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LAW OF

CRIMES
498A: OF CRUELTY BY
HUSBAND OR RELATIVES
OF HUSBAND

YASH CHANDEL
PROF. ROSE VARGHESE
2ND YEAR B.A.LLB.(H)
FACULTY OF LAW

INTRODUCTION
498A. Husband or relative of husband of a woman
subjecting her to cruelty.Whoever, being the
husband or the relative of the husband of a woman,
subjects such woman to cruelty shall be pun-ished
with imprisonment for a term which may extend to
three years and shall also be liable to fine.
For the purpose of 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.

The word marriage means. Marriage is the voluntary union for


life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. It is
a social institution where husband has the responsibility to take
care and maintain his wife. He cannot neglect his duties. But on
this great institution a stigma called dowry still exists. Women
are ill-treated, harassed, killed, divorced for the simple reason
that they didnt brought dowry.
For safeguarding the interest of woman against the interest of
woman against the cruelty they face behind the four walls of their
matrimonial home, the Indian Penal Code,1860(herein after
referred to as I.P.C.) was amended in 1983 and inserted S.498A
which deals with Matrimonial Cruelty to a woman.
Matrimonial Cruelty in India is a cognizable, non bailable and
non-compoundable offence. It is defined in Chapter XXA of I.P.C.
under Sec. 498A .
The section was enacted to combat the menace of dowry deaths.
It was introduced in the code by the Criminal Law Amendment
Act, 1983 (Act 46 of 1983). By the same Act section 113-A has
been added to the Indian Evidence Act to raise presumption
regarding abetment of suicide by married woman. The main
objective of section 498-A of I.P.C is to protect a woman who is
being harassed by her husband or relatives of husband.
Section 113-A of Indian Evidence Act1, reads as follows:
Sec. 113-A, Presumption as to dowry death- When the question
is whether a person has committed the dowry death of a woman
and it is shown that soon before her death such woman has been
subjected by such person to cruelty or harassment for, or in
connection with, any demand for dowry, the Court shall presume
that such person had caused the dowry death.

The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 ,Ratanlal &dhirajlal, 21st edition reprint 2009,pg. 560

Explanation- For the purpose of this section dowry death shall


have the same meaning as in section 304-B of the Indian Penal
Code (45 of 1860).

The object for which section 498A IPC was introduced is amply
reflected in the Statement of Objects and Reasons while enacting
Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act No. 46 of 1983. As clearly
stated therein the increase in number of dowry deaths is a matter
of serious concern. The extent of the evil has been commented
upon by the Joint Committee of the Houses to examine the work
of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. In some of cases, cruelty of
the husband and the relatives of the husband which culminate in
suicide by or murder of the helpless woman concerned, which
constitute only a small fraction involving such cruelty. Therefore,
it was proposed to amend IPC, the Code of Criminal
Procedure,1973 (in short the Cr.P.C) and the Evidence Act
suitably to deal effectively not only with cases of dowry deaths
but also cases of cruelty to married women by the husband, inlaws and relatives. The avowed object is to combat the menace of
dowry death and cruelty 2.
The act of harassment would amount to cruelty for the purpose
of this section. Drinking and late coming habits of the husband
coupled with beating and demanding dowry have been taken to
amount to cruelty within the meaning of this section, but this
section has been held not to include a husband who merely
drinks as a matter of routine and comes home late3.
In a case before Supreme Court it was observed that this section
has given a new dimension to the concept of cruelty for the
purposes of matrimonial remedies and that the type of conduct
described here would be relevant for proving cruelty.

2
3

Sushil Kumar Sharma vs. Union of India;JT 2005(6) SC266


Jagdish Chander vs. State of Haryana,1988 Cr. LJ 1048 (P&H)

