Cruelty by husband and relatives, Section 498A

Author-Madhu Sri Chepuri, Sri Padmavati Mahila Viswa Vidyalayam


  • Chapter XXA was inserted in the IPC in 1983 by the Criminal Law 2nd Amendment Act,1983.
  • It consists of only 1section that is 498A which deals with cruelty to a wife by the husband or his relatives and it is an offence under IPC.
  • It aims to prevent the torture to a married women and punish the persons responsible to that. It is an offence which is related to marriage.
  • Before this section was inserted it was covered by the general provisions of the IPC but due to increase in violence against women especially young,newly married women , bride burning it was felt that these provisions are not adequate to deal with the atrocities against women.
  • In order to deal with cruelty against married women 498A was introduced.

Keywords (Minimum 5):

Meaning, Definition & Explanation

  • Cruelty-

It is not possible for the Legislature to enumerate all acts amounting to cruelty or to put cruel conduct .

The term cruelty is deliberately been left undefined by the statute.

Cruelty includes both mental and physical cruelty and its effects may depend upon a number of factors.

  • The word relatives has not been defined. But the case laws reveals that generally, the parents, sisters,brothers of the husband have been prosecuted under 498A.
  • In Anil Kumar vs state of Punjab (1997) , it has been held that a person who is not a relative, but a friend, who is close to the family. [1]
  • According to explanation (a) , any wilful conduct which is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to Cause any devious hurt or mental or physical health of the woman is cruelty.
  • Explanation ( b), harassment of a woman, with a view to coerce her or her relatives, to meet unlawful demand for any dowry is also cruelty.

Historical Background / Evolution 

  • As day by day the violence has been increasing against the women and to tackle this problem,the parliament felt that changes were required at 3 levels.
  1. To define the substantive offence of cruelty to married women
  2. To introduce procedures which make investigation in case of women death as mandatory.
  3. To bring changes in the Evidence Act ,which will make the prosecution easier.

Accordingly, 498A and 304B were added to the IPC, creating separate offences in respect of acts of cruelty to a woman by a husband and relatives and dowry death respectively.

In CrPC section 174 was amended and in IEA,1872 Section 113B was added.

These 3 changes in the IPC,CrPC and Indian Evidence Act are an improvement to the earlier laws and are important to some extent to safeguard the rights of women.

Types / Kinds (if any)

The Types of cruelty may be: 1. Mental cruelty

  1. Physical cruelty

Essentials / Elements / Pre-requisites

  • For applying 498A, It’s essential that she should be a married woman.
  • That woman must have experienced either brutality or harassment.
  • Such brutal harassment should have been demonstrated by either the spouse or the husband’s family, if not both.

Nature of the offence

  • Conginable
  • Non bailable
  • Non compoundable.

Complaint under 498A

  • A woman who’s been the victim of any form of cruelty can make a complaint firstly by filing an FIR .
  • Below is a description of the trial process in detail:
  • One must first file a police complaint or FIR (Initial Information Report) as the first step. The relevant provision of the Criminal Procedure Code is Section 154. An FIR initiates the legal process.
  • After the First Information Report (FIR) is filed, the Investigation Officer will conduct an investigation and submit a report.
  • The officer concludes the investigation and makes preparations for it after conducting all the necessary processes, including looking into the background of the case, gathering evidence, questioning potential witnesses, and so on.
  • The police then present the charge sheet before the magistrate. All of the criminal accusations against the defendant are included in the charge sheet.
  • After the parties have had an opportunity to present their cases and arguments before the Magistrate, the Magistrate will next define the charges and schedule a date for the trial.
  • Section 241 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 addresses the plea of guilty. When the charges have been framed, the accused may enter a plea of guilty. It is the judge’s job to ensure that the plea of guilty was entered voluntarily.
  • Conviction is at the discretion of the court.After the allegations have been laid out and the defendant has entered a plea of not guilty, the Prosecution presents its case in court, bearing the first (and usually greater) burden of proof.
  • Evidence can be presented orally or in writing. The magistrate can issue a witness summons to anyone and require that individual to bring in any evidence.
  • When prosecution witnesses are presented in court, the accused or his or her attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine them.
  • At this point, the accused may submit any supporting evidence to the courts. He or she is being given the chance to bolster their argument.
  • However, the accused is not compelled to produce evidence because it is the prosecution, or the claimed victim, who has the burden of proof.
  • If the defence presents witnesses, the prosecution will conduct cross-examinations.
  • When all evidence has been given from both sides, the judge or court will reach a verdict.
  • The judgement is almost at hand, and the last stage is oral arguments. Final oral arguments are presented to the judge by both sides (the prosecution first, then the defence).
  • The court then renders a final decision after considering all of the arguments presented and the evidence presented in the case. The court then explains its decision to either exonerate or convict the defendant.
  • The ultimate verdict might result in either an acquittal or a conviction depending on whether or not the accused is found guilty.
  • If the defendant is found guilty, a hearing will be convened to determine the length of his or her sentence in the event of a conviction.
  • If the situation permits it, one may file an appeal with a higher court. The case can be taken all the way to the Supreme Court if the case is lost in the Sessions Court and the High Court.

