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SECTION 498A IPC - Indian Penal Code - Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty


Last Updated: 01 Feb, 2023
By Advocate Chikirsha Mohanty


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Description of IPC Section 498A

According to section 498A of Indian penal code, 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.

 

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Offence : Punishment for subjecting a married woman to Cruelty


Punishment : 3 Years + Fine


Cognizance : Non-Cognizable


Bail : Non-Bailable


Triable : Magistrate First Class



Offence : If information of offence is given to SHO by aggrieved or her relative by blood, marriage or adoption, or by notified public servant


Punishment : 3 Years + Fine


Cognizance : Cognizable


Bail : Non-Bailable


Triable : Magistrate First Class





According to the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, released on 29 August, 2022, India saw a total of 4,28,278 instances of crimes against women in 2021 – a 15 percent increase from the previous year.

Of these, 'cruelty by husband' comprised the largest share – almost 32 percent!

This steep rise is unfortunately much steeper in reality, given the fact that most of these cases go drastically underreported.

It’s tragic to know that women are increasingly unsafe in their own homes.

And, it’s more important than ever that women stay alert and in better awareness of their rights.

Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’) is an enabling provision that comes to great rescue of women in domestic distress. It empowers them to take strict action against any instance of cruelty or harassment that gets meted out to them in their matrimonial homes.

It is very important for women to equip themselves with the knowledge of this welfare provision which aims to deal with a stern hand any husband (or his relative) who stoops down to torturous ways in compelling her to meet any demand for dowry or to commit suicide.



What Is Section 498a, IPC?

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 purposes 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.



Understanding Section 498A, IPC

Section 498A, IPC punishes a woman’s husband (or his relative) for having inflicted ‘cruelty’ upon her. The Section reveals to us a loose-knit definition of the term ‘cruelty’. The definition is deliberately kept open-ended for it to accommodate any new developments in our understanding of what may amount to ‘cruelty’ for the purpose of Section 498A, IPC.

‘Cruelty’ as is punishable under Section 498A, IPC can manifest itself in multiple offensive forms.
For example:

  1. Cruelty by making persistent demands for dowry

  2. Cruelty by initiating/maintaining false and/or vexatious litigation against the other spouse

  3. Cruelty by indulging in depriving and wasteful habits

  4. Cruelty by indulging in extra-marital relations

  5. Cruelty by not accepting a girlchild born to one’s wife

  6. Cruelty by forcing one’s wife to undergo a sex-determination test

  7. Cruelty by making false attacks on the chastity of one’s wife

  8. Cruelty by depriving the other spouse of the company of children

  9. Cruelty by hitting or beating or physically hurting the wife (under the influence of alcohol or not)

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What is Cruelty?

In simple terms, cruelty refers to inflicting suffering or inaction towards another individual or living being. I criminal law, cruelty can refer to punishment, torture, victimization, cruel actions, etc. It could also refer to ‘inhumane’ actions. Most of the time, cruelty is ‘pleasure’ in inflicting such pain and hurt or inaction upon the other. Cruelty is clearly a very broad term and includes a wide variety of meanings. Cruelty can be both violent or physical and even mental or emotional. Section 498A covers both mental and physical cruelty. Read on to know more about what constitutes cruelty under Section 498A.



What Constitutes Cruelty and Harassment under Section 498A?

Explanation to section 498A lays down the purview of the word cruelty. According to it, the following amount to cruelty and/or harassment of the woman:

  • Any willful conduct which is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or

  • Any willful conduct which is likely to cause any grave injury to woman,

  • Any willful conduct which is likely to cause danger to life, limb, or mental or physical health of the woman,

  • Harassment of the woman with a view to coercing her or her relatives to meet unlawful demand for any property or valuable security,

  • Harassment of the woman on account of the woman’s failure to meet such demands of dowry.

The word harassment or cruelty in ordinary sense means to torment a person subjecting him or her through constant interference or intimidation. If such torment is done with the view to coercing the wife or her relatives to meet any demand of property or valuable security, it amounts to harassment as contemplated by section 498A. Coercion means persuading or compelling a person to do something by using force or threats.



What Is Cruelty For The Purpose Of Section 498A, IPC?

In the most basic sense of the term, ‘cruelty’ is an act of inflicting suffering upon another. Such suffering could be in the nature of punishment or torture or criminal inaction (where the person inflicts cruelty by failing to observe the legal duty of care that one has towards the other).

