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Misuse of section 498A: Woman lodges a complaint under section 498A, husband and in-laws arrested.

A newspaper headline such as above is sure to garner sympathy for the victim from the public
and the media. But rarely do we ponder over who might be the actual victim here the wife or
the husband? Recently, several cases, where the husband and his family were wrongly accused
and trapped under the section 498A of Indian Penal Code, have come into the public eye. Does
this mean that section 498A is being misused? Perhaps yes, because there have been horror
stories of legal extortions, baseless claims and blackmail by women under this section. Both the
PWDVA and Section 498A use similar tests of injury and harassment. Section 498A also
expressly recognizes grave injury to the mental health.
Kumar Sharma v. Union of India Section 498A challenged its constitutional validity on the
grounds that it is frequently misused.' 16 The Supreme Court dismissed this claim, holding that
the mere possibility of misuse did not render a provision invalid.l
Merely because the provision is constitutional and intra vires, does not give a license 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 framework. 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 assassin's weapon. If cry of
"wolf' is made too often as a prank assistance and protection may not be available when the
actual "wolf' appears
The court in Verrulu v. The State demanded a stop to the unhealthy trend of false complaints that
had been resulting in unnecessary misery to the husband and his relatives.
Arnesh Kumar vs State Of Bihar & Anr on 2 July, 2014,
The fact that Section 498-A is a cognizable and non-bailable offence has lent it a dubious place
of pride amongst the provisions that are used as weapons rather than shield by disgruntled wives.
The simplest way to harass is to get the husband and his relatives arrested under this provision.
The rate of charge-sheeting in cases under Section 498A, IPC is as high as 93.6%, while the
conviction rate is only 15%, which is lowest across all heads. As many as 3,72,706 cases are
pending trial of which on current estimate, nearly 3,17,000 are likely to result in acquittal. Arrest
brings humiliation, curtails freedom and cast scars forever. Law makers know it so also the
police. There is a battle between the law makers and the police and it seems that police has not
learnt its lesson; the lesson implicit and embodied in the Cr.PC. It has not come out of its
colonial image despite six decades of independence, it is largely considered as a tool of
harassment, oppression and surely not considered a friend of public. The need for caution in
exercising the drastic power of arrest has been emphasized time and again by Courts but has not

yielded desired result. Power to arrest greatly contributes to its arrogance so also the failure of
the Magistracy to check it. Not only this, the power of arrest is one of the lucrative sources of
police corruption. The attitude to arrest first and then proceed with the rest is despicable. It has
become a handy tool to the police officers who lack sensitivity or act with oblique motive. All
the State Governments to instruct its police officers not to automatically arrest when a case
under Section 498-A of the IPC is registered but to satisfy themselves about the necessity for
arrest under the parameters laid down above flowing from Section 41, Cr.PC. One such view
was expressed by former Justice K T Thomas in his article titled Women and the Law, which
appeared in The Hindu. The 2003 Malimath Committee report on reforms in the criminal justice
system also noted, significantly, that there is a general complaint that Sec 498A of the IPC is
subject to gross misuse; it used this as justification to suggest an amendment to the provision, but
provided no data to indicate how frequently the section is being misused.