It is undeniable that laws like Dowry Prohibition Act, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, Section 498A of IPC etc. are necessary for a societal setup like that of India where violence against women is skyrocketing. However; the mis-employment and misuse of such laws in the hands of women have also become very common, and the results are catastrophic. The well-aware and disgruntled wives tend to misuse the law in their favour for various reasons. In such circumstances, it becomes difficult to distinguish the false cases from the ones who are genuine.
Being a non-compoundable and cognizable offense, the provision of Section 498A is more likely to be misused which nullifies the whole purpose for which this provision was inserted. The provision also extends to the family and relatives of the husband. When the complaint is filed, the consequences and corollary issues are not contemplated which leads to the unnecessary harassment of not only the accused but his family as well.
After the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s Judgement in Arnesh Kumar vs the State of Bihar, the number of FIR lodged under Section 498-A have substantially decreased. The learned judge, in this case, observed 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. In this case, the Supreme Court issued strict guidelines barring automatic arrest in 498-A.
It was observed that the provision which was inserted for the benefit of women was being used as a sword rather than a shield. The provision is certainly debatable if the recent reports of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) are analyzed. The report depicts a huge gap between conviction and acquittal rate. In 2016, the number of convictions stood at 5,433 whereas the number of acquittals was 39,428. Furthermore, between 2014- 2016 the number of false cases as reported by Police were 22, 347.
In the case of Kali Ram Vs. State of H.P., the Supreme Court stated that, “Another golden thread which runs through the web of the administration of justice in criminal cases is that if the two views are possible on the evidence adduced in the case, one pointing to the guilt of the accused and the other to his innocence, the view which is favourable to the accused should be adopted. This principle has special relevance in cases wherein the guilt of the accused is sought to be established by circumstantial evidence”.
In Kanaraj v. the State of Punjab, the apex court observed, “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”.
In the present scenario, a balance needs to be created during the application of such laws. In Rajesh Sharma v Union of India , after considering the data of the National Crime Records Bureau, the Hon’ble Supreme Court laid down specific guidelines which shall be applicable in 498-A cases in the absence of substantial physical injuries and death. These include:
- Setting up of Family Welfare Committees at district level which would look into complaints filed under 498-A.
- The compulsory investigation into the matter by a designated Investigation Officer within a month.
- Immediate disposal of proceeding including criminal proceedings in case settlement is reached.
- Bail application should be decided on a clear day’s notice to Public Prosecutor as far as possible on the same day.
- In respect of persons ordinarily residing out of India impounding of passports or issuance of Red Corner Notice should not be a routine.
- Trial court to grant exemption from personal appearance and allow an appearance by video conferencing.
The misuse of benefits provided to a certain section is inevitable. The provision was inserted with a laudable objective of protecting the women subject to cruelty; however recent reports pique grave concern. Certain amendments are necessary for countering the same.
Section 498A which was introduced as a tool to provide women with a remedy is now being used as a tool to be used in personal revenge. The number of false cases under this provision is ever increasing, and the men are faced with the question that how can they escape a false case initiated against them? However, the judiciary is trying its level best in maintaining the required balance, but the need for legislative intervention has become important now.
- (2014) 8 SCC 273.
- Id. at 1
- Crime in India, National Crime Records Bureau (Ministry of Home Affairs), Government of India,2016, http://ncrb.gov.in/. (Last Annexed on 21.06.2018)
- (1973) 2 SCC 808
- 2000 CriLJ 2993
- CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1265 OF 2017 [Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No.2013 of 2017]