After 27th July 2017 Supreme Court judgment on 498a (Rajesh Sharma and Ors. Vs State of UP) setting new procedure to detect 498a misuse at an earlier stage and to find out a possible reconciliation between the warring parties, feminist groups led by foreign-funded (in crores) Jagori and Lawyers Collective has raised protests. They had also written a letter to the Chief Justice of India demanding a rollback of the order claiming that this will lead to gross injustice to women victims.
In their letter to the CJI, these foreign-funded NGOs termed it as the backward trend of Supreme Court. They claimed that NFHS 3 (2005-06) data (which was later been refuted by many researchers as a vague survey with biased sampling) showed 1 in 3 women were victims of domestic violence. This is however pertinent to note that this survey never tried to understand violence faced by men in matrimonial relations. The feminist claim of NFHS being well-researched study only shows how they misrepresent statistics.
This feminist letter also claimed that abysmally low conviction percentage in 498a (14.4%) is due to improper investigation and per them ‘convictions under section 498a is notoriously difficult to achieve’. Ironically, feminist groups were behind bringing this vague law in-spite of the fact that laws on assault, harassment etc. were already existing at that time. Evidently, the root cause of bringing 498a was not to bring justice to the women but to create a legal extortion racket through a vague law.
This letter also fraudulently represents that misuse of the law as claimed by the judgment was only those cases where the police found a wrongful use of the section. Evidently, they ignored cases that were found to be trivial after the trial.
This letter also claimed that the judgment directed police action only where there is ‘tangible physical injuries’ and ‘death’, ignoring the mental torture and hidden bruises. It is pertinent to note here that a 2016 UNFPA study has found Indian women are third in the world in committing domestic violence against husbands. But this observation is ignored in the letter.
This is pertinent to note here that many of these groups have lawyers in them. The newly proposed Family Welfare Committees will constitute members from civil society and NOT lawyers. Certainly, the Hon. court has relied on an age-old tradition of resolving family disputes in civil ways rather than taking the criminal route of justice. Even though many MRAs also think that husbands will undergo one more round of extortion in these committees, but the Supreme Court directive was clearly towards reducing the burden of cases on the courts.
At this juncture, it will be pertinent to note how the IPC 498a is misused through various case studies.
The term ‘Cruelty’ is already defined earlier by Indian courts, which needs to amount to serious offenses that can cause the death of a woman. However, since this is one-sided law, husbands and their families undergoing same cruelty from the wife is not included.
From different case studies, we find how 498a cases are filed for frivolous reasons –
498a filed based on vague allegations
In Raj Pal Singh vs the State of Haryana, Punjab and Haryana HC found that the allegations were not only vague but also contradictory. There were vague statements of cruelty without any specific incidents to show that the cruelty amounted to ‘cruelty’ as defined under IPC 498a. Also, the complainant was found to be dragging a lot of family members who didn’t even reside with them.
State women’s cricket player alleged getting beaten up by 65 yr old MIL dowry
In Pandurang S Katti and others vs State of Karnataka and Smt Trupti Katti, the allegations were as vague as an old lady of 65 years (the MIL) has beaten up an independent-minded young lady state Cricket Player (complainant – the wife). Court has refrained from commenting on the truthfulness of the complaint while casting serious doubt over its veracity.
All relatives were brought in without their involvement
In Harjinder Kaur and Ors vs the State of Punjab, the P&H HC has observed that 498a complaint was lodged against husband’s five sisters who were not involved at all. The court found that complaints against them were not only vague but also exaggerated.
In Kans Raj vs State of Punjab (2000), Supreme Court has observed that all relations of the husband were dragged in. A three-judge bench observed that “A tendency has developed for roping in all relations of in-laws”.
In Som Mittal vs Govt. of Karnataka (2008), the Apex Court has observed that it has become a trend to rope in all relatives including aged grandmothers, uncles, aunts, unmarried sisters etc. Expressing their concern, the apex court has stated that sometimes the unmarried sisters have to go to jail which reduces their chances of getting married.
In Jasbir Kaur vs the State of Haryana (1990) too, the P&H HC has observed a tendency of including all family members’ names in 498a FIR. Similar observations came in from Madhya Pradesh HC in Shrikant Tamrakar and others vs State of MP and ors (case #2112 of 2015) and also in Swapnil and ors vs State of MP (2014).
498a Complaint filed over ego clashes
In Chandrabhan vs State (2008), the Supreme Court has observed that – ‘..there is no iota of doubt that most complaints are filed in the heat of the moment and over trifling fights and ego clashes’.
The same observation was also made in Preeti Gupta v State of Jharkhand (2010) by the Apex Court. Here the court has also commented that – “we came across a large number of such complaints which are not even bona fide and are filed with oblique motives.”
While giving judgment J. R Reghupati of Madras High Court observed in MP # 1/2008, “Our experience shows that, apart from the husband, all family members are implicated and dragged to the police stations. ….in a number of cases, such harassment is made simply to satisfy the ego and anger of the complainant. “
Inflated and exaggerated claims
In Anguri Devi vs. State of Punjab (2011), P&H HC has observed based on the merits of the case that, “…inflated and exaggerated allegations are made. In the present case, petitioners are relatives who are admittedly residing separately. No specific allegation is alleged. The allegations if at all, do not satisfy the definition of cruelty…”
In Binny Kumari vs State of Bihar and Saroj Devi, Patna HC has observed exaggeration of claims and commented that – “misuse of 498a of IPC in many cases has been judicially noticed by the apex court as well as various High Courts.”