MEANING OF CRUELTY:
It was held in Kaliyaperumal vs. State of Tamil Nadu4, that
cruelty is a common essential in offences under both the sections
304B and 498A of IPC. The two sections are not mutually
inclusive but both are distinct offences and persons acquitted
under section 304B for the offence of dowry death can be
convicted for an offence under sec.498A of IPC. The meaning of
cruelty is given in explanation to section 498A. Section 304B
does not contain its meaning but the meaning of cruelty or
harassment as given in section 498-A applies in section 304-B as
well. Under section 498-A of IPC cruelty by itself amounts to an
offence whereas under section 304-B the offence is of dowry
death and the death must have occurred during the course of
seven years of marriage. But no such period is mentioned in
section 498-A.
In the case of Inder Raj Malik vs. Sunita Malik5 , it was held
that the word cruelty is defined in the explanation which inter
alia says that harassment of a woman with a view to coerce her
or any related persons to meet any unlawful demand for any
property or any valuable security is cruelty.
Kinds of cruelty covered under this section includes following:
(a) Cruelty by vexatious litigation
(b) Cruelty by deprivation and wasteful habits
(c) Cruelty by persistent demand
(d) Cruelty by extra-marital relations
(e) Harassment for non-dowry demand
(f) Cruelty by non-acceptance of baby girl
(g) Cruelty by false attacks on chastity
(h) Taking away children
4
5

2004 (9) SCC 157; 2004 SCC(Cr) 1417; 2003 AIR(SC) 3828
1986 (2) Crimes 435; 1986 (92) CRLJ 1510; 1986 RLR 220

The presumption of cruelty within the meaning of section 113-A,


Evidence Act,1872 also arose making the husband guilty of
abetment of suicide within the meaning of section 306 where the
husband had illicit relationship with another woman and used to
beat his wife making it a persistent cruelty within the meaning of
Explanation (a) of section 498-A.
Analysis of the section shows that this law deals with four types
of cruelty:
Any conduct that is likely to drive a woman to suicide,
Any conduct which is likely to cause grave injury to the life, limb
or health of the woman,
Harassment with the purpose of forcing the woman or her
relatives to give some property, or
Harassment because the woman or her relatives are either
unable to yield to the demand for more money or do not give
some share of the property.
Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, is a criminal offence. It is
a cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable offence.
CONSTITUTION VALIDITY OF SECTION 498-A
In Inder Raj Malik and others vs. Mrs. Sumita Malik6, it was
contended that this section is ultra vires Article 14 and Article 20
(2) of the Constitution. There is the Dowry Prohibition Act which
also deals with similar types of cases; therefore, both statutes
together create a situation commonly known as double jeopardy.
But Delhi High Court negatives this contention and held that this
section does not create situation for double jeopardy.
Section 498-A is distinguishable from section 4 of the Dowry
Prohibition Act because in the latter mere demand of dowry is
punishable and existence of element of cruelty is not necessary,
whereas section 498-A deals with aggravated form of the offence.
6

Ibid

It punishes such demands of property or valuable security from


the wife or her relatives as are coupled with cruelty to her. Hence
a person can be prosecuted in respect of both the offences
punishable under section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act and this
section.
This section gives wide discretion to the courts in the matters of
interpretation of the words occurring in the laws and also in
matters of awarding punishment. This provision is not ultra vires.
It does not confer arbitrary powers on courts.
In the leading case of Wazir Chand vs. State of Haryana7,
involving the death by burning of a newly married woman, the
circumstances did not establish either murder or an abetted
suicide and thus in-laws escaped the jaws of section 300 and
306, but they were caught in the web of this newly enacted
section for prevention of harassment for dowry.
Not to speak of the things they are persistently demanding from
the girls side, the fact that a large number of articles were taken
by her father after her death from her matrimonial abode showed
that there was pressure being exerted on-in laws and continued
to be exerted till death for more money and articles.
The noble purpose for the insertion of Section 498A of the Indian
Penal Code in 1983 amendment is to provide reliefs to married
women and to ensure their safety at in-laws place. It
encompasses the protection of women from cruelty on the part of
her husband and his relatives. The term cruelty has been
specified more by the Explanation provided in the afore-stated
Section:
Nature of Conduct...Wilful
Impact...likely to drive the woman,
Nature of act...to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger
to life, limb or health whether mental or physical of the woman.
7

1989 SCC(Cr) 105; 1989 (1) SCC 244; 1989 AIR(SC) 378; 1989 (1) Crimes 173; 1989 (95) CRLJ 809

The above act is indirect where there is a creation of such


circumstances which drives a woman to take extreme steps.
Whereas, in the second instance, the harassment coupled with
coercion is applied in following two cases where the subject
matter is woman or any person. To meet any unlawful demand of
any property or valuable security or Failure by her or any person
related to her meet such demand. No doubt Section 498A is
major armour in the hand of women to safeguard their life and
dignity, provided it is used in right spirit and manner. Its uses
are manifold but it has grossly been misused by the parties.

