Misuse of 498A

Misuse of 498A

Section 498A

The Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code 1860 is passed by Indian Parliament in 1983. The section of 498A of the Indian Penal Code is a criminal law (not a civil law) which is defined that if the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjected such woman towards cruelty would be punished with imprisonment for a term which might extend to 3 years and may also be liable for fine. This offence is Cognizable, non-compoundable as well as non-bailable. 

Explanation – "cruelty" means, regarding the purpose of this section is:

  • (a) any wilful conduct that involves such a nature as is likely towards driving the woman to commit suicide or to cause serious injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or 

  • (b) harassment of the female where such harassment in order to coercing her or any individual related to her towards meeting any unlawful demands for any possessions or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any individual related to her to meet such demand

Misuse of 498A

Women have begun misusing Section 498 of IPC as this law is a tool for their vengeance or to get out of wedlock. It is observed that women many times file a false case under Sec 498A against their husbands. 
Frivolous false 498A cases have put innocent people behind the bars, and the families, their reputation, livelihood have been destroyed, as the law is highly in favour of women in India. Many cases have already come up when it was seen by the courts that a woman has filed a false 498A case against her husband to harass him and malign his image.

How Section 498 is misused

The wife or the daughter-in-law whose demands are not satisfied can make a written untrue complaint of dowry harassment towards a local police station. The husband, his parents and relatives are right away arrested without sufficient investigation and put behind bars on a non-bailable term. Even if the complaint is false, “you shall be presumed guilty until you prove that you are innocent” as per the law.

498a could only be invoked by wife/daughter-in-law or her relative. The majority of cases where section 498A is invoked turn out to be false as they are mere blackmail attempts by the wife when faced with a strained marriage. In many cases, 498a complaint is followed by the demand of huge sum of money (extortion) to settle the case out of the court. This section is non-bailable, non-compoundable and cognizable. A typical case goes on for years (5-7 years) and the conviction rate is about 2% only. 


Non-Bailable is - you have to appear in court and get bail from the judge

Non-Compoundable is - complaint can't be withdrawn

Cognizable is - register and investigate the complaint, although in practice most of the time arrest happens before investigation

How to ease the 498A case

In Kans Raj vs State Of Punjab & Ors on 26 April 2000, the Supreme court has observed that for the liability of the husband the in-laws or other relatives shall not in all cases be held being involved. The acts recognized towards such individuals have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt as well as they must not be held liable by plain conjectures and implications. The propensity to rope in relatives of the husband as the suspect is required to be restricted.

Karnataka High Court, in the case of State Vs. Srikanth ((2002 CriLJ 3605)), has observed that roping in of the entire family which includes brothers and sisters-in-law is required to be depreciated unless there is a particular material against these individuals; it is downright on the police part to involve the entire family as suspect.

Section 498a punishment might state that if a husband or relatives/family of the husband is found to subject the wife to cruelty, then they would be imprisoned for a jail term of 3 years with a liability to fine.
But the law which is meant to protect the women, if misused then a new set of directions have been implemented by the Supreme Court to prevent this from happening. 

The Supreme Court had issued certain course of action for the enforcement authorities for dealing with 498A cases in India which are: 

  • In every district, 1 or more Family Welfare Committees should be established by the District Legal Services Authorities to deal with cases filed under Section 498A.

  • Each and every complaint under Section 498A IPC received by the police or Magistrate should be sent to the committee. 

  • The committee should look into the matter and send a report on it within 30 days towards the authority that referred the complaint.

  • No arrest will be made until a report is sent by the committee. 

  • If an anticipatory bail for 498A is filled with one day’s notice, it should be decided within that time frame only.

  • Personal appearance of all family members might not be required in court and appearance by video conferencing must be allowed for outstation family members.


1. Neither I nor any of my relatives demanded or have taken any dowry. Can she still file 498a?

Yes. Any Indian wife as well as her relative may able to file 498A on her husband, his parents, sisters, brothers, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, wives of brothers, as well as any other relatives. 498A is a dowry harassment matter that leads to arrest without any verification or investigation. 

2.  My parents never stayed with us. Could she still file 498a against them?


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