and severity of recorded examples of female cruelty, Section 498A was enacted in 1983. Section 498A of the IPC is a punitive provision that works in tandem with other articles in the Code of Civil Procedure to have a deterrent effect. However, false and exaggerated charges, as well as the involvement of several of the husband’s and his family’s relatives, have become widespread, leading to broad acceptance of these beneficiary laws as a tool of extracting the women retribution.
Misuse of Section 498A in the modern era:
Women violate this by making frivolous false accusations against their husbands in order to acquire money or simply to cause sorrow to the family. Abuse in this part is on the rise, and women are increasingly apprehending their spouses.
Legislators created Section 498A to protect women from abuse, harassment, and other crimes. When cross-investigations were done to evaluate the legality of these legislation, however, the number of acquittals was higher than the number of convictions. As a result, the Supreme Court, which enacted 498A in the first place with the intention of protecting women from cruelty, now views it as legal terrorism. Because its actual credibility is harmed by misuse of Section 498A.
The Hon’ble Court in Savitri Devi v. Ramesh Chand & Ors[i] expressly regulates the misuse associated with the manipulation of laws to such an extent that it was completely influenced by the impact of marriage itself and so deemed not to be intelligent for the benefit of the large community. Authorities and lawmakers, according to the court, needed to study the case and the legal measures in order to prevent this from happening again.
The Supreme Court concluded in Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India and others[ii] that the aim of the clause is to prevent a menace of dowry. However, as the petitioner correctly points out, there have been several cases where complaints have been submitted that are not genuine and have an indirect motivation. In these circumstances, the accused’s acquittal will not, in any event, wash away the humiliation he or she endured before and before the court. The predicament is exacerbated by negative media attention.
As a result, the question is what precautions may be taken to prevent the well-intentioned clause from being abused. The fact that the provision is constitutional and intra vires does not give unscrupulous people the right to wreck personal vendettas or harass others. As a result, the legislature may need to identify means to deal appropriately with those who file frivolous complaints or claims. Until then, the Courts must deal with the matter under the current system’s functioning.
Recovery in case of false accusations:
In the scenario when his wife has made false accusations against him and he has proven himself to be innocent in the eyes of the law. He has the ability to contest the case of 498A abuse. The Indian government and judiciary continue to include provisions to safeguard women, and men are not exempt from the law. Injustice continues to be prioritized over justice. As a result, men whose reputations have been tarnished by false claims seek legal redress and protection under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. These are the following:
The husband can file a defamation lawsuit under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code;
Under Section 9 of the CPC, the husband can file a claim for damages that he and his family have suffered as a result of false allegations of cruelty and abuse;
Section 182 of the IPC is one of the most widely used safeguards against false 498A cases. If the authority believes the averages were erroneous, the offender is punished to 6 months in prison or a fine, or both, under Section 182 of the IPC. The individual will be charged with providing fabricated information to the judiciary.
The wives use Section 498A as a weapon to extort money from their husbands. It is a truth that women abuse Section 498A of the IPC against their spouses and in-laws. Various tests have already been published regarding the same. Although Section 498A is intended to safeguard women, it is actually used by a spouse to harass her husband and in-laws. This scenario has a horribly negative impact on society. In its 243 reports on IPC Section 498A, the Law Commission addressed the issue of abuse of this clause. According to the commission, the offence can only be compounded with the court’s consent, and safeguards must be followed before granting authorization. The commission, on the other hand, has suggested that the offence be left undeclared. The abuse does not imply that the laws that affect the general public interest are no longer useful.
- Bhupendra Tanwar, Misuse of IPC Section 498A, Lawtendo Legal Partners Blogs, https://www.lawtendo.com/blogs/misuse-of-ipc-section-498a
- Tejaswi Pandit, Cruelty to Women [S. 498-A IPC and allied sections], SCC online, https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2018/12/03/law-for-laymen-section-498-a-ipc-and-allied-sections-cruelty-to-women/
- Sidra Khan, Misuse of Section 498A under IPC, Blog iPleaders, https://blog.ipleaders.in/misuse-section-498a-ipc/#:~:text=Under%20Section%20498A%20of%20the,woman%20to%20cruelty%20is%20punishable.&text=The%20main%20aim%20of%20the,her%20husband%20or%20husband’s%20relatives.
[i] Savitri Devi vs Ramesh Chand And Ors, 2003 CriLJ 2759.
[ii] Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India, (2005) 6 SCC 281.
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