The section 498 & 498A came into effect in the year 1983, empowering the woman with stand-up & raise their voice pertaining to dowry demand of her husband & his relatives. Before 1983 any harm caused to the wife in relation to dowry was dealt with sections of IPC relating to cruelty, grievous hurt, murder etc, but since, in most cases convictions were not possible because of lack of clarity as to what constitutes domestic violence relating to dowry & also most of the laws which governed the domestic violence related matters were bailable. So, the parliament in 1983 incorporated section 498 & 498A so as to constitute the offences of violence related to dowry.
The reason for such amendment was that with the increase in dowry related violence & death, the convictions were mere. In most cases the conviction was not possible as because of lack of clarity, what matters to look into in order to make a conviction were not clear, but with the advent of section 498 & 498A the concept of violence relating to dowry was made clear as to what constitutes violence pertaining to dowry.
Women were empowered with such law for their own benefit, to raise voice against the pain & suffering they received pertaining to dowry. These sections were made non bailable, the person against whom such complain has been made has to go to the court to take bail which is the discretion of the judge to grant such or not depending upon the gravity of such act.
But with the advent of such law to empower women, some misuse of such law has also come with it. With the change in modern times, the mentality & attitude of human being has also changed, now such law is being used “to teach lesson” as we say in common language, in order to create a sense of fear & panic in the heart of the husband & in laws so as to be in a dominating position always & to force the husband & the in laws to go according to the whims & wishes of the wife.
Also, to cover up their immoral acts such as adultery & cruelty towards the in laws etc, wives tend to file false FIR for cruelty relating to dowry so as to sway the eyes of the society from such immoral acts.
With the rise in false convictions & stigma getting attached towards the family of the in laws who are convicted falsely hampering the reputation of the in laws in the society, the Apex Court in the case of Rajesh Sharma & ors. vs. State of U.P. & ors. Criminal appeal no.1265 of 2017 gave its views & Guidelines referring the misuse of Section 498 & 498A.
The Supreme Court in this case presided by Two bench justices A.K.Goel & U.U. Lalit observed that the main objective of section 498 & 498A was to save the women from the harshness of cruelty pertaining to dowry, which is driving women to commit suicide & also getting murdered as mentioned in the statement of objects & reasons of the Act 46 of 1983.
The bench viewed that “ It is the matter of serious concern that a large number of cases continue to be filed under section 498A alleging harassment of married woman. To remedy the situation, we are of the view that involvement of civil society in aid of administration of justice can be one of the steps, apart from the investigating officers & the concerned trial courts being sensitized. It is also necessary to facilitate closure of proceedings where a genuine settlement has being reached instead of parties being required to move to high court only for that purpose”.
Through this case the Apex Court fixed some guidelines pertaining to 498 & 498A with the following directions-:
In every district one or more Family Welfare Committees be constituted by the District Legal Services Authorities preferably comprising of three members.
Every complaint under Section 498A received by the police or the Magistrate be referred to and looked into by such committee.
Complaints under Section 498A and other connected offences may be investigated only by a designated Investigating Officer of the area. Such designations may be made within one month from today. Such designated officer may be required to undergo train.
In cases where a settlement is reached, it will be open to the District and Sessions Judge or any other senior Judicial Officer nominated by him in the district to dispose of the proceedings including closing of the criminal case if dispute primarily.
If a bail application is filed with at least one clear day’s notice to the Public Prosecutor/complainant, the same may be decided as far as possible on the same day.
In respect of persons ordinarily residing out of India impounding of passports or issuance of Red Corner Notice should not be a routine.
Personal appearance of all family members and particularly outstation members may not be required and the trial court ought to grant exemption from personal appearance or permit appearance by video conferencing without adversely affecting progress of the Trial.
These directions will not apply to the offences involving tangible physical injuries or death.
Thus, with these applications, amendment has made into the Section 498 & 498A of IPC as to how the cases pertaining to violence relating to dowry are to be handled by the administration such as no arrest by the police can be persecuted until & unless the family welfare committee gives its report on the matter.
So, by this we can only hope that the misuse of Section 498 can be curbed a little so as to give a little chance to the in laws to prove their innocence though the reputation of such family will always remain bad in the eyes of the society irrespective of the outcome pertaining to the case filed.