The term can be extended to include a wide variety of meanings.

Cruelty can take myriad forms of victimization – mental, physical, sexual, emotional.

Section 498A, IPC covers within its ambit all the above kinds of cruel behaviour.

Explanation to Section 498A, IPC lays down a broad definition of the term ‘cruelty’. As per it, cruelty means –

  1. Any wilful conduct which is likely to drive a woman to commit suicide, OR

  2. Any wilful conduct which is likely to cause any grave injury to a woman, OR

  3. Any wilful conduct which is likely to cause danger to life, limb, or mental or physical health of the woman, OR

  4. Harassment of a woman with a view to coercing her or her relatives to meet unlawful demand for any property or valuable security (dowry), OR

  5. Harassment of a woman on account of her (or her relative’s) failure to meet such demands of dowry.

Harassment in the above definition can be understood to mean, putting the victim through consistent intimidation or threat, harrowing level of interference, nagging persuasion or plain use of brute force so that she (or her relatives) is/are constrained to meet the unlawful demands for dowry.

Since Section 498A, IPC clearly identifies two major forms of cruelty – physical and mental, it is important we enhance our understanding of the same:

i. Physical cruelty comprises in inflicting pain or injury on the physical body of another. It is any act of physical violence that poses a threat to life, limb or health of the victim. It can take the form of beating, punching, biting, twisting limbs, slapping, choking, burning or any other way to physically hurt the victim. Physical cruelty, in most cases, is visible to the naked eye. It is readily identifiable in bruise patterns or fractured bones.

ii. Mental cruelty comprises in any person’s act of unkindness or verbal abuse that can emotionally drain or psychologically scar another. It can take the form of threatening, intimidating, belittling, name-calling or yelling at the other person. In adjudging ‘cruelty’, mental cruelty has the same weightage/ force of law as physical cruelty. Mental cruelty is invisible to the naked eye and hence more challenging to prove than physical cruelty.



Cruelty by Husband or Relatives of the Husband

Section 498A is only restricted to acts or omission done by the husband himself or by his relatives. The word relatives, however, has not been defined in the section. A reading of relevant case laws reveals that generally, the parents, sisters, and brothers i.e. the immediate family of the husband is prosecuted under this section.

In one of the cases it was argued that ‘husband’ of the ‘second wife’, who marries her during the existence of his earlier legal marriage, is not the ‘husband’ within the meaning of section 498A and the ‘second wife’, therefore cannot invoke section 498A for the cruelty caused to her by him or his relatives. The Supreme Court, relying on the legislative intent of section 498A, rejected this plea.



Trial / Court Procedure under Section 498A

As has been stated before, the trial or a criminal court procedure is initiated with the instance of an FIR or a police complaint. The detailed trial procedure has been given below:

  1. FIR (First Information Report) / Police complaint: the first step is a Police Complaint or a First Information Report. This is covered under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. An FIR puts the entire case into motion.

  2. Investigation and Report by Officer: The second step after the FIR, is investigation by the Investigation Officer. After the examination of the facts and circumstances, collection of evidence, and examination of persons and other necessary steps, the officer completes the investigation and prepares the investigation.

  3. Charge-sheet before Magistrate: The police then files the charge sheet before the magistrate. The charge-sheet consists of all the criminal charges against the accused.

  4. Arguments before Court and Framing of Charges: On the fixed date of hearing, the Magistrate hears the parties’ arguments on the charges that have been set and then finally frames the charges.

  5. Plea of guilty: Section 241 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 talks about the plea of guilty, after framing of the charges the accused is given an opportunity to plead guilty, and the responsibility lies with the judge to ensure that the plea of guilt was voluntarily made. The judge may upon its discretion convict the accused.

  6. Evidence by Prosecution: After the framing of the charges and the accused pleading ‘not guilty’, the evidence is first given by the Prosecution, upon whom the burden of proof initially (generally) lies. Both oral and documentary evidence can be produced. The magistrate has the power to issue summons to any person as a witness or order him to produce any document.

  7. Cross Examination of Witnesses by Accused/Counsel: Witnesses of the prosecution when produced before the court are cross examined by the accused or his/her counsel.

  8. Evidence by Accused if any, in defence: If the accused has any evidence, it is presented to the Courts at this stage. He/she is given this opportunity to make his/her case stronger. However, since the burden of proof is on the prosecution i.e. the alleged victim, the accused is not required to present evidence.

