Worldwide, people have come to understand the value and significance of marriage. Marriage is a legally recognised and socially accepted relationship, typically between a man and a woman. It is governed by laws, norms, conventions, beliefs, and attitudes that specify the rights and obligations of the partners and grant status to their kids.
Since marriage is a centuries-old institution, it occasionally also contains quite unpleasant realities, as one might imagine. Different laws and precedents have been enacted by the Indian Constitution to rectify them and ensure no innocent person is injured. These laws and precedents correctly penalise the offences committed against the victims. As time goes on, an increasing number of these crimes go undetected, numerous women continue to experience abuse, and ultimately, they suffer in silence because our culture is so intolerable and unwilling to accept these realities. The Indian Penal Code, 1860, which was passed during the British rule and lists several offences against marriage and their associated punishments, during a time when women’s social standing in India was appalling. Because they lacked economic independence, women were viewed as objects. In those days, there were more social ills than there are today because of the different way that society was structured. Women were seen as men’s property, hence polygamy, child marriage, and the Sati system were all common. Due of men’s exploitation and subjugation of women, regulations like this were created. The Plaintiff is the only Party with a Duty to Prove.
Marriage-related offences, such as bigamy, adultery, and criminal elopement, are among the many types of offences against women that are commonplace today. Cruelty is likely the most prevalent offence. In order to accommodate a variety of situations, courts have gradually widened the definition’s scope. When certain minimal conditions are met, the laws addressing matrimonial offences are written in a way that presumes the accuser is guilty. The charges connected to marriage are covered in Sections 493 – 498A of the Indian Penal Code, Chapter XX, which undermines the sacredness of marriage as an institution and demonstrates how incapable laws are of defending the interests of married women.
There are several offences relating to marriage.
- Invalid marriage or mock marriage (Sec 493 &496).
- Bigamy(Sec 494&495)
- Adultery(Sec497 )
- Criminal Elopement/Seduction(Sec498 )
- Cruelty(Sec498A )
Section 493-Cohabitation caused by a man deceitfully inducing a belief of lawful marriage
Every male who, through deception, leads a woman who is not legally married to him to believe that she is and to cohabit or engage in sexual activity with him in that belief is punishable by imprisonment of either description for a time that may extend to ten years, as well as being liable to a fine.
Section 494 – Marrying again during lifetime of husband or wife
Any person who marries while still having a living husband or wife is punishable by imprisonment of either kind for a term that may be as long as seven years, as well as being subject to a fine in cases where the marriage is invalid due to the fact that it occurred while the husband or wife was still alive.
The important ingredients are:
- deceit or fraudulent intention
- causing of false belief
- cohabit or have sexual intercourse
Section 495 – Same offence with concealment of former marriage from person with whom subsequent marriage is contracted
Anyone found guilty of the crime described in the last section before this one will face a fine and a period of imprisonment of either kind that can last up to ten years for concealing the former spouse’s knowledge of the previous marriage. A previous marriage must have been consummated for a second marriage to be legal, and vice versa if the first spouse is still alive.
The essential ingredients are:
- existence of a previous marriage
- second marriage to be valid
- second marriage to be void by reason of first husband or wife living
Section 496- Marriage ceremony fraudulently gone through without lawful marriage
Anyone who participates in a marriage ceremony dishonestly or with the aim to defraud while aware that they are not legally married is subject to a fine as well as imprisonment of either kind for a term that may be as long as seven years. Both sections, 493 and 496, require the accused to have deceived the woman in some way such that she became convinced that she was legally wed to him while in fact she was not, and this is one of their key requirements. Words like “deceit” and “dishonestly” as well as “fraudulent intention” are used in sections 493 and 496, respectively. Under this clause, mens rea is a necessary component of an offence.
Section 497- Adultery
Without the consent or connivance of the other man, a person who engages in sexual activity with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man and which does not constitute rape commits the crime of adultery and is subject to a fine, either type of imprisonment for a term that may reach five years, or both. The wife is not subject to punishment for aiding and abetting in such a situation.
Adultery was not a crime for either men or women in India prior to the implementation of the IPC. Furthermore, it wasn’t a part of the original penal code draught. In contrast, the second Law Commission it According to the Law Commissioner, the social infrastructure that was in place at the time and the subordinate and economically dependent position of women prevented punishment of adulterous males. Additionally, they stated that because polygamy was a common practise, wives were socially conditioned to accept their husbands’ adulterous relationships. To punish solely adulterous males, they added adultery to the list of crimes.
The essential ingredients are:
- sexual intercourse
- woman must be married
- consent or connivance of husband
- should not constitute rape
Whoever takes or tempts away any woman who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of any other man from that man, or from any person caring for her on behalf of that man, with the intent that she may have illicit intercourse with any person, or conceals or detains any such woman with that intent, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term that may extend to two years, with a fine, or with both.
The essential ingredients are:
- woman to be a married woman
- taken from control of husband or person having care of her on behalf of her husband
- intention to have illicit intercourse
- conceals or detains such women
Section 498A – Cruelty
A cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable offence in India is matrimonial cruelty. Husband or a relative of the husband of a woman who subjects her to cruelty is what Section 498A of Chapter XXA of the I.P.C. defines as the term. Anyone who abuses a woman while they are their husband’s or their husband’s relative may be sentenced to up to three years in prison and must pay a fine as well. The Indian Penal Code, 1860 was updated in 1983 to include S.498A, which addresses “Married Cruelty” to a woman, in order to protect a woman’s interests from the abuse she may experience inside the four walls of her matrimonial house. In order to address the threat of dowry fatalities, the clause was implemented. Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1983 introduced it into the code (Act 46 of 1983). The Indian Evidence Act was amended by the same Act to include section 113-A, which increases the presumption that a married woman’s suicide was assisted. A woman who is being harassed by her husband or his relatives is protected by section 498-A of the I.P.C.
Cruelty can either be mental or physical. It is difficult to straightjacket the term cruelty by means of a definition because cruelty is a relative term. What constitutes cruelty for one person may not constitute cruelty for another person, G.V Siddaramesh v State of Karnataka.
In Kaliyaperumal v. State of Tamil Nadu, it was decided that cruelty is a fundamental element of both IPC sections 304B and 498A offences. People who have been found not guilty under section 304B for the crime of dowry death may nevertheless be found guilty under section 498A of the IPC because the two sections do not overlap but both constitute separate offences. In the section 498A explanation, the definition of cruelty is provided. Although section 304B does not define cruelty or harassment, section 498-A’s definition of these terms also applies to section 304-B.
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- Vicente, G., Goicoa, T., Fernandez‐Rasines, P., & Ugarte, M. D. (2020). Crime against women in India: unveiling spatial patterns and temporal trends of dowry deaths in the districts of Uttar Pradesh. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society), 183(2), 655-679.
- Choate, P., & Sharan, R. (2021). The Need to Act: Incest as a Crime Given Low Priority—A View with India as an Example. Social Sciences, 10(4), 142.
- Ahmad, J., Khan, N., & Mozumdar, A. (2021). Spousal violence against women in India: A social–ecological analysis using data from the National Family Health Survey 2015 to 2016. Journal of interpersonal violence, 36(21-22), 10147-10181.
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