Women are considered victims of abuse, crime, and atrocities in every part of the world. They have been tortured by their husband and relatives of her husband for demanding dowry. Therefore, Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (I.P.C.) has provided punishment to the husband and relatives of the husband for torturing and harassing women to fulfill their demand for property and valuable security. However, it is evident that Section 498A has been widely misused, and women have issued false complaints against men to settle the scores with the man and his family.
This article will discuss the misuse of Section 498A, how to fight against false 498A cases, How to get anticipatory bail under Section 498A, and acquittal judgments under section 498A.
Misuse of Section 498A of I.P.C.
Section 498A of I.P.C. is widely used to protect the woman from being abused in the name of dowry by her husband or relatives of her husband. However, many false cases were reported against the husband and his family only to defame their reputation. The Supreme Court has stated that the wife and her relatives have frequently misused section 498A and 406 under I.P.C. to prosecute and jail the husband and his relatives and thereby tarnishing the reputation of the husband and in-laws. These sections are termed “legal terrorism.”
There are many instances where an educated woman has filed false complaints to harass her husband or his relatives with mala fide intention and thereby causing immense mental and economic distress to the husband or his relatives.
Some Examples of Misuse in Section 498A I.P.C.
This is one of the most common types for the misuse of Section 498A I.P.C. The wife or her family members files a case alleging that her husband and his relatives had demanded dowry and assaulted her physically. Therefore, a complaint under Section 498A will be filed against the husband and his relatives. While the burden lies with the complainant(wife), the husband and his family will have to go through a long legal process. The wife or her family would likely try to settle the case outside of the court, and often, the husband ends up paying huge amounts of money for the settlement. There is a leading case law judgment based on the false allegation in Preeti Gupta & Anr. Vs. State of Jharkhand (2010) where the wife made a false allegation. After looking at the evidence presented, the court had stated that the allegations are made against the relatives of a husband who are residing in different cities and never visited or rarely visited the complainant’s place of residence. Therefore, as the charges against the appellant cannot be proved so, the court directed to quash all the charges against the appellants.
The husband had developed an estranged relationship with his wife within four months of marriage. They decided to go for divorce by mutual understanding on paying Rs 2 Lakhs as alimony. However, the wife intended to extort money from her husband refused to sign the divorce paper and instead sent a legal notice demanding Rs 10 Lakhs from her husband, failing which she would file a false dowry case against him.
A husband working in the Gulf country could not return to his hometown as a false 498A case was filed against him. So, he was stuck in the Gulf for eight years, fearing getting arrested. Many NRIs face this problem and are stuck in foreign countries, unable to attend any family or medical emergency.
Protection against section 498A I.P.C. – Supreme Court Guidelines
To combat the misuse of Section 498A, the Supreme Court has put forward the guidelines in Arnesh Kumar Vs. The state of Bihar.
These guidelines are as follows:
- The police officer should not directly arrest the person against whom Section 498A case has been registered. In fact, before arresting the person, the police officer should look into the parameters put forward under Section 41 of Cr.P.C.
- A checklist should be filed along with the reason, and the police officer should furnish material necessary for arrest before producing the person to the Magistrate.
- The Magistrate should authorize detention only after being satisfied with the report furnished by the police officer.
- The decision not to arrest the person or notice of appearance should be served to the person within two weeks from the date of institution of the case; such time may be extended by the District’s Superintendent for a reason in writing.
Failure to comply with the above guidelines by a police officer shall be liable for departmental action and punishable for court contempt. In Saritha Vs. R. Ramachandran, the Court had noticed the misuse of Section 498A. It directed the law Commission and Parliament to make the offense non-cognizable and bailable so that the husband can get fair justice.
How to fight against false Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code?
Section 498A has been misused for personal gains or to take revenge against the husband and his relatives. There are legal remedies that can be used to fight against false cases filed under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, namely;
1. Collection of all evidence and documents
The first step that needs to be taken is to collect all the relevant documents and evidence such as:
- Record of communication between the wife (or her relatives) and husband (or his relatives) by way of SMS, email, call recordings, letters, etc.
- Proof that the wife has moved wilfully;
- Proof to show that there was no demand for dowry before or after marriage.
2. Anticipatory Bail
Suppose you have reasons to believe that your wife will file an F.I.R. against you and your family. In that case, you can get anticipatory bail under Section 438 of Cr.P.C. for protection against Section 498A. (Explained in detail below).
3. Quashing of F.I.R.
Suppose you have all the evidence to prove your innocence. In that case, you can file an application for quashing false F.I.R. before the High Court under Section 482 of Cr.P.C.
