What is Section 498A?

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What is Section 498A?; cruelty against married women

Section 498A is a provision in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that particularly addresses cruelty against married women. It was introduced in the year 1983 and aims to give legal alternatives to women facing harassment or abuse from their husbands or their husband’s relatives. However, it is important to note that Section 498A has been subject to debate among the laws for women’s safety in India. In addition, while intended as a safeguard, there have been instances of false accusations. Moreover, to address this, legal reforms have been implemented to ensure a more balanced application of the law. Read more about the purpose of the 498A Section in Indian Law. 

What is 498A Section in Indian Law?

The legal text of Section 498A in Indian Law defines the offence and its punishment. It states that whoever, being the husband or a relative of the husband of a woman, subjects her to cruelty can be imprisoned for up to 3 years and be liable to pay a fine. Additionally, the key factor here is the definition of “cruelty” under section 498A of IPC which the section itself explains as: 

  • The act must be intentional and not accidental.
  • The conduct must be of a nature that could:
    • Drive her to commit suicide
    • Moreover, cause grave injury or danger to her life, limb, or health (both physical and mental)
  • Dowry harassment.
  • Physical abuse.
  • Verbal abuse.
  • Emotional abuse.
  • Denial of basic necessities.
  • Social ostracization.

Did you know?
In December 2023, the Supreme Court of India explained that one instance of bad behaviour could not be categorised as harassment or cruelty for dowry under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. 

What is the Purpose of 498A?

The purpose of Section 498A is to prevent acts of cruelty upon married women. Moreover, this cruelty can be physical or mental and can include a range of actions intended to cause harm or suffering. Furthermore, the law especially targets the practice of dowry harassment, a longstanding social evil in India where a bride’s family is pressured to give money or “gifts” to the groom’s family.

Also Read: What is Socialism? Definition, History, and Significance

Granting Bail in Cases Involving Section 498A

Section 498A is classified as non-bailable (court can deny bail) and cognizable (police can arrest without a warrant).

  • While a Magistrate can grant bail after an FIR is filed, the Supreme Court of India has highlighted the cautious use of 498A.
  • Moreover, bail is only considered when there is concrete evidence of cruelty.
  • Thus, the law should not be misused for personal disputes.

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