  9. Cross Examination of Witness by Prosecution: If witnesses are produced by the defence, they will be cross-examined by the Prosecution.

  10. Conclusion of Evidence: Once the court has been presented with evidence from both sides, the evidence is concluded by the Court/Judge.

  11. Oral / Final Arguments: The final stage, nearing the judgement is the stage of final arguments. Here, both parties take turns (first, the prosecution and then the defence) and make final oral arguments in front of the judge.

  12. Judgement by the Court: Based upon the facts and circumstances of that case, and upon the arguments made and evidence produced, the Court gives its final judgement. The Court gives its reasons in support of the acquittal or conviction of the accused and pronounces its final order.

  13. Acquittal or Conviction: If the accused is held guilty, he/she is convicted and if held ‘not-guilty’, the accused is acquitted in the final judgement.

  14. If Convicted, Hearing on Quantum of Sentence: If the accused is held guilty and convicted, a hearing will take place to decide the quantum or extent of the Sentence or jail time.

  15. Appeal to Higher Courts: An appeal to Higher Courts can be made if the scenario allows it. From Sessions court, an appeal can be made to the High Court and from High Court, to the Supreme Court.



When Can A Person Be Held Guilty Under Section 498A, IPC?

For a person to be held guilty under Section 498A, IPC it is important for the prosecution to compulsorily prove the following:

  1. That the woman is married. This Section protects women from unruly and cruel behaviour that gets meted out to her in her marital home.

  2. That the woman is subject to cruelty or harassment. Cruelty as discussed above can take on myriad forms.

  3. That such cruelty or harassment is suffered by her at the hands of her husband or her in-laws or both.



What Is The Punishment Provided Under Section 498A, IPC?

A person held guilty of an offence under Section 498A, IPC shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, AND with fine.



Is The Offence Under Section 498A, IPC Compoundable?

The offence under Section 498A, IPC is not compoundable i.e., law does not allow for a compromise to be recorded between the victim and the offender.


It is a serious offence and the law requires that the offender be put to trial and punished.



Who Can File A Complaint Under Section 498A, IPC?

Section 198A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (‘CrPC’) mandates a Court not to take cognizance of an offence punishable under section 498A, IPC except:

i. upon a police report of facts that constitute the offence, OR

ii. upon complaint made by the aggrieved wife or by her father, mother, brother, sister, her father’s or mother’s brother or sister, OR

iii. with the leave of the court, by any other person related to the aggrieved wife by blood, marriage or adoption.



Is The Offence Under Section 452, IPC, Bailable?

No, the offence under Section 498A, IPC is not bailable. This means that in a complaint filed under Section 498A the Court has the power to refuse bail and remand a person to judicial or police custody.



Can You Get A Bail In A Case Under Section 498A, IPC?

The offence committed under Section 498A, IPC is non-bailable one.

An FIR (First Information Report) made by the complainant under Section 498A, IPC has to be compulsorily registered by the Police officer and he is duty bound to commence investigation and carry out arrests (if necessary) in the case.

Following such an arrest, it is only the Court that can grant bail to the arrested person.

Bail is a written permission granted by the Court which allows one to stay out of jail when one is put under post-arrest custody in the course of investigation of an offence.

Generally, the Court has to satisfy the three-pronged test in allowing bail to an accused who is involved in a non-bailable offence:

  1. that the accused will not flee the authorities

  2. that the accused will not influence witnesses

  3. that the accused will not tamper with the evidence



Can A Police-officer Make An Arrest Under Section 498a, IPC Without Warrant?

Yes, a police officer can arrest a person suspected to have committed an offence under Section 498A, IPC without warrant from the Court (a warrant is a Court-order authorising a police officer to carry out an arrest). By law, the police are duty-bound to register and investigate the offence under Section 498A, IPC.



Is An Arrest Under Section 498a, Ipc, Automatic?

There came a time when arrests under Section 498A, IPC became unnecessarily rampant and routinely automatic. They were effected with the menacing motives of disgruntled wives rather than as effective tools to aid police investigation.

This malpractice was eventually checked by the Supreme Court of India, with the passage of judgements like Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar (2014) and Rajesh Sharma v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2017), wherein the Hon’ble Court while clearly recognising the gross misuse of Section 498A, IPC, issued guidelines to the Police while making arrests under the same.