In Sushil Kumar Sharma Vs. Union of India8, the Supreme


Court of India has clearly stated, it is matter of common
knowledge that exaggerated versions of the incidents are reflected
in a large number of complaints. The tendency of over implication
is also reflected in a very large number of cases. Armour for
protection should never be the tool for destruction. Section 498A
is the armour for protection not a tool of legal terrorism. We as a
part of civil society bear a responsibility to see that Section 498A
is use to meted out the justice to the party and does not become
a pawn in the hands of exploiting fews.
Onkar Nath Mishra & Ors vs State (Nct Of Delhi) & Anr 9 The
marriage between the complainant and appellant was solemnized
at New Delhi. After the marriage, the complainant was residing at
her matrimonial home in Delhi. It appears that there was some
matrimonial discord between the complainant and her
husband,appellant, which resulted in filing of a complaint by the
complainant on in the Crime against Women (CAW) Cell, Delhi,
inter alia, alleging that she was harassed by her husband and inlaws.

8
9

Ibid
2008 I AD (Crl.)(S.C.) 437

However, the matter was compromised and as agreed, the


complainant joined her husband at Bijnore (U.P.), where he was
posted. However, she returned back to her parental home in
Delhi in mid-August 1994, as she was expecting a child.
She lodged another complaint in CAW Cell. The said complaint
was the foundation for registration of F.I.R., alleging commission
of offences by the appellants under Sections 498A, 406/34 of the
Indian Penal Code (I.P.C.)
At the time of framing of charge, the Metropolitan
Magistrate came to the conclusion that no case under Section
406 had been made out against any of the accused and further
case under Section 498A was also not made out against the
father-in-law and sister-in-law. Accordingly, he discharged all the
appellants for offences under Section 406 I.P.C. and for offences
under Section 498A I.P.C.
JUGDEMENT: Consequently, we allow the appeal partly; quash
the charge framed against all the appellants under Section 406
I.P.C.; quash the charge framed against appellant Nos. 1 and 2
under Section 498A I.P.C. and dismiss the appeal of appellant No.
3 against framing of charge under Section 498A I.P.C. Needless to
add that the trial court shall now proceed with the trial
untrammelled by any observation made by the Additional Sessions
Judge and upheld by the High Court in the impugned order or by
us in this judgment.

SEC 498A AND THE ALLEGATION OF MISUSE:

With the rise in modernisation, education, financial security and


the new found independence the radical feminist has made 498A
a weapon in her hands. Many a hapless husbands and in laws
have become victims of their vengeful daughter-in-laws. Most
cases where Sec 498A is invoked turn out to be false (as
repeatedly accepted by High Courts and Supreme Court in India)
as they are mere blackmail attempts by the wife (or her close
relatives) when faced with a strained marriage. In most cases
498A complaint is followed by the demand of huge amount of
money (extortion) to settle the case out of the court.
In the last 20 years of criminal law reform a common argument
made against laws relating to violence against women in India
has been that women misuse these laws. The police, civil society,
politicians and even judges of the High Courts and Supreme
Court have offered these arguments of the "misuse' of laws
vehemently. The allegation of misuse is made particularly against
Sec 498A of the IPC and against the offence of dowry death in Sec
304B10.21 The 2003 Malimath Committee report11 on reforms
in the criminal justice system also notes, significantly, that there
is a "general complaint" that Sec 498A of the IPC is subject to
gross misuse; it uses this as justification to suggest an
amendment to the provision, but provides no data to indicate
how frequently the section is being misused. It is important
therefore that such "arguments" are responded to, so as to put
forth a clearer picture of the present factuaatus of the effect of
several criminal laws enacted to protect women.
Domestic violence and abuse by spouses and family members are
complex behaviours and the social organisation of courts, the

