Section 498-A (Cruelty by Husband or Relative of Husband) had been enacted in 1983 with the object of combating the cases of dowry deaths, torture and harassment to the women at the hands of her husband or his relatives.
For a case to be covered u/s 498, it is very important that one has to be a relative of the husband by either by blood, marriage or adoption (Meaning of relative). For the applicability of this section, consequences of cruelty which are likely to drive a woman to commit suicide, or to cause grave injury, or danger to life, limb or health of a woman are required to be established.
III. CONSTITUIONAL VALIDITY
The constitutional validity of this section had been challenged in Following Cases:
Case Law:- SK Batra & others v. State of Haryana
Held : It was held in this case that merely because there is possibility of misuse of the provision of law is not a ground to hold this provision unconstitutional.
Case Law :- Inder Raj Malik & others v. Mrs Sumita Malik
Held : It was held that the word cruelty is well defined and its import is well known and similarly harassment used in Explanation (b) is also very well known and it cannot be said that the power given to the courts to interpret such words means giving any arbitrary power and hence it is not violative of Art 14. Furthermore, it held that it is also not violative of Art. 20(3) as an accused can be legally prosecuted u/s 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act and S. 498 as well because in the former mere demand of dowry is punishable and existence of element of cruelty is not necessary, whereas S. 498A deals with aggravated form of the offence.
The following are the ingredients of this section :
- The woman must be married;
- She must be have been subjected to cruelty or harassment; and
For proving offence under this section, it must be shown that the allegation of harassment is to an extent so as to coerce her to meet any unlawful demand of dowry (Explanation b), or any wilful conduct on the part of the accused of such a nature as is likely to drive a woman to commit suicide, or to cause grave injury, or danger to life, limb or health of a woman (Explanation a) are required to be established.
- Such cruelty or harassment must have been shown either by the husband of the woman or by the relative of her husband
V. EXPLANATION OF RELATED CONCEPTS VIS-A-VIS S. 498A
- Meaning of Cruelty – The meaning of cruelty for the purposes of this section has been given in Explanation (a & b) to this section, as mentioned above. It is basically is a conduct which is painful and distressing to another. Cruelty has been Moreover, the concept of cruelty and its effect differs from individual to individual, and it also depends upon the social and economic status to which a person belongs. Cruelty can be either physical or mental.
Case Law :- RP Bidlan v. State of Maharashtra
Held : The court held that it is necessary that a reasonable nexus has to be established between the cruelty and the suicide in order for it to constitute an offence. If suicide is established, it has to be further established that it was occasioned on account of cruelty.
Case Law :- Kaliyaperumal v. State of Tamil Nadu
Held : The SC held that S. 304-B & S. 498-A are not mutually inclusive sections and both are distinct offences and a person acquitted u/s 304-B for the offence of dowry death can be convicted u/s 498-A. For applicability of S. 304-B death must have occurred within 7 years of marriage but no such period is mentioned in S. 498-A. (Diff b/w S. 304B & 498A).
Case Law :- Virender Bhatti v. State
Held : It was held that where the death had taken place within 7 years of marriage and there was evidence on record that the deceased wife was subjected to cruelty by the husband, then in such a case, a presumption would arise that the accused abetted the commission of suicide and thus conviction u/s 306 & 408-A will be proper.
Case Law :- K. Neelaveni v. State rep. by Insp. of Police & ors
Held : It was held in this case that wilful conduct should be of such a nature as would provoke a person of common prudence to commit suicide. Mere difference of opinion within a family on everyday basic matters would not fall within the category of cruelty. It was further held that merely because in-laws of the deceased wanted the deceased to be a good daughter-in-law to look after them in old age and not take up a job, it cannot be said to be cruelty of such nature which amounts to abetment to suicide.
- Husband what includes – In KS alias Subramaniam v. State of AP, it was held that for the purposes of this section, husband includes not only legally wedded person but also any person who ostensibly enters into a marital relationship and assumes the position of husband.
- S. 498-A & 302 – It was held in Keshav Chandra Panda case that the acquittal of accused for larger offences u/s 302 and 304B will not be an impediment for convicting him for the lesser offence u/s 498A.
- S. 498A & 306 – The basic difference b/w these two sections lies in the intention. U/s 498-A cruelty committed drags the woman to commit suicide, whereas u/s 306 suicide is abetted and intended.
- No retrospective operation – This section did not apply to cases before Dec 25, 1983, that is the date in which the provision it came into force.
- Nature & Standard of proof – The court can draw a relevant inference from the facts & circumstances of the case and it can raise a presumption on the basis of evidence. The test of proof should be of a reasonable man and Standard of proof must be of prudent man.
- Procedure – It is a cognizable, non-bailable, not compoundable case. It is triable by Magistrate of First Class.
- Punishment – For committing an offence u/s 498-A, the accused can be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.