Accordingly, while investigating a 498A case, the Police instead of carrying out an automatic arrest of the accused are mandated to issue a notice to him under Section 41A, CrPC to join the ongoing investigation into the offence. Arrests are not mandated to be carried out under Section 498A, IPC if the accused continues to join such investigation, as and when called to do so. Hence, it was thus that unnecessary arrests by the Police were curbed by the Court.

However, once the FIR is registered, it is better recommended to take anticipatory bail. When the accused moves the court for anticipatory bail, certain conditions may be imposed by the court upon him/her. Depositing a demand draft of a certain amount in the name of the wife or other dependents as a part of maintenance etc. could be one of the conditions. But, when there exists a specific provision for maintenance of wife and child, such conditional anticipatory bail granted under section 498A would go against the law.



What Is Pre-litigation Mediation In A 498a Case?

One of the steps taken by the administration to preserve the interests of all the relevant stakeholders in a 498A case is the provision for Pre-Litigation Mediation at Crime Against Women (CAW) Cell/Mahila Thana etc. The objective of this kind of mediation is to give a platform to the warring parties to settle their differences through the intervention of trained mediators. It aims at reducing the chances of litigation and at offering solutions outside of Court.

Cases could be referred to the Mediation Cell by forwarding a copy of complaint with a consent form signed by both the parties giving their willingness to opt for mediation.

If despite the Pre-Litigation Mediation and Counselling, a woman still wishes to file a 498A case against her husband or in-laws or both, an FIR could be lodged against him/them. Such an FIR cannot be withdrawn by the complainant and could only be set aside by the High Court in exercise of its inherent powers under Section 482, CrPC.




How To File A Case Under Section 498a, IPC?

If a woman has been subjected to cruelty or harassment for demand of dowry or otherwise, by her husband or his relatives, during the subsistence of marriage, she has a right to seek justice and protection by taking recourse to Section 498A, IPC.

Having been subjected to cruelty – physical, mental or sexual (as per Section 498A, IPC) – a woman should not shy away from approaching the authorities. One should remember that a single instance of abuse or brutality, if allowed to remain unchecked, paves way for more such instances to occur. A woman should act in time and boldly report to the police authorities any such instance of cruelty. By doing thus she would have prevented infliction of any future harassment at the hands of an aggressive husband (or relatives).

A woman must have a good criminal lawyer by her side while she brings about a 498A case against her aggressors.

The first step is to approach the Police and to get an FIR registered against the husband or his relatives or both (depending on who unleashed cruelty upon her).

In case the victim-woman is in a bad shape and consequently not in a position to go to the police station herself - so as to be able to get an FIR lodged - any of her friend or relative can also approach the Police and act as an informant on her behalf. If that too is not feasible, a call on the Police Helpline number – 100, should be made.

If the Police refuses to lodge an FIR, a complaint may be made to the nearest Area Magistrate under

mother’s brother or sister or, with the leave of the Court, by any other person related to her by blood, marriage or adoption.

Having thus initiated a 498A case, criminal proceedings would commence against such husband and/or his relatives.



How To Defend A False Case Under Section 498a, IPC?

On account of Section 498A, IPC being a welfare provision for women, it is tough to outmanoeuvre a false case filed under that Section.

However, there are options available for a man (and/or his family) to take recourse to for countering the injustice perpetrated by a disgruntled wife bent at playing dirty.

A falsely implicated husband can file a counter-suit and initiate legal proceedings against the wife for the wrongful invocation of penal provisions and the subsequent harm caused to him and his family.

Following are the few recourses that a husband (and/or his family) can take to protect themselves in a false 498A case:

  1. Prosecution for Defamation: If a woman attempts to malign the image and reputation of her husband and/or his relatives through false accusations of cruelty under Section 498A, IPC, she can be prosecuted under Section 500, IPC for the offence of ‘Defamation’ in a Court of law

  2. Prosecution for Criminal Conspiracy: If a husband has reason to believe and can prove that the false accusations against him and his family members are a part of a criminal conspiracy hatched by his wife, she can be prosecuted under Section 120B, IPC for the offence of ‘Criminal Conspiracy’ in a Court of law

  3. Prosecution for False Evidence: Further, as is the position in most fake cases under Section 498A, women bring in and seek to rely upon false evidence to strengthen their bogus case

  4. Counter Lawsuit: Further, a counter lawsuit can also be filed under Section 227, IPC for violation of condition of remission of punishment, under the belief that the case filed under Section 498A by the woman against her husband is false and frivolous

