Most people are not aware of Section 498A, but it’s time they understand the clause to know their rights. Because recently, we witnessed massive legal hardship due to the lack of clearance on the dowry subject. Let’s take a brief look at the case to understand what went wrong.
A wife from Bihar filed an FIR that her husband, along with his father and mother, demanded a Maruti Car, 8 lakh cash, TV, etc., in the form of dowry. The husband even went as far as to threaten the wife to leave her and remarry. It was also stated that she had been forced to leave her matrimonial home because her family couldn’t fulfill their demands. This later result in arresting the accused without a warrant. Because cognizable and non-cognizable cases give the police power to arrest without a warrant under Section 498A. The application of bail was appealed, but the Supreme Court and the High Court rejected the request. Afterward, the Supreme Court notice that its power is being misused bluntly by the police, and the accused is neglected his rights.
What’s Section 498A?
Section 498A of the IPC (Indian Panel Code) deals with the matrimonial violence done with the wife by her husband and in-laws along with any relative of the husband. It dictates 3 years of punishment with a fine. A new definition of cruelty was given under the Section, and it is defined as:
- Suppose the accused have made the wife suffered to the extent of her attempting suicide, causing self-harm that is proved to be fatal. Such definition was included after the Shobha Rani v. Medhukar Reddy case. It was decided in this case that somebody should present proof of cruelty.
- If it is done to harass the wife or any of her relatives to unlawful demands.
Grey Areas of Section 498A
The Indian government has always ensured to give equal rights to women to protect them. Our Constitution clause provides that women are not subject to discrimination, and it shows that the judiciary still acts upon the safety of women to protect their rights. As a result, Section 498A and Domestic laws were formed. But the Section has loopholes and grey areas that prevent successful implementation of the law. These are:
- The judiciary, in definition, played as an agent of wives with its clause under Section 498A. And does nothing to several cases where the wife hits her husband, in-laws, or husband’s other relatives. Even after when attacks are often fatal in nature, the law does not protect the victims. Simply put, the wife got a license to abuse, torture, and bring harm to her marital family members without having to face the consequences.
- Even when the wife does not attend the case proceedings, the judge does not dismiss the case. And this can go on for years, but the case continues to go on. And in this situation, if one bail petition is applied, it takes months to decide upon the request. The whole situation forced the man to live a life under legal charges without concluding.
- Because Section 498A is non-bailable and falls under a cognizable offense, it creates a lot of problems when the wife disobeys the legal proceedings. That’s why the judiciary should change this Section into a bailable and cognizable act. Bail should be accepted when the FIR is made under falls allegations, a course of action is left.
Changes That Were Made Due to the Court’s Order
Which is precisely what happened when Supreme court noted that these type of cognizable arrest are made daily. And that is too without enough evidence, and such cases’ success rate is also low in court. It zeroed in on the need for police offices to be cautious when arresting the accused. It was then ruled that an arrest should be made but not only because of the allegations but based on reasonable suspicion.
Then it was evident that the arrest made in the claimant’s case was illegal, and soon he was released. And to prevent such incidents from happening in the future, the court proceeded in making the following general orders:
- All the state government was informed to instruct police officers not to make an arrest only basing on allegations. They are instructed to satisfy with enough suspicion about the case for arresting the accused lawfully.
- A checklist of legal requirements should be provided to all police officers.
- Police officers are to forward the checklist and their reasons for the arrest to a court after the arrest was made.
- The court should assess the repot given by police before authorizing detention.
- When the following steps have not appropriately complied, the police officer will be liable for departmental action and punishment for court disobedience.
The court also dictates that the aforesaid orders are not to be followed only under Section 498A, the Dowry Prohibition Act under Section 4, the current case but to all those cases where the offense is punishable with less than seven years of imprisonment that can be extended to seven years, with or without fine.
Therefore, a police officer shouldn’t make such an arrest without satisfying reasonable suspicion and without doing enough investigation to prove the case’s genuineness. Furthermore, no arrest should be made only by basing on its cognizable and non-cognizable nature.
To balance the act, the government must ensure that no singular case is filed based on false grounds. And that is precisely how Section 498A can be used as a shield to women rather than a power they can misuse. To prevent harassment and death due to dowry related demands, and because of household violence, proper execution of the act is essential. Simultaneously, it is advisable to the police officers that they have enough evidence to file a report. Upon facing a life-threatening situation, women can call the helpline number- 1091 to get urgent help. This single case changed the complete course of domestic laws and provided much-needed protection to the man’s right.