10
11

'Women and the Law' by Justice K T Thomas THE HINDU


www.mha.nic.in/pdfs/criminal_justice_system.pdf chapter 16

police and legal cultures systematically tend to devalue domestic


violence cases.
Sec 498A was introduced in the IPC in 1983 and the reforms of
the past 20 years have not been adequately evaluated at all by
the government with respect to their deterrence goals, despite the
institutionalization of law and policy to criminalise domestic
violence. A program of research and development is urgently
required to advance the current state of knowledge on the effects
of legal sanctions on domestic violence. The narrow or perhaps
almost negligible study done by law enforcement agencies about
the deterrent effects of legal sanctions for domestic violence
stands in high contrast with the extensive efforts of activists,
victim advocates and criminal justice practitioners in mobilising
law and shaping policy to stop domestic violence. It is important
to do these studies to correct the general misconceptions that
women are misusing the law by filing false cases against their
husbands and in-laws in order to harass them and get them
convicted. The perspective of the state and its agencies needs to
change from that of protecting the husbands and in-laws against
potential "misuse" of the laws of domestic violence to that of
implementing their real purpose to recognise that such violence
is a crime and protect women who have the courage to file
complaints against their abusers.

Article 15 of Indian Constitution


Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination on grounds
of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. However, it allows
special provisions for women and children. Article 21A provides
for free and compulsory education to all children from the ages of
six to 14 years. Article 24 prohibits employment of children below
14 years in mines, factories or any other hazardous employment.
The court also took note of Article 14 guaranteeing equality, and
Article 21 providing that a person cannot be deprived of life and
liberty except according to procedure established by the law.

Similarly, Article 23 prohibiting human trafficking and forced


labour was also referred to in the courts judgment.

Moving away from fundamental rights to the directive principles,


the court pressed into service provisions relating to the health of
women and children. Article 39(f) directs the State to ensure that
children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a
healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity, and
that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and
moral and material abandonment. Article 42 directs the State to
make provisions for just and humane conditions of work, and
maternity beliefs. Article 45 stipulates that the State shall
provide early childhood care and education for all children until
the age of six. Article 47 lays down the raising of level of nutrition
and standard of living of people, and improvement of public
health as a primary duty of the State.

This section tries to maintain that every married woman


needs to be given due respect and treated with care. It reinforces
the fact that a woman is not a toy to be played with, to be thrown
away at ones whims and fancies and treated as inferior to any
other. It inherently asks for husbands to treat their wives well
and not misbehave or demand unjustly which in a way sends
forth a message that a woman is a commodity for sale.
What section 498A IPC tries to do is prevent and punish the
above act and re-assert a womans right to live a peaceful and
happy life.
Use of Section 498 A by Indian Courts:
Indian Courts had been using this provision to safeguard the
women from facing the cruelty faced by them at their
matrimonial home.

9 out of 10 of the cases are always related to dowry, wherein the


woman is continuously threatened for want of more money and
property which if remains unfulfilled, the married woman is
tortured, threatened, abused- both physically and verbally and
harassed. Like in the case of Ram Kishan Jain &Ors v State of
Madhya Pradesh12 due to insufficiency of dowry demands the
woman was administered calm pose tablets and thereafter she
even cut the arteries of both her hands. Sometimes, dowry may
not be the cause but the woman for several reasons like her
complexion or family status is tortured to death.

In the case of Surajmal Banthia & Anr. V. State of West


Bengal13, the deceased was ill-treated and tortured for several
days and even not given food several times. Her father- in-law
also misbehaved with her quite often. This is the treatment that
several young brides face when they move out of their parents
home and into the house of her in-laws. It is the duty of the
court to prevent any of these abusers from escaping. The
increasing rate of bride burning for want of more dowry and
brutal torture of young wives, together with a clear escape of the
abuser is a clear indication that the court has not taken any
strong measures for the implementation of S. 498A IPC properly.
As stated earlier many a times this victim turns into the abuser
and is clearly not wronged but instead wrongs the husband and
his family for no fault of theirs. Several cases show that the
married woman takes advantage of the section and sends the
respondents to jail under the ambit of this section.
Many women rights groups justify the abuse of this section as
being a common feature with all other laws and that also the
ratio of false cases to that of true ones as being very low. But this
still does not change the truth that there is slowly a rise in the
abuse of S.498A IPC.
12
13

II (2003) DMC 546 (DB)