4. File an F.I.R. against your wife for filing a false complaint under Section 498A
You can file an F.I.R. against your wife for filing a false complaint if you can prove the matter. Under Section 191 of I.P.C., you can put forth that you are being framed wrongfully by the wife or her relatives, Section 120 B Criminal Conspiracy, Section 197 False Certificate, Section 156 for submitting a false document, Section 420 Cheating. If the police refuse to register the F.I.R. then, you can complain about the same to the Superintendent of that police station.
5. Damage recovery case
If the wife breaks into your house, creates a scene, and goes to an investigating officer complaining falsely that she has been physically, emotionally, and economically abused by her husband. Then in such a case, you can file a damage recovery case under Section 9 of C.P.C. against the wife.
6. Restitution of Conjugal Rights
The wife has left the husband and is staying with her family. The husband can file a case for Restitution of Conjugal Rights under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act.
7. Defamation Case
Under Section 500 of I.P.C., a defamation case can be filed against the wife for defaming the husbands’ image by filing a false case against him.
How to file for Anticipatory bail in 498A Case and avoid jail?
Most people try to indulge their rivals in false cases to defame them or to force the other person to meet their needs by detaining them for some days. Anticipatory bail is granted to prevent such a person from arrest in case of a false complaint.
The husband can file for anticipatory bail before the Supreme Court or High Court when he anticipates or apprehends that he is likely to be arrested for some offense.
To get anticipatory bail, you must follow the given steps:
- You should first and foremost contact an excellent lawyer to apply for anticipatory bail and pre-arrest notice.
- After hearing your matter, the lawyer would draft an anticipatory bail application and get it signed by you.
- An affidavit supporting the application should be attached along with it.
- The application should also be attached with a copy of F.I.R. and other relevant documents.
- Then the next step would be to file the said application in the appropriate session court.
- Someone should accompany the lawyer on your behalf to attend the hearing of your application.
However, the accused has to be present at the final hearing of the application and final order of the Court.
You are protected under anticipatory bail till the end of the trial.
Anticipatory bail can be applied in two situations, whether the F.I.R. has been filed or no F.I.R. has been filed.
In the event when F.I.R. has not been filed.
When no F.I.R. has been filed, then there is no ground for granting bail. But the lawyer can request the court to grant a pre-arrest notice. If the pre-arrest notice has been granted, then you can apply for anticipatory bail in the meantime. Now, if the session court rejects the bail application, you can apply to the High Court and later to the Supreme Court.
In the event when F.I.R. has been filed.
When F.I.R. has been filed, then the Investigating Officer will send a notice of arrest seven days before arresting you. During this period, you can apply for anticipatory bail. If the accused has been arrested, he can seek bail under Section 437 or Section 439 of Cr. P.C. The court may grant him bail on the condition that the accused would execute a bail bond along with two sureties to the satisfaction of the arresting officer. The accused would be present before the investigating officer when required, so he would not try to intimidate or influence any witness.
What are the factors that the Court considers before granting bail?
The court may either grant interim order for grant of anticipatory bail or reject the application considering the following factors:
- Nature and gravity of the accusation
- Antecedents of the applicant
- The object of accusation
- Whether the applicant would flee from justice.
Conditions for granting anticipatory bail:
Anticipatory bail is the discretionary power of the court and is granted in the matrimonial offenses under I.P.C. with strict conditions, namely;
Available for interrogation
The presence of the applicant at the time of interrogation and hearing as and when required by the police or the court as the case may be.
Not to induce or threaten any person.
The person should not induce, threaten or promise any person who knows about the fact so as to deter him from disclosing the said fact to the court or the police.
Not leaving the country.
The accused should not leave the country without prior permission of the court.
Return of dowry articles
In Vijender Sharma Vs. State, the anticipatory bail was granted on the condition that the petitioner will return all the jewelry (gold/silver) that may be in his possession to the wife before the concerned Superintendent. The husband shall additionally deposit a sum of one lakh rupees with the Registrar General of this court in his wife’s name, which shall be set off as per the outcome of the trial of his case. The husband shall also attend the investigation when necessitated and shall not try to intimidate the witnesses.
By giving a maintenance amount and returning the jeweler.
In Dr. Sunil Kumar Vs. State, the petitioner was directed to return the jewelry to the complainant and pay the maintenance amount. The petitioner was required to cooperate with the investigation officer during the investigation.