In Bhikhari Singh and anr vs State of Bihar, (Crim Misc # 4083 of 2010), Patna High Court has observed that courts were not vigilant to prevent misuse of 498a while observing that names of many accused given in the complaint were villagers and were not even related to the husband.
Extortion of money from husband’s family
In case of Smt. Pinki Jain vs Sh Sanjay Jain (AIR 2005), Delhi HC has observed that “Not only wife has made a false complaint and got the husband and other in-laws arrested, she also took the money and then resoled from the agreement.”
Impotent husband, 498a, and rape cases filed
In State vs Hoshiar Singh (FIR # 699/14), Delhi HC has observed ‘the testimony of the prosecutrix shows that her marriage was not consummated on account of the impotency of her husband, which was the sole reasons of her strained relations with her husband and in-laws.’
In this case, the court has observed that the prosecutrix had falsely filed rape and molestation charges against other in-laws and claimed money for her maintenance. In this case, the court has also observed a tendency to include all family members in false 498a cases.
Comment on bride’s complexion became 498a complaint
In Annapurna Bai and State of Madhya Pradesh (1999), the court observed that a mere comment about bride’s dark complexion became a reason to file 498a case.
When wife’s fraudulent acts were caught by the husband
In Rajesh Dhingra and ors vs State and Ors, while quashing the FIR (FIR # 98/2003), Delhi HC observed that respondent filed dowry case when her fraudulent activities were caught.
Instigation of relatives or legal advice
In Chander Kanta Lamba and ors vs State and Ors (Cri. Rev Pet # 267 / 2008), while quashing the 498a FIR court observed ‘..whenever matrimonial relations have turned sour there is a tendency on the part of the complainant whether it is done by her on her free will or at the instigation of ……..(relatives) …to make all kinds of reckless allegations against the entire family of the husband.”
498a filed when wife’s illicit relation is caught
In Arjun Ram V State of Jharkhand (2004), Jharkhand HC has observed that a mala fide case under IPC 498a was filed when wife’s adultery was caught.
For the purpose of grabbing property
Extortion of husband’s family has been a big reason behind filing 498a cases. In Smt. Sunita Goyal and ors Vs State of Punjab and Anr. (M 18643 of 2008), the court has observed, “…the conclusion is irresistible that the complainant has falsely implicated the petitioners vexatiously and maliciously, to put pressure and to blackmail them, to grab the property….”.
To get an easy divorce
In Saritha Vs R Ramachandra (2002(6)), a division bench of Andhra Pradesh High Court observed, “this court would like to go on record that for nothing educated women are approaching the courts for divorce and resorting to proceedings against their in-laws under IPC 498a.”
498a filed after 10 years of separation
In M Saravana Porselvi vs A R Chandrashekhar Parthiban and ors (2008), a division bench of apex court found that 498a was filed against husband after 10 years of separation. The cruelty that is defined as life-threatening was not realized in these 10 years. This clearly showed how such cases are filed.
To show influence
In Vinod Raj Krishnan & ors Vs State of Maharastra (Writ petition 312 of 2014), Bombay High Court found – “highhandedness and influence of the complainant party were large on the face of the record” and also found that the police had detained the husband without verification of facts.
The extent of 498a misuse is so grave that various courts have shown deep concern about 498a misuse. In Savitri Devi Vs Ramesh Chand and Ors (2003), Delhi High Court observed that provisions of 498a / 406 IPC are misused to such an extent that these were hitting at the foundation of marriage.
Justice Mallinath Committee observed that “A less tolerant woman may lodge and FIR even on a trivial act” while recommending much-needed changes in the law.
The Committee on Petitions of Rajya Sabha in their 140th report recommended that section 498a be amended to provide for a specific penalty for false cases. However, this is never provided in the law including this one.
In Arnesh Kumar Vs State of Bihar (2014), the apex court has set the arrest guidelines to prevent misuse of the section and also observed that these provisions are used as weapons rather shields by disgruntled wives.
There are other observations by various high courts, supreme courts benches, law commission reports as well as reports of parliamentary committees, individual researchers and media stating the gross misuse of IPC 498a.
From the study of the cases above, we understand how frivolous is the feminist claim. The extent of misuse has come to light in various ways in observations of different committees. Also, the cases are not marked as ‘False Case’ in any govt statistics. Such cases are always recorded as acquitted on the ground of “inability of the prosecutrix to prove the case”. Even though courts find frivolous reasons behind filing such complaints, courts never mark these cases as false cases as no court can give character certificate to anyone by claiming that the accusations are false. Police in these cases is duty bound to file such cases until this time.
For any crimes against women, feminists also try to project that many women do not even come to courts or police for justice. However, the reality as found in various surveys including UNFPA Masculinity survey in 2011, it was found that 96% women seek help when in trouble compared to only 11% men.
From our experience of handling such cases all over India, we find that even small family dispute or disagreements become 498a FIR. All frivolous reasons stated above are very prominent in our daily encounter with such cases. While feminists claim that failure of the police investigation is the reason behind low conviction rate in 498a, we need to understand that ‘cruelty’ under 498a is of such grave form, that getting evidence for such cruelty should not be a challenge. This section was introduced by feminists to prevent ‘Dowry Death’ (as they claim) and even today feminist protest and their articles talk about ‘dowry death’ while speaking about IPC 498a. However, when ego clash, simple daily quarrel or wife’s greed for property becomes a reason to file a 498a case, where the ’cause’ of the ‘cruelty’ is completely absent, how on earth any investigating agency will ever find any evidence?