Section 498A of the IPC prescribes punishment for a woman’s husband or his relative for subjecting her to cruelty. Time and again Supreme Court has ruled how Section 498A is one of the most grossly misused law in our country.
While striking down a prosecution order passed by a judicial magistrate at Malshiras, Solapur, in March 2017 against a man and his family, the Bombay high court (HC) recently said,
Not every instance of harassment or cruelty meted out to a married woman at her matrimonial home is covered under section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
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In Avinash Chandrakant Deshmukh & Ors v State of Maharashtra, the court observed that the acts alleged by the litigant in the case were “singular” and “isolated” in nature. The Deshmukh family had approached HC, challenging the magisterial order on the ground that the allegations, even if taken to be true, did not constitute ‘offence’ under section 498A.
Justice AM Badar, while hearing the case, said the bare perusal of definition of the term “cruelty” in section 498A makes it clear that it implies harsh and harmful conduct with certain intensity and persistence. According to him, the section covers acts causing physical and mental agony as well as torture. However, the litigant must show she was subjected to unbearable and repeated acts of brutality, the court said. It further added,
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It must be shown that the acts were of such a nature were sufficient for causing a married woman to lose her normal frame of mind.
The wife had accused two of the family members of assaulting the her by kicks and fist blows and demanded that she divorce her husband at the earliest. The fifth person was accused of harassing her for not cooking well. Justice Badar accepted the family’s contention after noticing that no act of harassment was attributed to two of the five applicants.
The judge found the acts by the family member were inadequate to attract the section 498A. The judge said,
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An Isolated singular act of beating does not fulfil the requirement of legal cruelty which implies harsh and harmful conduct of such a nature so as to drive a woman to commit suicide or to cause injury or danger to her life, limb.
The apex court had in July 2014 directed that the police must satisfy itself of the necessity of an arrest and the magistrate to record its satisfaction before authorising detention.
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