Section 498A IPC: Definition, How to file a complaint, Punishments, Time limit & Procedure for withdrawal

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Crime against women is nothing new. Women suffer violence, tortured by her husband and
in-laws for not fulfilling their unlawful demands. To safeguard women against such ill-
treatment, cruelty, and all kinds of violence, Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code and
Protection of Woman from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, was introduced by the statute. This
article will discuss section 498A, how to file a 498A case, the punishment, the procedure for
withdrawal of the complaint, the time limit for filing 498A, and can a 498A case be filed after
seven years?

Section 498A IPC – Cruelty against the woman by her husband or his relatives

On 26th December 1983, the Government of India amended the Indian Penal Code, 1860,
inserting Section 498A under Chapter XX-A. It is the only section under the Indian Penal
Code that deals with domestic violence against a woman by her husband or in-laws or his
relatives as a crime.

What does ‘Cruelty’ mean?

Cruelty means any wilful act or conduct which forces a person (woman) to commit suicide or
cause serious injury (physical or mental) or danger to life, health, or limb; or harassment of a
woman with a view of pressuring her or any person relating to her to meet the demand of
any property or valuable security or due to failure to meet such demand by the woman or her
relatives.

The essential feature of Section 489A

  • The woman must be married;
  • Must be subject to cruelty or harassment and
  • Such cruelty or harassment must be committed either by her husband or his relatives.
  • Cruelty would include –
    • Conduct of such nature that forces a person to commit suicide or cause any serious injury
      physical or mental, or causes any threat to life, health and limb,
    • Harassment of women, where such harassment is for pressuring their relatives to meet
      their demand for property or valuable security or on failure to meet their demand by a woman
      or relatives of the woman.

How to file a case under Section 498A?

A married woman tortured or subjected to cruelty (or woman’s relatives on her behalf) can
file a complaint against her husband or his relatives under Section 498A. Such complaint
can be filed in the following manner:

  • Step 1: Approach the nearest police station or Crime Against Woman Cell (Mahila Thana or
    Parivar Pramarsh Kendra) and file an FIR.
  • Step 2: FIR will be registered after the Police have done a preliminary enquiry;
  • Step 3: The Woman Cell would try to reconcile or settle the matter between the parties (husband
    and wife)
  • Step 4: If the husband is determined not to change, reconcile, or settle, then FIR will be registered
    against the husband or his relatives.

The complaint can be filed from the place where the woman resides after leaving her
husband.

Punishment under Section 498A

Section 498A provides punishment to the person who commits cruelty against a woman.
Where a woman is subjected to cruelty by her husband or relatives of husband, such person
will be liable for imprisonment extending to 3 years and with fine.

What is the procedure for withdrawal of a complaint filed under Section 498A?

A woman can withdraw a complaint filed under section 498A if the dispute has been settled
between the parties. Such withdrawal can be made in the following manner:

  • File an application for withdrawal before the High Court of jurisdiction stating that it has inherent power under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. to quash a criminal complaint.
  • The application should be attached with an affidavit from all the members of the woman’s family, clearly stating that there is no objection to such withdrawal by the woman or her
    family.
  • The document of settlement between the parties (if any) should also be attached. If the court is satisfied, then the complaint will be withdrawn or quashed accordingly.

Time limit to file a complaint under Section 498A

To file a Section 498A complaint, there is no time limit per se. However, that does not imply
one can file a complaint as and when one wishes. Section 468 of Cr.P.C. puts a limitation on
filing a complaint under Section 498A, wherein a complaint has to be filed within three years
from the date of the alleged incident.

Can a complaint under Section 498A of IPC be filed after seven years of marriage?

Yes, a complaint can be filed after seven years of marriage as it is a continuous offence, and
therefore, there is no time limit to file a complaint under Section 498A of the Indian Penal
Code.

Conclusion

Section 498A is a rescue to the women who are tortured and suffering violence from her
husband and in-laws to fulfil their demand for property or valuable security. The aggrieved
woman should file a complaint under Section 498A for redressal. The complaint can be filed
before the woman’s cell or police station, which will then look into the matter. a woman or
her relative can file such a complaint any time as long as the crime has happened in the last
three years.

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