Posted on: September 15, 2020 Posted by: Soumya Tongaonkar Comments: 0
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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 purpose of this section, “cruelty” means—

(a) any willful 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 intending to coerce 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.

  • Rupali Devi vs. State of Uttar Pradesh

In the Supreme Court of India – Criminal Appeal No. 71 of 2012

Petitioner – Rupali Devi

Respondent – State of Uttar Pradesh and ors.

Date of Judgement – 9th April 2019

Bench – CJI Ranjan Gogoi; Justice L. Nageswara Rao; Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul

Facts 

  • The petitioner had her parental home in Deoria, UP, and got married in December 1997 to her husband who lived in Mau along with his family. Acceptable cash and dowry were given during the time of the wedding, but the accused were not happy with the amount and started maltreating and harassing the petitioner in her matrimonial home and demanded Rs. 2 Lakhs and a car. Petitioner’s father came to Mau to make peace, but the accused were firm on their demands.
  • In 1998, she gave birth to a boy. Even after the birth of a son, the maltreatment and harassment went on. When she got pregnant again, the accused forced her to get an abortion.
  • In July 2002, she was thrown out of her husband’s house and her son was kept with the accused. She was taken to her home in Deoria while her father tried to make an arrangement with the accused.
  • In April 2005, the accused came to her back home. After the petitioner was back at her matrimonial house, she discovered another woman living there who turned out to be the second wife of her husband. When the petitioner protested, she was beaten and locked in a room and was forced to sign some blank paper.
  • In May 2005, after signing the divorce papers, she was thrown out of the house after which she returned to Deoria.
  • On 17th September, she lodged an FIR at Police Station Kotwali, Deoria against the accused of offences under sections 498A, 49A, 313, 504, IPC.

Judgement 

In this case, the Supreme Court held that Section 178 makes an exception to the rule engrafted in Section 177 by allowing courts in another area where the offence is partly committed to taking notice. If the offence committed in one local area continues to go on in another area, the courts in the latter place are allowed to notice the matter. Under Section 179, if because of the results of a criminal act, an offence is committed in another jurisdiction, then the court in that jurisdiction is competent to take up the matter. Hence, if an offence partly takes place in one place and partly in another place, the exception to the ‘ordinary rule’ would be created and the courts within whose jurisdiction the act is committed will cease to have exclusive jurisdiction to convict the offender.

The Supreme Court permitted the appeal and rejected the acquittal ordered by the High Court of Allahabad. It convicted the respondent (the husband and family) for the offence punishable under Section 498A of the IPC ad held that the courts at the place of wife’s parental home also have jurisdiction to take cognizance of a complaint alleging someone under the offences under Section 498A of the IPC.

  • Shobha Rani vs. Madhukar Reddi 

In the Supreme Court of India – Civil Appeal No. 3013 of 1987

Appellant – Shobha Rani

Respondent – Madhukar Reddi

Date of Judgement – 12th November 1987

Bench – BC Ray and K. Jagannatha Shetty, JJ

Facts

  • Shobha Rani, the appellant was married to the respondent, Madhukar Reddi on December 19, 1982.
  • The wife is a post-graduate in biological sciences. The husband is a doctor.
  • Soon after the marriage, they started exchanging bitter feelings and accused each other.
  • At one point, they decided to end the marriage by mutual consent, but that did not happen. Ultimately, the wife moved to the court for divorce on the ground of cruelty.
  • The wife made several grievances all of which can be set aside except one, which included a complaint about the dowry demand by the husband or his parents.

Judgement 

In this case, the SC said that under Section 498A of IPC, a new face has been given to the concept of cruelty. Explanation of Section 498A of IPC says that-

“any act which is of such nature to drive a woman towards suicide or cause injury or danger to life, limb or health (mental or physical) and harassment of such a woman to make her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demands for property or valuable security would constitute cruelty.”

In this case, it was held that evidence which shows that the wife was harassed to meet the unlawful demand for money is important to call as cruelty in criminal law. This is a major requirement of the offence of cruelty defined under Section 498A of IPC. It was further said that cruelty might not be deliberate or intentional, it is not necessary to prove the intention in the matrimonial offence. In Section 13(1)(i-a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, it is stated that intention is not a necessary element in cruelty.

Hence, the court allowed the appeal and granted a decree for dissolution of the marriage.

Conclusion 

Section 498A of IPC was introduced in IPC in 1983 to protect married women from cruelty bestowed upon them by her husband or his relatives. If a woman complains about this section, the husband and relatives will be arrested immediately. This gives women protection from the harassment and cruelty she experiences in her matrimonial house.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding Section 498A of IPC. It is said that it provides for the remedy of the woman only, and hence has been used by many wrongfully. It is a very sensitive issue and extremely debatable. This provision should be used as a shield, and not as a weapon.

Soumya Tongaonkar
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Second Year BALLB Student at ILS Law College

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