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May 6, 2024

Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC):

Why in news? The Supreme Court has recently asked  the union government and the parliament to make necessary changes to the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita (BNS) with respect to the provision replacing Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

What is Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)?

  • Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with cruelty by a husband or his relatives towards a married woman. It was introduced with the aim of protecting married women from harassment and cruelty by their husbands or in-laws.

Key Provisions:

Cruelty towards Wife:

  • The section primarily deals with cruelty towards a married woman by her husband or his relatives.
  • This includes any conduct that is likely to drive the woman to suicide or cause grave injury to her life, limb, or health. It also includes harassment with the purpose of coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for property or valuable security.

Punishment: The punishment for the offense under Section 498A can extend to imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

Exceptions:

  • There haven’t been explicit exceptions laid down in the IPC itself for Section 498A. However, over time, courts have interpreted and applied the law in various contexts. For instance, if the accusations are found to be false or maliciously motivated, the accused can seek remedy under other laws such as IPC Section 182 (false information, with intent to cause public servant to use his lawful power to the injury of another person).

Supreme Court Decisions:

The Supreme Court of India has addressed several issues related to Section 498A. Some notable ones include:

Arnesh Kumar vs. State of Bihar (2014): The Supreme Court issued guidelines to prevent the misuse of Section 498A. It directed the police to not make immediate arrests upon the mere filing of a complaint under this section and advised the authorities to first conduct a preliminary investigation to ascertain the veracity of the complaint.

Social Action Forum for Manav Adhikar vs. Union of India (2018): The Supreme Court reiterated the need to prevent misuse of Section 498A and directed the government to constitute family welfare committees in every district to examine complaints under this section before any arrests are made.

These judgments aimed to balance the protection of women from harassment with the prevention of false accusations and misuse of the law.


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