Case Laws / Precedents / Overrulings 

Sushil Kumar Sharma vs. Union of India and others (2005)


  • Under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, a petition was filed seeking a declaration that Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is unconstitutional and ultra vires, or, failing that, for the establishment of guidelines to prevent the victimisation of innocent people by those with malicious intent.
  • A further petition asked that whenever the court reaches the verdict and the claims made regarding the conduct of an offence under Section 498A IPC were unsubstantiated, rigorous action should be taken against the individual who made the charges.


  • The petitioner claimed that there was no prosecution but rather persecution in these situations.
  • Several judgements were relied upon, in which the rise in the number of fraudulent lawsuits was highlighted.
  • It was argued that the accusers carry more responsibility than the accused. Courts’ compassion in cases of alleged dowry torture is being abused by those who seek to profit from it.


  • The Supreme Court of India did not find any merit in the argument that Section 498A does not have any validity in either the law or the Constitution. The court held that there have been numerous occasions where it was shown that the complaints were not genuine and had been made with ulterior motives.
  • Even if found not guilty at trial, the accused may nevertheless feel shame for their ordeal. Sometimes bad press from the media makes things even worse. Thus, the court must inquire as to what corrective steps might be implemented to stop the misuse of the provision.
  • The provision is valid but does not give anyone the authority to utilise it for retaliatory or harassment purposes.
  • Therefore, lawmakers may need to figure out how to effectively punish people who file baseless complaints or claims.
  • Until then, the problem must be handled within the current framework by the Courts.

Neelu Chopra & Anr. vs. Bharati (2009)

  • Appellants Neelu Chopra and Krishan Sarup Chopra are a married couple, and respondent Bharti was their daughter-in-law.
  • Bharati claims that her life as a married woman to Rajesh (appellants’ son) was rough due to his and his parents’ unreasonable expectations for doubt and misbehaviour.
  • Accordingly, Bharati sued her husband and in-laws in 1993 for violating Indian Penal Code Section 498A.
  • Since Rajesh passed away in 2006, his heirs are the sole parties involved in this dispute.
  • The Court noted that the complaint lacked specificity about which defendants were charged with which offences and what specific roles each appellant had in the commission of the alleged crimes.
  • The accusations were more specifically levelled at Rajesh, but he was no longer alive to defend himself.
  • It would be an abuse of process to continue prosecuting Rajesh’s elderly parents on the basis of a generalised complaint that did not specify the specific actions that gave rise to the charges.
  • As a result, the complaint was dismissed

Misuse of 498A

  • A large number of women have taken advantage of the enormous authority afforded to them by the implementation of Section 498A to harass their husbands and in-laws and to gain unfair benefits for themselves.
  • Women seeking vengeance against their spouses use Section 498A to threaten and blackmail their relatives.
  • The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has recognised the increasing trend of males being falsely accused of violating Section 498A, calling it a “phenomenon” and “social ill.”
  • As the Supreme Court put it in the case of Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India and Ors (2005), “Legal Terrorism” describes the abuse of Section 498A. In addition to the husband, innocent third parties like elderly parents or distant relatives are often unfairly implicated and made to undergo enormous hardship as a result of the criminal justice system’s misuse of Section 498A.

Future Implications

Proposals for Reform

  • Law commission of India has offered a couple of major proposals relating to 1. Bigamy
  1. Adultery

3.498A of IPC


  • Violence against women at home is not only a violation of women’s human rights but also a crime under Indian law, which was created to protect the rights of all its citizens.
  • India has accepted several international conventions that recognise women’s unequal status and include special provisions for women to remedy this disparity, including the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
  • Domestic violence is prohibited in all contexts, including marriage and the family, by the Dowry Prohibition Act (DPA) and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDA), Sections 498A and 304B of the IPC.
  • But this Section 498A’s exclusive remedy for females has become a contentious topic of discussion lately.
  • Without legislative action, this impasse will grow into a terrifying social menace.
  • For the sake of the public’s faith in the judicial system, this provision should be updated immediately.
  • Unfortunately, not all women who could benefit from this information or services will be aware of them, and even fewer will actually seek help for domestic violence.
  • Unscrupulous women will utilise this rule as another tool in their arsenal. Everyone who relies on a man will suffer if he is expelled from his own home due to charges of domestic violence or cruelty, whether or not those allegations are accurate.
  • The entire family should not be punished even if the accused man is abusive. It is a complex and significant concern that an innocent man and his relatives are often being subjected to unjust legal persecution through this provision.


  1. Books / Commentaries / Journals Referred
    1. PSA Pillai’s Criminal Law- Book Referred.
  2. Online Articles / Sources Referred
    1. Indian khanoon
    2. Ipleaders
    3. Casemine
  3. Cases Referred
    1. Anil Kumar vs state of Punjab (1997)
    2. Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India and Ors (2005)
    3. Neelu Chopra & Anr. vs. Bharati (2009)
  1. Statutes Referred
    1. IPC,1860
    2. The Indian Evidence Act, 1872
    3. CrPC


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