  5. Prosecution for Criminal Intimidation: If a woman threatens to harm or injure her husband and his relatives, she can be prosecuted under Section 506, IPC for the offence of ‘Criminal Intimidation’ in a Court of law

  6. Restitution of Conjugal Rights: In the case where the wife has walked out her husband’s house and is living in her parental house, a case against her for restitution of conjugal rights can be filed by the husband under section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

  7. Collection of Evidence: If one has been falsely accused in such a case, one should collect evidence and related documents which would prove their side of the case

  8. Prosecution for False FIR: If a wife falsely frames her husband or his relatives in a false 498A case, she can be prosecuted under Section 182, IPC for the offence of ‘False Information with intent to injure’ in a Court of law

  9. Legal Advice: A good criminal defence lawyer should be approached who will be best equipped to guide you as per your circumstances



What Are The Consequences Of A 498a Case For The Accused?

Institution of a case under Section 498A, IPC can have a number of unpleasant consequences for the alleged accused. Some of which are:

  1. Immediate lock-up: A case instituted under section 498A, IPC is a non-bailable one and can lead to the accused being locked-up behind bars while he awaits trial

  2. Difficult to get bail: The offence committed under Section 498A, IPC is a non-bailable one and getting bail thereunder is an assurance no one can furnish

  3. Accused is mistreated: An accused under-trial for a 498A case is treated with a lot of disdain given the socio-cultural contempt that is often associated with spousal cruelty

  4. Case dragged by the complainant: A case under Section 498A, IPC is most times deliberately dragged by the complainant to prolong the suffering, harassment and mistreatment to the accused

  5. Payment of huge amounts: The accused might have to pay heavy sum of alimony to the complainant and may also be compelled to cover the costs of the legal proceedings

  6. Health gets affected: The accused suffers in his mental and physical health - leading to an unbalanced life

  7. Loss of job: Due to the ongoing case proceedings, often times, the accused loses his job and other future prospects – career or otherwise

  8. Loss of money: The accused might end up losing money, savings, other material assets etc

  9. Loss of dignity: The accused suffers loss of dignity, self-respect, confidence, and hope

  10. Suffering faced by people around: Unfortunately, the parents, siblings, relatives and other family members also suffer along with the accused

  11. Uncertain future: The future seems uncertain with very little hope and faith

  12. Denial of basic rights: The accused against whom a 498A case is instituted eventually feels like his basic rights of having a good and a decent life have been denied to him

  13. Suicide: There are many reported cases of attempted suicides or suicides among persons accused in a 498A case owing to the uncertainty, distress, suffering, agony and humiliation faced by them during the proceedings



How can a Lawyer Help in a Section 498A case?

It is recommended that if you are a victim of domestic violence, cruelty or any dowry related harassment, you should seek the help of a domestic violence / criminal lawyer as he/she will be able to guide you throughout the legal proceedings. A lawyer has the knowledge and experience to deal in such matters and will help you with the filing of your FIR, with divorce proceedings (if any), with the relief to be sought from court, with appeals (if any needed to be filed), etc. A lawyer will help you at each step of your legal journey for seeking justice.



Testimonials - Real S.498A cases

1. “My husband and his mother tortured me after our wedding everyday. They did this to get dowry from me which I was not able to give and neither did I want to since it is illegal. My mother in law used cruel words and asked her son-my husband to hit me. Both of them even threatened to kill me if I did not meet their demands for money, flat and a car. I wanted to put an end to this torture and decided to get in touch with a lawyer. My lawyer finally guided me in the correct path and helped me file an FIR against my husband and his mother. The case is still going on in the criminal courts and I am hoping for the best.”

Mrs. Tulika Bagai

2. "My wife filed a false case under Section 498A. She accused me, my parents and even my sister. She falsely stated that we are hitting her and even tried to kill her with kerosene. This was all false and we all failed to understand why anyone could misuse the law like this. We took the help of a good lawyer who is now supporting us and helping us. The lawyer took the right steps and is appearing for us. He even helped us get bail in the matter. He built our case and asked us to collect evidence to prove my wife’s claim wrong. After a long battle of 3 years, we finally got justice and were held not guilty by the Court. Section 498A can be misused but thankfully the Courts and judges are sensitive to this issue and are not holding the men as guilty at the outset itself."