II (2000) DMC 628

In many judgments, the court has not considered mental cruelty


caused to the woman but has concentrated only on any sign of
physical cruelty. If evidence does not show that the woman was
physically harassed, then the court does not look into the case.
What the court does is call the woman hyper- sensitive14or of low
tolerance level and having an unstable mind15.
Also S.498A IPC does not only deal with dowry deaths but also
any willful conduct on part of the husband which causes harm to
the wifes life, limb or health (whether mental or physical).To
prove that cruelty was caused under Explanation a) of S.498A
IPC it is not important to show or put forth that the woman was
beaten up- abusing her verbally, denying her conjugal rights or
even not speaking to her properly 16would fall into the ambit of
mental cruelty.
Showing any mercy to abusers or giving them the benefit of
doubt when some proof to torture at their hands is present is
completely wrong. Like in the case of Ashok Batra & Ors v
State17 even though letters of the deceased stating that
harassment had taken place was present, not treating them as
strong evidence and giving the appellants a benefit of doubt
without ordering for a further investigation into the matter is
wrong.
The judges have in several instances made a very narrow
interpretation of this section, considering it to be only cruelty in
relation to unlawful demands or dowry demands. In a particular
case, the court went to the extent of stating that merely because
her in-laws or husband were to chastise the woman for improper
or immoral conduct, it does not necessarily amount to cruelty.18

14

State of Maharshtra v Jaiprakash Krishna Mangaonkar & Ors II(2003) DMC 384
Annapurnabai @Bhoori v State of MP I (2000)DMC 699
16
Ramesh Dalaji Godad v State of Gujarat II (2004) DMC 124
17
I (2003) DMC 287
18
] U.Subba Rao & Ors v State of Karnataka II (2003) DMC 102; Umesh Kumar Shah &Ors v State of Bihar
I (2004) DMC 260
15

This act of chastising the woman clearly amounts to mental


cruelty, something that the court apparently failed to notice.
Here, considering the woman to be a hyper- sensitive woman not
used to usual wear and tear of social life is completely erroneous.

The court has in another case not punished the guilty under
S.498A IPC even though medical Reports clearly showed that the
death was homicidal by throttling. This was simply because
According to the court, even though there were dowry demands
in the past, the court felt that Proximity of the death to be caused
due to such a demand was unlikely19.Who decides this
Proximity? The cause and its effect on the womans health or life
may be profound and even cause her mental unrest at a later
stage. While on the one hand, womens emancipation is the need
of the hour and prevention of ever increasing dowry deaths and
harassment needs to be stopped, it is also clearly noticed that
women today are still tortured and often the court, being the
ultimate saviour also does not come to the rescue to protect these
women.

19

Ravinder Bhagwan Todkar & Ors v State of Maharashtra & Ors I (2004) DMC 791 (DB)

MISUSE OF SECTION 498 A IN MODERN WORLD:


A violation of this section, its goals and its aims is on the rise
with the woman frivolously making false allegations against their
husbands with the purpose of getting rid of them or simply
hurting the family.
The abuse of this section is rapidly increasing and the women
often well- educated know that this section is both cognizable
and non-bailable and impromptu works on the complaint of the
woman and placing the man behind bars.

Like in the case of Savitri Devi v Ramesh Chand & Ors20, the
court held clearly that there was a misuse and exploitation of the
provisions to such an extent that it was hitting at the foundation
of marriage itself and proved to be not so good for health of
society at large. The court believed that authorities and
lawmakers had to review the situation and legal provisions to
prevent such from taking place.
This section was made keeping in mind protection of the married
woman from unscrupulous husbands but is clearly misused by
few women and again this is strictly condemned in Saritha v R.
Ramachandran21 where the court did notice that the reverse
trend and asked the law Commission and Parliament to make the
offence a non-cognizable and bailable one. It is been a duty of the
court to condemn wrongdoings and protect the victim but what
happens when the victim turns into the abuser? What remedy
does the husband have here?
On this ground, the woman gets to divorce her husband and remarry or even gain money in the form of compensation. Many
women rights groups go against the idea of making the offence a
non-cognizable and bailable one thinking that this gives the
accused a chance to escape conviction.
20
21

II (2003) DMC 328


I (2003) DMC 37 (DB)

