What is Section 498A ?
IPC 498A is one of the sections of the Indian Penal Code inserted in the year 1986 to protect women from harassment on account of demand of Dowry. As per definition:
The statute says that
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 punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine. Explanation.—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.
Necessity for Section 498a
Section 498A was added in Indian Penal Code to safeguard the interest and well-being of women in their matrimonial homes when there were lot of hue and cry in the society against the alleged wife-burning incidents in late 1970s and early 1980s. The purport was to give women a shield against such harassment. In fact another section 304B in IPC a Section 113-A of Indian Evidence Act was also added at the same time.
Is Section 498a IPC bailable?
No, this section is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compundable. Which essentially means that the Police officer has to register an FIR upon the complaint itself and bail can be granted by the magistrate only. Also, FIR can not be withdrawn by the complainant, but it can be set aside by High Courts only under its powers of CrPC 482.
However, with the voices of large scale misuse of this provisions came various judgments of High Courts and even Apex Court to stem the misuse. Steps like pre-litigation mediation at CAW Cell/ Mahila Thana etc was added. Post 2014, Arnesh Kumar judgment forced the police and courts to follow the procedure of Section 41-A of Criminal Procedure Act, so that unnecessary arrests can be avoided. Though this section remains non-bailable even now, arrests in plain Section 498a is rarity.
How can men protect themselves from false allegations ?
I wish there was an easy one size fit all solution to the same. If the FIR is registered the case need to be fought on merits. One has to sit with someone who is knowledgable about law and see whether there is any opportunity of discharge/ quash of the said FIR. If not, the matter would be put for trial and the same need to be contested by the accused person/s.
The nature of the offence under Section 498A
The nature of the offence is non-bailable. That means the bail can only be granted by the magistrate and police officer can not grant bail under this section. However, with the passage of time there are judgments like Arnesh Kumar and Rajesh Sharma, which has curbed the menace of arrests in 498A. Instead, owing to the changes in CrPC, the police has to give notice u/s 41A of CrPC to the accused to join the investigation. If the accused keeps on joining the investigation as and when called by the investigating officer, then arrests are normally not effected under Section 498A.
Section 498a punishment
As per the IPC, the offence under this section is punishable by imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable for fine.
Protection against section 498a IPC
Unfortunately, there is no protection against the filing of 498a IPC. This section is cognizable. So despite of the pre-FIR mediation and counselling, if the woman wishes the FIR would be lodged. Depending upon the contents of the FIR, it has to be seen whether an application for Anticipatory Bail shall be moved or not.
Counter steps for misuse of IPC 498a
- Misuse of IPC 498a is very high. As per NCRB data, it is said that merely 1 – 2% cases end in conviction of the accused. Many studies have been done in this regard which also point to very high misuse. How the 498a is dangerous for the society
- When it comes to counter steps of IPC 498A, it has to originate from her allegations only. Tax Evasion Petition against claims of very high dowry expenditure has been successful both with income tax and VAT, now GST, departments. In certain cases FIRs have been successfully lodged against the girl, jewellers and even investigating officers for providing false bills. Action has been taken against investigating officers if the arrests have been done in violation of 41A of CrPC.
Each year more than 1,50,000 families are hit by this draconian law, 98% of them are falsely accused of the same. Though there are many support groups working for men in various cities of India, still there are many Myths surrounding that; one often listens people stating that 498a cannot be filed after Seven Years of marriage, Or there is an Arnesh Kumar Judgment which has stopped arrests in 498a cases and so on. This article 498a Myth Buster tries to dispel this and many other Myths surrounding 498a. An advisory from MHA to combat the menace of immediate and arbitrary arrests has been issued.
We also run WhatsApp support groups for men fighting false 498a, for which you can send a WhatsApp message with “Subscribe” to 9811850498.
There has been a massive change in the scenario since the time Arnesh Kumar judgment has been pronounced by Honorable Supreme Court Of India. There has been an advisory issued by Ministry of Home Affairs
Over time various High Courts has come up with guidelines to arrest the menace of misuse of 498a. The most recent being from MHA following Arnesh Kumar Jugdment by Supreme Court of India. Please find the same here.
Knowledge is power, Most men facing 498a are at sea how to fight the same. I have collected some landmark judgment which can be useful for fighters at various stages of 498a including Bail, discharge, quashing and getting acquittal.