In India, owing to regressive mindset and educational disparity, for a long time, a large number of women suffered immense cruelty at the hands of their husbands and in-laws. Whenever they spoke, against the wrongs done upon them, they were chucked out of their matrimonial homes and were forced to live a life of a pauper.
For the welfare of women, various empowering legislation was enacted over a period of three decades. Out of many, the insertion of Section 498-A in the Indian Penal Code in the year 1983 was a milestone that penalized cruel husbands and relatives. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 was another enactment to curb the growing atrocities.
Section 498-A was inserted keeping in mind the deterrent theory, and accordingly, the offense was made non-bailable and non-compoundable.
Current Position of Section 498-A of IPC
Over the course of years, section 498-A has grown to become one of the most dreaded law in the history of Indian Laws. It has turned into a menace in itself and has met with condemnation by various law commission reports and committees formulated to advise on the issue.
Justice Malimath Committee’s Report on Reforms of Criminal Justice System observed that:
“This section, therefore, helps neither the wife nor the husband. The offense being non-bailable and non-compoundable makes an innocent person undergo stigmatization and hardship. Heartless provisions that make the offense non-bailable and non-compoundable operate against reconciliations. It is, therefore, necessary to make this offense (a) bailable and (b) compoundable to give a chance to the spouses to come together.”
Even after detailed discussion and meaningful debates, section 498-A remains non-bailable and non-compoundable.
A pro-women and beneficial legislation with time turned into an easy weapon for disgruntled women to misuse and settle their scores with their husbands and relatives, and act utterly unforgiving towards the usual wear and tear of marriage.
Keeping in view the changing scenarios and the misuse of the process of law, the Hon’ble Apex Court pointed out the misuse in catena of judgments wherein it was repeatedly observed that the complaints filed by wives contain exaggerated description of incidents and an attempt to implicate the husband and his family members with a motive to wreck personal vendetta thus labeling it as legal terrorism1.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in a landmark judgment discussed the statistics of false and frivolous cases being filed by wives against their husbands and their family members and showed its indignation2.
Even with the observation of the Apex Court and the directions issued to police qua the registration of FIR under section 498-A, every year the number of false cases of cruelty are increasing. With the increase in the number of false cases, the actual aggrieved person is failing to get justice.”
There have been corrupt instances where police conspired with the disgruntled women and misused the power of police authority under section 107 and 151 of Cr.P.C.3 to conduct arrest upon the husband or the relatives of the husband on the pretext of preventive detention of a person from committing a non-bailable offence, as such, the innocent husband and his relatives are sent behind the bars with no fault of their own.
Relief From False Complaint
Giving false complaint to police with an intention to take wrongful benefit of a police official to cause harm upon the husband is a crime in itself and it is covered under section 182 of IPC4
A complaint under section 182 IPC can be filed at the concerned public servant whose powers were intended to be misused to seek justice against the person who has been filing false and frivolous complaints.
What Leads to Registration of an FIR?
Every person has its own line of thinking. Even the psychology of a child and his parents differ and on occasion, it leads to difference of opinion and conflict. Similarly, in the course of matrimony, conflicts between the couple are bound to take place and are considered to be normal wear and tear of marriage. If the conflicts are not managed at the earliest, it aggravates and becomes a dispute followed by nasty arguments and finally, relations become estranged.
Once the relations between the husband and wife are strained, either of the spouse tends to desert their partner. After desertion, women have a tendency to file a complaint against her husband and her in-laws leveling false, frivolous, vexatious and unsupported allegations.
Most of the complaints filed by the wives are stereotypical in nature. Some of the common allegations in the complaints filed include allegations of beatings, molestation by father-in-law, constant taunting for not bringing sufficient dowry and treating the gift articles given by the parents of the wives out of their own wish and accord as dowry articles.
Upon the complaint made by the wife, police summon the accused husband and his family to inquire about the matter and try for an amicable settlement by adopting the means of mediation as per the direction of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. If the mediation is successful, the complaint is closed and if at all the mediation fails and the police finds a prima facie case of cruelty may register an FIR after taking due permission from Senior Superintendent of Police.
How to Fight Against False 498A Cases?
Upon the registration of an FIR and to avoid being arrested, it is advisable to obtain Anticipatory Bail under section 438 of Cr.P.C. from the Court of Session Judge of a district where FIR is registered. Anticipatory Bail provides for protection from police or judicial custody as the case may be, however, anticipatory bail is granted subject to fulfillment of certain conditions such as furnishing of bail bonds/surety bonds, direction to join the investigation.
After the grant of anticipatory bail and at the time of presentation of Challan, the accused persons have to file a formal regular bail application before the trial court for seeking bail during the pendency of the trial. Upon the presentation of the application, regular bail is granted and thereafter charges are framed.
In order to procure an order of conviction, the prosecution has to prove its case against the accused persons beyond any reasonable doubt as there is a presumption of innocence in the favor of the accused, which the prosecution has to rebut.
It is worthy to be noted for the accused husbands that they have to attend each and every date of hearing in person an upon failure to attend the proceedings, the court shall cancel the bail, forfeit the surety bonds and issue arrest warrants against the accused who failed to be present on the date of hearing. For any reason beyond control, the accused can also seek an exemption from personal appearance for a particular date stating the reasons for which the accused is unable to attend the proceedings.
In order to get free from the troubles of FIR, the accused husband can also approach the Hon’ble High Court of the State where the FIR is registered for quashing of FIR under section 482 of Cr.P.C. on the basis of grounds established by the Hon’ble Supreme Court or on the basis of compromise between the wife and the husband.
A compromise between the wife and husband can be either for saving the matrimony by settling the issues or by parting ways with each other with mutual consent.
If a compromise is made between husband and wife for saving the matrimony, intervention is required from the respectable people of the families. If there is no such person, or, if such person is not interested, a person can seek the help of a marriage counselor as well as of professional lawyers who can act as unbiased mediators. During the course of settlement, it is agreed by both the husband and wife that they will withdraw all sets of litigation filed against each other relating to the matrimony.
If the matrimony is beyond any scope of saving, it is always advisable to obtain a decree of divorce from the Hon’ble District and Session Court by filing a petition for divorce on the grounds mentioned in section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
If the wife has leveled unsubstantiated, false, frivolous and vexatious allegations against the husband and his family members, one should not come under the pressure of the allegations and move towards settlement by paying one-time alimony to the wife. The motive behind the filing of a false and vexatious complaints/case against the husband is to cause undue enrichment. In the year 2015, Metropolitan Magistrate Shivani Chauhan, Delhi had dismissed a complaint filed under Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act filed by a wife against her husband and in-laws wherein she had made false allegations against them making. The Ld. Metropolitan Magistrate also imposed a cost of Rs. One Lakh on the wife and observed that the wife has misused legal provisions as a tool to extort unjustified money from him for unjustified personal gain. Therefore, it is always advisable that one should not come under the pressure of false allegations and pay for the settlement.
In conclusion, it can easily be construed that section 498-A is boon for someone and bane for the majority of the population. With the increasing number of false complaints, the belief of young bachelors on the institute of Holy Matrimony is diminishing.
- Sushil Kumar Sharma Vs. UOI (2005) 6 SCC 281
- Arnesh Kumar vs. State of Bihar CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1277 OF 2014
- Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
- Indian Penal Code, 1860
This article is written by Paras Chugh. The author can be contacted via email at [email protected]
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