But what this would do is that it would give a fair chance to the
man and above all help meet the ends of justice. Justice must
protect the weaker and ensure that the wronged is given a
chance to claim back his/her due.
When women accuse their husbands under S.498A IPC by
making the offence non-bailable and cognizable , if the man is
innocent he does not get a chance quickly to get justice and
justice delayed is justice denied.
Therefore, the lawmakers must suggest some way of making this
section non-biased to any individual such that the guilty is
punished and the person wronged is given justice.
The position of the women in India is still bad. They still need
rights to alleviate themselves in society but many a times fail to
notice others rights as long as their rights are ensured. The
educated woman of today must agree with the mantra of equality
and demand the same but the trend is slowly getting reversed.
Women are taking due advantage of the fact that they are
referred to as the weaker sex and on the foundation of rights
ensured to them are violating others rights.

RECENT JUDGEMENTS:
Indian Courts in their recent judgements have looked into the
matter of misuse of Sec.-498A I.P.C. As this Section provides that
when an F.I.R. is lodged all the family members of the husband
can be roped in. In their judicial observations and remarks, the
courts have expressed deep anguish over this law. Here are some
recent judicial observations.
1990 Punjab and Haryana High court observed in Jasbir Kaur
vs. State of Haryana22, case as:
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 Punjab23, 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
Karnataka High Court, in the case of State Vs. Srikanth24,
observed as:
Roping in of the whole of the family including brothers and
sisters-in-law has to be depreciated unless there is a specific
material against these persons; it is down right on the part of the
police to include the whole of the family as accused

22

(1990)2 Rec Cri R 243


2000 CriLJ 2993
24
2002 CriLJ 3605
23

Supreme Court in Mohd. Hoshan vs. State of A.P.25 case,


observed as:
Whether one spouse has been guilt of cruelty to the other is
essentially a question of fact. The impact of complaints, accusation
or taunts on a person amounting to cruelty depends on various
factors like the sensitivity of the victim concerned, the social
background, the environment, education etc. Further, mental
cruelty varies from person to person depending on the intensity of
the sensitivity, degree of courage and endurance to withstand
such cruelty. Each case has to be decided on its own facts whether
mental cruelty is made out
Supreme Court, in a relatively recent case, Sushil Kumar
Sharma vs. Union of India and others26, observed as:
The object of the provision is prevention of the dowry menace.
But as has been rightly contented by the petitioner that many
instances have come to light where the complaints are not
bonafide 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. The question, therefore, is
what remedial measures can be taken to prevent abuse of the
well-intentioned provision. Merely because the provision is
constitutional and intra vires, does not give a licence to
unscrupulous persons to wreck personal vendetta or unleash
harassment. It may, therefore, become necessary for the
legislature to find out ways how the makers of frivolous
complaints or allegations can be appropriately dealt with. Till
then the Courts have to take care of the situation within the
existing frame work.
But by misuse of the provision a new legal terrorism can be
unleashed. The provision is intended to be used a shield and not
an assassins weapon.
25

2002 CriLJ 4124


JT 2005(6) 266

26

If cry of wolf is made too often as a prank assistance and


protection may not be available when the actual wolf appears.
There is no question of investigating agency and Courts casually
dealing with the allegations. They cannot follow any straitjacket
formula in the matters relating to dowry tortures, deaths and
cruelty. It cannot be lost sight of that ultimate objective of every
legal system is to arrive at truth, punish the guilty and protect
the innocent. There is no scope for any pre-conceived notion or
view. It is strenuously argued by the petitioner that the
investigating agencies and the courts start with the presumptions
that the accused persons are guilty and that the complainant is
speaking the truth. This is too wide available and generalized
statement.
Certain statutory presumptions are drawn which again are
rebuttable. It is to be noted that the role of the investigating
agencies and the courts is that of watch dog and not of a
bloodhound. It should be their effort to see that an innocent
person is not made to suffer on account of unfounded, baseless
and malicious allegations. It is equally undisputable that in many
cases no direct evidence is available and the courts have to act
on circumstantial evidence. While dealing with such cases, the
law laid down relating to circumstantial evidence has to be kept
in view.
The wife petitioned for divorce on the ground of persistent
demand made on her by her husband and in-laws. The High
Court took the view that there was nothing wrong in these
demands as money was needed by the husband for his personal
use and in such a case wife should extend help. Reversing the
judgment, the Supreme Court held that demand for dowry is
prohibited under the law. That itself was bad enough; Shobha
Rani v. Madhukar, 27; see also Prakash Kaur v. Harijinderpal
Singh28.