Mr. Ajay Thakral


3. "Soon after our marriage, my husband received an employment opportunity in Dubai for which he had to leave me in his hometown with his family. In his absence, my mother in law and sister in law started misbehaving with me and would often harass me and demand money from my parents for themselves. When I started protesting, they refused to let me stay in the house or serve me food. I became so helpless that I reached out to a friend for help whose husband is a lawyer. The lawyer made me realize that I had the power to take recourse to legal remedies under Section 498A against my husband’s family members. As per his instructions, I filed a complaint in my local police station and soon after the investigations began my mother in law and sister in law stopped bothering me any further. I have video and phone recordings of them which show how badly they were treating me and even produced them in Court as Evidence. My lawyer says I have a strong case and have been shown positive signs even by the Judge. We are the stage of final arguments and I am positive that the judge will order in my favour."

Mrs. Tanuja Lal


4. "My son’s wife filed a Section 498A case against my son and me after my son filed a Divorce case against her. My son and I are both aware of her mental problem and even have supporting documents. I, along with my son had to remain in custody for 2 months and 17 days, however, thanks to my lawyer, we both managed to get bail. Thereafter, the court proceedings continued where we showed all the documents which could prove that she has mental issues due to which she was behaving in an unruly manner. The Court finally gave its verdict and dismissed the matter in my son’s favour. I am happy to report that after a strenuous battle my son got divorced from his wife and even the verdict in the Section 498A case was passed in our favour. Very thankful to our lawyer who represented us after understanding our case thoroughly."

-Mr. R.P. Surana

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Important Judgments on Section 498A

1. State of West Bengal v. Orilal Jaiswal

Supreme Court of India on 25.09.1993

(1994) 1 SCC 73

The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that if it appears to the court that the victim who committed suicide was hypersensitive to ordinary petulance, discord and differences in the domestic life which, to the society to which the victim belonged, is quite common and such petulance, discord and differences were not expected to induce an individual to commit suicide who was similarly circumstanced in a given society, the court’s conscience shouldn’t be satisfied for basing a finding that the accused who was charged with abetment of such suicide should be found guilty for committing the alleged offence. In a criminal trial, the charges framed against the accused must be proved beyond all reasonable doubts and this requirement doesn’t stand altered in a case relating to Section 498A of the IPC. The court must satisfy itself, before recording a finding of guilt, that the deceased wasn’t hypersensitive.

2. Arun Vyas v. Anita Vyas

Supreme Court of India on 14.05.1999

(1999) 4 SCC 690

It was held that the essence of the offence in Section 498A is cruelty as defined in the explanation appended to that section and that it is a continuing offence and each occasion on which the woman was subjected to “cruelty” is a new starting point for her for the purpose of limitation. It was specifically held that in this particular case, the last act of cruelty was committed when the woman was forced to leave her matrimonial home.

3. Kaliyaperumal v. State of Tamil Nadu

Supreme Court of India on 27.08.2003

(2004) 9 SCC 157

The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that ‘cruelty’ is the common essential under both of the offences of Section 498A and Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code. It was even stated that though both of the above two sections are not mutually inclusive to each other but both are distinct offences and persons who are convicted for an offence under one section i.e. Section 498A can also be acquitted under the other Section i.e. Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code for the offense of dowry death.

4. Reema Aggarwal v. Anupam & Ors.

Supreme Court of India on 08.01.2004

(2004) 3 SCC 199

In this case, the husband, mother-in-law, father-in-law and brother-in-law were charged with the offence of cruelty and harassment under Section 498A of the IPC, having forced the appellant-wife to consume a poisonous substance. At the trial, they were however acquitted on there being no ground of evidence present to show that the appellant-wife and the respondent-husband were married legally. In fact, both the parties were on their second ‘marriages’. However, it was held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that this interpretation by the legislation frustrated its intentions. It was appropriate here to interpret the expression ‘husband’ to cover a person who entered into marital relationship and under the colour of such proclaimed or feigned status of husband, subjects the woman concerned to cruelty in the manner provided under Section 498-A, whatever be the legitimacy of the marriage itself. The Hon’ble Court, by doing this, made sure that there was flexible interpretation of both the offences, in order to bring about justice.

5. Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India

Supreme Court of India on 19.07.2005

(2005) 6 SCC 281

In this particular case, the petitioner filed a petition before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India praying for declaration of Section 498A of the IPC as unconstitutional and for issuance of guidelines in the alternative for prevention of misuse of this provision and the unnecessary victimization and harassment of the innocent. Though the Court did accept the presence of cases where there was misuse of this provision, but after again having gone through the provisions, intention as well as the objective of the legislation behind passing of this law under Section 498A, it was held that this provision was constitutional and intra-vires. It was clearly stated by the Hon’ble Court that just because Section 498A of the IPC was being saved, it did not mean that women were granted a license to enable them to misuse the provision and take advantage of it. The Government was given directions to come up with a framework for keeping a check on the misuse of this provision and to thus help stop any kind of unnecessary harassment towards the innocent husband.

6. State of A.P. v. M. Madhusudhan Rao

Supreme Court of India on 24.10.2008

(2008) 15 SCC 582

It was held in this case by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India that every harassment does not amount to ‘cruelty’ within the meaning of Section 498A and that coercion only for meeting unlawful demands would amount to cruelty under this Section of the Indian Penal Code. The essential ingredients that would entail cruelty were restated herein. It was further held that coercing a woman or any other person related to such woman for the purpose of meeting unlawful demands for property, dowry etc. would amount to ‘cruelty’ which would then be punishable under the above section.

7. Onkar Nath Mishra v. State (NCT of Delhi)

Supreme Court of India on 14.12.2007

(2008) 2 SCC 561

The Hon’ble Supreme Court re-iterated the purpose for which Section 498A was introduced and held it to be wrong to use this particular Section for devious motives. The Hon’ble Court reasoned that introduction of Section 498A was done with the very object of combating the dangers caused by deaths due to dowry and harassment to a woman by her husband or the relatives of her husband. The extent to which a case is to be established for justification of the charges framed against an accused were also discussed by the Hon’ble Court in this case. For this, it is to be considered whether there exists any ground for presuming the commitment of any offence. It was held that in order to establish an offence under Section 498A, the outcome of cruelty that is likely to either lead the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury, danger to life, limb or health, whether physical or mental of the woman or the harassment of a woman, where such harassment is with a view to put her or any person related to her through coercion, in order to meet any kind of unlawful demand, are required to be shown.

8. U. Suvetha v. State

Supreme Court of India on 06.05.2009

(2009) 6 SCC 757

Certain necessary ingredients are required to be satisfied in order to meet the commission of an offence under Section 498A. These are:

i) The woman must be married;

ii) The woman must be subjected to harassment or cruelty;

iii) This harassment or cruelty must have been done either by the woman’s husband or by the husband’s relative.

Two important paras of this judgement are as follows:

“10. In the absence of any statutory definition, the term ‘relative’ must be assigned a meaning as is commonly understood. Ordinarily, it would include father, mother, husband or wife, son, daughter, brother, sister, nephew or niece, grandson or granddaughter of an individual or the spouse of any person. The meaning of the word ‘relative’ would depend upon the nature of the statute. It principally includes a person related by blood, marriage or adoption.”

“18. By no stretch of imagination would a girlfriend or even a concubine in an etymological sense be a “relative”. The word “relative” brings within its purview a status. Such a status must be conferred by blood or marriage or adoption. If no marriage has taken place, the question of one being relative of another would not arise.”

9. G.V. Siddaramesh v. State of Karnataka

Supreme Court of India on 05.02.2010

(2010) 3 SCC 152

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in this case held that it is difficult to straightjacket the term cruelty by means of a definition because it is a relative term. Cruelty can either be physical or mental. What constitutes cruelty for one person may not constitute cruelty for another person. The Hon’ble Court also held that there must be material to show that soon before the death of the woman, such woman had been subjected to cruelty or harassment for or in connection with demand of dowry and that it is only on the showing of such material that a deduction could be done that death of a woman due to dowry had been committed by the accused. It is then up to the appellant to discharge this presumption.

10. Modinsab Kasimsab Kanchagar v. State of Karnataka

Supreme Court of India on 11.03.2013

(2013) 4 SCC 551

In this case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court took a very obscure interpretation of the term ‘dowry’. It was held that a demand of Rs.10,000 for the purpose of repaying a society loan, though not a dowry demand, was a part of unlawful demand which was sufficient to attract Section 498A of the IPC. . The courts refused to see it as a dowry demand and hence the charge of dowry death under section 304B could not sustain. Dowry demand is included in the “unlawful demand” as intended in the explanation (b) attached to Section 498A, though, it need not be the only demand that is included under “unlawful demand”. Thus, conviction of the husband under Section 498A of the IPC was sustained, while that under Section 304B was set aside.

11. Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar

Supreme Court of India on 02.07.2014

(2014) 8 SCC 273

This particular case deals with the rights of an accused before the arrest and after the arrest. It also deals with the misuse of Section 498A of the IPC by women. The State Government was issued with directives by the Hon’ble Supreme Court pertaining to the rights of an accused before and after the arrest in cases relating to Section 498A of the IPC, however, the directions apply also to other cases where the offence is punishable with imprisonment of not more than seven years. Here, the endeavour of this Court was to ensure that the police officers do not arrest accused unnecessarily and Magistrate do not authorise detention casually and mechanically. In order to ensure the same, certain parameters were laid down by the court in this case, flowing from Section 41(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (When police may arrest without warrant).

12. Rajesh Sharma v. State of U.P.

Supreme Court of India on 27.07.2017

2017 SCC OnLine SC 821

The main issue arising in this case was to check the constant tendency to drag in all of the family members in the crime relating to the offence committed under Section 498A of the IPC. Certain measures to curb the misuse of this particular Section were prescribed here. The issue in this case was whether the family members of the accused were also to be detained and how could the innocent ones be saved. The Supreme Court directed for the establishment of Family Welfare Committees in each District by the District Legal Services Authority which shall look into every complaint filed in the District under Section 498A. It was further directed that unless the Committee’s report is received, no arrest shall be made in the matter. Thereafter, the report would be considered by the Investigating Officer or the Magistrate. It was also stated by the Court that in cases where a settlement has been reached, it would be open to the District and Sessions Judge or any other senior Judicial Officer to dispose of the proceedings, including closing of the criminal case if the dispute primarily related to matrimonial discord. The direction given by the court in this case were further modified in 2018 in the case of Social Action Forum for Manav Adhikar v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1501.

13. Unnikrishnan v. State of Kerala

Kerala High Court on 17.08.2017

2017 SCC OnLine Ker 12064

After having considered a number of decisions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, it was held by the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala that for commitment of an offence under Section 498A of the IPC, the parties must have undergone some kind of ceremonies with the object of getting married. In this particular case, the two parties had not performed any sort of ceremony and had straight away started living together with each other. It was therefore held that a woman in a live-in-relationship was not at all entitled for filing a complaint under Section 498A of the IPC.

14. Social Action Forum for Manav Adhikar v. Union of India

Supreme Court of India on 14.09.2018

2018 SCC OnLine SC 1501

In this case, a petition was filed to seek directions for creating an enabling environment for married women who are subjected to cruelty to make informed choices and for creating a uniform system to monitor and review systematically the incidents of violence against women under Section 498A, including to prevent, investigate, prosecute and rehabilitate the victims and their children at the District, State and Central levels. Here, the Hon’ble Supreme Court further modified the directions which were given by it in the case of Rajesh Sharma v. State of U.P., 2017 SCC OnLine SC 821 for prevention of misuse of Section 498A of the IPC. It was stated by the Hon’ble Court that it was the decision of the legislature to make this section cognizable and non-bailable and further if there is any fault with the investigating team, the court cannot help that out. The court stated that the intervention of the Family Welfare Committee and the powers of the District Legal Services Authority is impermissible. Directions were issued including the investigating team is to be guided by the principles stated in Joginder Kumar v. State of UP and Ors., D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal, Lalita Kumari v. State of U.P. and Arnesh Kumar Vs State of Bihar and Anr.

With regard to the directions given in the above mentioned case of Rajesh Sharma v. State of U.P., the Court gave the judgment that the provision of establishment of Family Welfare Committees is not in accordance with the statutory framework. It was stated by the court that if a settlement is arrived at, the parties could approach the High Court and also that the Director General of Police of each state should make sure that the Investigating Officers under Section 498A are imparted rigorous training.

FAQ's on IPC Section 498A


What offence is defined under IPC 498A?

IPC 498A Offence: Punishment for subjecting a married woman to Cruelty.


What is the punishment for IPC 498A Case?

The punishment for IPC 498A is 3 Years + Fine.


Is IPC 498A cognizable offence or non-cognizable offence?

IPC 498A is a Non-Cognizable.


How to file/defend your case for IPC 498A offence?

Use LawRato for filing/defending your case under IPC 498A with the help of best criminal lawyers near you.


Is IPC 498A bailable or non-bailable offence?

IPC 498A is a Non-Bailable offence.


In what court can IPC 498A be tried?

IPC 498A is tried in the court of Magistrate First Class.


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