There is a latest Supreme Court judgment on 498A in 2022 which requires specificity in allegations against the husband’s relatives in a cruelty case. There is another judgment on Section 498A of the Penal Code, 1860 restricting leniency against mother-in-law treating the daughter-in-law with cruelty. But how do Courts decide when to be lenient and when to be strict in such cases?
Section 498A of IPC 1860 provides that “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.”
It further explains Cruelty as
“(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.”
Although the provision is clear enough to make one understand what constitutes cruelty under IPC Section 498A, it sometimes becomes confusing when the same is applied to specific facts of the case. In fact, the 498A false case percentage is higher than the genuine cases as reflected through conviction rate (Click here for NCRB data) which reflects its misuse. This is where the Supreme Court judgments on IPC Section 498A bring clarity to confusing state of facts.
Latest Supreme Court Judgments on 498A (2022)
Specific allegations against husband’s relatives
In case of Kahkashan Kausar v. State of Bihar, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 162 the Court held that husband’s relatives cannot be forced to undergo trial in absence of specific allegations of dowry demand. It was further observed through this latest judgment of Supreme Court of India on 498A that “a criminal trial leading to an eventual acquittal also inflicts severe scars upon the accused, and such an exercise must therefore be discouraged.”
Mother-in-law treating daughter-in-law with cruelty
In case of Meera v. State, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 31, the Supreme Court held that “when an offence has been committed by a woman by meting out cruelty to another woman, i.e., the daughter-in-law, it becomes a more serious offence.” It further added that woman meting out cruelty to another woman deserves no leniency. Mother-in-law must protect daughter-in-law, not harass her.
498A IPC Evidence
Since matters of cruelty under IPC Section 498A are related to a matrimonial home, most of the witnesses are related to each other by birth or marriage. Hence, they are the interested parties whose statements may or may not be genuine enough to be relied upon by the judges. In Surendran v. State of Kerala, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 621, this latest Supreme Court judgment on 498A (2022) reiterated the well settled principle of law that “the evidence tendered by the related or interested witness cannot be discarded on that ground alone. However, as a rule of prudence, the Court may scrutinize the evidence of such related or interested witness more carefully.”
Abetment of suicide after Cruelty against women
The latest Supreme Court judgment on 498A in 2022 discussed the nexus between offences under Sections 498A and 306 of IPC in Mariano Anto Bruno v. State, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1387. The Supreme Court reiterated that “Court must scrupulously examine the facts and circumstances of the case and also assess the evidence adduced before it in order to find out whether cruelty and harassment meted out to the victim had left the victim with no other alternative but to put an end to her life.”
Section 498A of IPC and dying declaration as evidence
In Rajaram v. State of M.P., 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1733, the victim’s husband came up with an appeal against conviction under IPC Section 498A. According to the facts, the victim was brought to the hospital in a burnt condition and lost her life thereafter. Two dying declarations of the victim were recorded by the authorities. The first dying declaration elaborated the acts of burning her with kerosene oil, wherein, there is no mention of the appellant, i.e., her husband. The second dying declaration did mention previous acts of cruelty, which includes the husband along with other family members. The High Court had discredited the second dying declaration, being the only piece of evidence against the husband. Hence, the Court set aside the conviction and sentence for cruelty under Section 498A.
FAQs on Latest Supreme Court Judgment on 498A 2022
Q – What is the new amendment in an IPC Section 498A case?
A- There is no Section 498A IPC amendment available till date. There have been petitions and proposals for amending the provisions related to making the offence compoundable, gender neutral, etc. It may be noted that any change brought to the existing legal practice on cruelty against married woman is through the latest supreme court guidelines on 498A through various case laws.
Q- What are the latest guidelines of IPC Section 498A?
A- The latest Supreme Court guidelines on 498A clarify that husband’s relatives cannot be forced to undergo trial in absence of specific allegations of dowry demand. Further important 498A guidelines were laid by Allahabad High Court in Mukesh Bansal v. State of U.P., 2022 SCC OnLine All 395 for a cooling period of 2 months against arrest of accused persons in these cases.
Q- Is 498A IPC a continuing offence?
A- As the term suggests in consonance with Section 472 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, a continuing offence is one which repeats and the right to take legal action in such cases begins every time such offence is repeated. As per Section 468 of CrPC, the time limit for a complaint for an offence under Section 498A of IPC is 3 years. In the case of Rupali Devi v. State of U.P., (2019) 5 SCC 384, the Supreme Court explained the scope of a continuing offence in a detailed manner and affirmed IPC Section 498A to be a continuous offence for deciding jurisdiction of Courts.
Q- What is the average time for 498A case?
A- Neither a latest Supreme Court judgment on Section 498A in 2022 nor any other case law provides for a fixed timeline within which, a case for cruelty against women may be wrapped. However, the legal proceedings may be concluded within 1-2 years if the allegations are baseless and Section 498A FIR quashing application is accepted. It may stretch to 5-7 years for the trial to wrap.
Q- Can police reject IPC Section 498A case?
A- Yes, whenever a criminal complaint is filed with the Police, it is their duty to register a First Information Report based on the ingredients of the offence to be duly satisfied. Hence, if Section 498A ingredients are missing as per the complainant’s story, the Police may refuse to register such case of cruelty to woman.
Q- Is there any 498A judgment in favour of husband?
A- When Section 498A IPC was introduced through a 1983 criminal amendment, it was said to be a weapon in the hands of women to humiliate their husbands. There was a need to protect the husbands and their relatives against the misuse of 498A. One such Supreme Court judgment on 498A IPC was Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar, (2014) 8 SCC 273 wherein, directed the police authorities not to automatically arrest in a Section 498A IPC case or other cognizable offence, but satisfy themselves on necessity for arrest following the parameters under Section 41 CrPC. This case brought some relief for husbands dealing with false cruelty cases ruining marriages. The same was followed in the latest Supreme Court judgment on 498A in 2022 – Satender Kumar Antil v. CBI, (2022) 10 SCC 51.