27
28

AIR 1988 SC 121


AIR 1999 Raj 46

(ii) The husband and his parents were greedy people. Their desire
for dowry was insatiable. They went on demanding dowry even
after two years of marriage, and since the parents of wife could
not meet these, they started ill-treating her with a view to
coercing her parents to give dowry. The Delhi High Court held
that this amounted to cruelty; Adarsh Parkash v. Sarita, 29

DEMAND FOR MONEY


Demand for money after four years of marriage for a specific
purpose, nowhere related to marriage demand but causing of
harassment to deceased wife so much so that she was bound to
end her life is sufficient for conviction under section 498A; State
of Punjab v. Daljit Singh, 1999 Cr LJ 2723 (P&H).

DRUNKENNESS
No doubt drinking is a constituent of culture all over the world,
and is almost a cult in certain societies. Yet, even here as
elsewhere a habit of excessive drinking is a vice and cannot be
considered a reasonable wear and tear of married life. No
reasonable person marries to bargain to endure habitual
drunkenness, a disgusting conduct. And yet it is not an
independent ground of any matrimonial relief in India. But it may
constitute treatment with cruelty, if indulged in by a spouse and
continued, in spite of remonstrance, by the other. It may cause
great anguish and distress to the wife who never suspected what
she was bargaining for and may sooner or later find living
together not only miserable but unbearable. If it was so, she may
leave him and may, apart from cruelty, even complain of
constructive desertion Rita v. Brij Kishore30.

29
30

AIR 1987 Del 203.


AIR 1984 Del 291

OBJECT

Section 498A was added with a view to punishing husband and


his relatives who harass or torture the wife to coerce her or her
relatives to satisfy unlawful demands of dowry. The hypertechnical view would be counterproductive and would act against
interests of women and against the object for which the provision
was added. There is every likelihood that non-exercise of inherent
power to quash the proceedings to meet the ends of justice would
prevent woman from settling earlier. That is not the object of
Chapter XXA; B.S. Joshi v. State of Haryana31.

SECTION 498A VIS-A-VIS SECTION 113 OF EVIDENCE ACT

Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code or section 113A of the


Indian Evidence Act has not introduced invidious classification
qua the treatment of a married woman by her husband or
relatives of her husband vis-a-vis the other offenders. On the
other hand, such women form a class apart whom from those
who are married more than seven years earlier to the commission
of such offence, because, with the passage of time after marriage
and birth of children, there are remote chances of treating a
married woman with cruelty by her husband or his relatives.
Thus, the classification is reasonable and has close nexus with
the object sought to be achieved, i.e., eradication of the evil of
dowry in the Indian social set-up and to ensure that the married
women live with dignity at their matrimonial homes; Krishan Lal
v. Union of India32

31
32

AIR 2003 SC 1386


1994 Cr LJ 3472.

Unhappiness between husband and wife

Where the prosecution relied only on incident of unhappiness of


deceased with her husband and the allegation was only in form of
suggestion, it does not establish criminal offence under either or
both of the charges, hence conviction under section 498A is
improper; State v. K. Sridhar33.

Wilful Conduct
The allegations against the husband were that he abused and
beat his wife, forced her to have a common kitchen with a harijan
family, accused her of adultery and of carrying in her womb
someone elses child, pressurizing her to agree for an abortion,
and such other acts. This amounted to a wilful conduct of cruelty
towards wife; Rishi Kumar v. State of Haryana34.

33
34

2000 Cr LJ 328 (Kant


Criminal Appeal No. 335-B of 1985

BIBLIOGRAPHY
BOOKS:
INDIAN PENAL CODE

RATANLAL & DHIRAJLAL

CRIMINAL LAW

K.D. GAUR

THE INDIAN PENAL CODE

S.N. MISHRA

CRIMINAL LAW

P.S. ACHUTHAN PILLAI

WEBSITES:
www.indiankanoon.com
www.legalserviceindia.com
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