Bail without any condition of return of dowry items
In Vishal Arora Vs. State, the petitioner can be granted bail even though he has not returned the dowry or jewelry, provided he has given a bond of Rs 20,000 with one surety for the said amount to the satisfaction of the arresting officer and assist the investigating officer as required. Suppose the petitioner fails to cooperate or participate in the investigation. In that case, the State is at liberty to cancel the bail.
Bail as contents of F.I.R. is vague.
Pavitra Uraon and Ors. Vs. State of Chhattisgarh, where the contents of F.I.R. are vague, bail can be granted.
Complainant residing in the matrimonial home
The complainant is residing in her matrimonial home, and the petitioner is providing her maintenance; then, the anticipatory bail can be granted if the petitioner cooperates with the inquiry officer.
Suppose the person seeking anticipatory bail fulfills the above conditions, pays the required bail bond, and is willing to cooperate with the investigation officer during the inquiry. In that case, the court may grant anticipatory bail.
How can an N.R.I. get bail and meet the ailing parents or avoid arrest?
Suppose you are an N.R.I. husband against whom 498A F.I.R. has been issued. In that case, you can first apply for anticipatory bail before coming to India to avoid being arrested. Such an application can be made on your behalf by your lawyer at the court of jurisdiction in the manner provided above. However, you have to be present at the time of the final hearing of the application and final order by the Court. Once you get bail, you can freely travel within India without fear of being arrested and try to settle the dispute or quash the F.I.R. as the case may be. After getting bail, you can apply to the court to grant permission to work abroad. The court may, at its discretion, grant you such permission.
How is a person discharged or acquitted in a false 498A case?
The Acquittal or discharge of the husband or his relatives under Section 498A of I.P.C. is based on certain principles of law; these principles are common in most cases even though the facts and circumstances of the cases are different.These principles are:
Contradiction in 161 Statement
Suppose the wife has given a particular statement in 161 Statement (statement issued before the police) and provides another statement before the court, which contradicts the 161 Statement. In that case, the person can be acquitted on this ground. In State Vs. Pawan Yadav Etc. (2018) the accused was acquitted because there were too many contradictions in 161 Statements by the prosecution witnesses.
Corroboration of facts
The accused can be acquitted on the ground that there is no independent corroboration or confirmation of the alleged facts in the case. In State Vs. Anil Kumar (2015), the accused was acquitted as the allegation of offenses under Section 498A of I.P.C. were not proved against the accused.
Entrustment of Dowry articles are not specified clearly
In State Vs. Gajender Singh, the complainant, had not specified the entrustment of dowry articles, date, time, year, or occasion of any demand for such jewelry being made to the accused or his relatives. Therefore, the court had acquitted the accused.
Vague and no specific allegation
In Shivendra Raizada & Others Vs. State of U.P. & Another (2018), the allegations were made against the accused and his relatives. The relatives of the accused against whom the allegations were made were not residing with him. The allegations made were also not specifically made against each applicant mentioned in the complaint or the F.I.R. Therefore, the Court had acquitted the accused on the ground of vague allegations.
Social Action Forum for Manav Adhikar and another Vs Union of India Ministry of Law & Justice & Ors. (2018)
In this case, an NGO had challenged the judgement of the Courts by filing a writ of mandamus seeking a uniform policy for filing of FIR, arrest and bail for cases under Section 498A of IPC and to create an enabling environment for married women who are subjected to cruelty by their husband and in-laws.
The court had laid down the following:
- abolished the Family Welfare Committees as it was not in accordance with the statutory guidelines.
- all the arrest powers and procedures remain with Investigating Officer as stated under Section 41 and 41 A of Cr.P.C.
- in the event, any settlement has arrived the parties should approach the High Court under section 482 of Cr P.C. (quashing) and District and Session court cannot close any criminal proceedings.
- Cases relating to Section 498A should be investigated by the trained personnel under the supervision of the Director General of Police of each state.
- Red Corner notice or impounding of passport should not be done in a routine manner.
- The personal presence of old and aged relatives is subject to the trial court’s discretion. To seek exemption from appearance before the court, the party should make an application under Section 205 or Section 317 of Cr.P.C.
- Application for bail cannot be rejected merely on the ground of recovery of disputed dowry items. There have to be proper conditions for rejecting a bail application under Section 498 A of IPC.
The woman has misused section 498A to tarnish her husband and relatives’ image by filing false cases against them. The I.P.C. has provided various guidelines to deal with such false cases. One can take against false complaints by collecting all the evidence, applying for anticipatory bail, quashing the false case, and claiming for damages under a defamation case. The husband can be acquitted under false cases if the allegations are false and not proved before the court, if the statement given by the complainant is contradictory or if the entrustment of the dowry articles is not specified.