Revisiting Section 498A Of The Indian Penal Code, 1860: A Feasibility Study Of Making The Offence Compoundable And Gender Neutral

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Section 498A Of The Indian Penal Code, 1860

Written By Hrishika Rawat

Introduction

Section 498A- was established in 1983 to safeguard married women from maltreatment perpetrated by their husbands or family. A three-year sentence as well as a fine has been imposed. Cruelty has been defined broadly to encompass inflicting physical or emotional injury on a woman’s body or health, as well as harassing her or her relatives in order to persuade them to accept any unlawful demand for property or valuable security. Harassment for dowry falls under the purview of the section’s final limb. One of the ingredients of “cruelty” is to put the woman in a situation that encourages her to commit suicide.

According to Section 498A of IPC, 1860: 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 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.

Classification Of Offence

The offence under Section 498-A IPC is cognizable (a case in which a police officer may arrest the accused without an arrest warrant), if the person aggrieved by the offence or any person related to her by blood, marriage, or adoption, or if there is no such relative, by any public servant belonging to such class or category as may be notified by the State Government in this regard, gives information relating to the commission of the offence to an officer-in-charge of a police station. Also, it is a non-bailable offence.

Section 498a Is A Non Compundable Offence

The IPC section 498-A is not compoundable. Non-compoundable offences are those in which the court is unable to record the parties’ agreement and dismiss the charges against the accused.

Criminal complaints arising from matrimonial discord can be quashed by the High Court under Section 482 Cr. P.C (inherent powers), even if the offences alleged therein are non-compoundable, because such offences are personal in nature and have no societal repercussions, unlike heinous offences like murder, rape, and so on, if there is a genuine compromise between husband and wife Manohar Singh v. State of M.P ((2014) 13 SCC 75), if a conviction has been entered and a sentence has been imposed under Section 498-A, and the Court believes that the parties have a genuine wish to put the past behind them, it can reduce the accused’s sentence to the time already served in the interest of peace.

Is Section 498a Is Gender Neutral

Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was enacted in 1983, making domestic abuse against married women a criminal offense for the first time. Because of the gendered character of the offence, Section 498A only applies to the husband and his family. the topic of whether the meaning of “respondent” should be limited to men or gender-neutral was hotly contested when the PWDVA was created, and eventually, Section 2(q) was drafted to keep it consistent with Section 498A.

The entire thrust of the Supreme Court’s decision is ironically on the principle of equality because it restricts the reach of a beneficial statute meant to protect women against all forms of domestic violence whether by men or by women, adults or minors. However, our Constitution defines equality as substantive equality, which has four dimensions, according to Oxford University professor Sandra Fredman: redressing disadvantage, combating stigma, prejudice, humiliation, and violence, transforming social and institutional structures, and facilitating political participation and social includes. As a result, legal equality of treating all people equally as “respondents” is insufficient, and we must consider women’s disadvantages and violence at the hands of males. The same principle of equality demands that specific provisions be provided for women and children under Article 15(3) of the Constitution, and the PWDVA was created as a particular provision for their protection. It does not need to be gender-neutral.

Case Laws

Juveria Abdul Majid Patni v. Atif Iqbal Mansoori ((2014) 10 SCC 736), Even though a case under Section 498-A is underway in a criminal court if the accusation is determined to be true, the appellant has the right to seek relief under Sections 18 to 22 of the Domestic Violence Act, as well as temporary relief under Section 23 of the same Act.

Gurcharan Singh v. State of Punjab ((2017) 1 SCC 433), Proof of the deliberate behaviour that drove the lady to commit suicide or put her life, limb, or health in severe danger, whether mental or physical, is a need for a judgment of cruelty against the accused individual.

Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India [(2005) 6 SCC 281], the purpose of the clause, according to the Supreme Court, is to avoid the dowry threat. However, as the petitioner correctly points out, there have been several cases when complaints have been submitted that are not genuine and have been brought with an ulterior intent. In such situations, the accused’s acquittal does not always erase the humiliation he or she endured during and before the trial.

Conclusion

After a large number of dowry deaths, India enacted Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. Many women who are locked in violent relationships benefit from this law. Because of its abuse, it cannot be completely eliminated. Every legislation, in fact, is vulnerable to abuse. However, due to its discriminatory nature, 498A must be changed. No one deserves to be legally harassed for no reason. We require gender-neutral legislation.

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