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Legislative Intent Behind Sec. 498A IPC

Legislative Intent Behind Sec. 498-A IPC

The intention and objects behind enactment of Section 498A IPC have been beautifully outlined in 1999 judgment of Bombay High Court in (1998 Cri.L.J.  4496) B.K. Moghe Vs. State of Maharashtra and Another. A. V. Savant, J quoting the Statement of Objects and Reasons of Criminal Law (2nd Amendment) Act of 1983 says that the Statement of Objects and Reasons opens with following words: ----

“The increasing number of Dowry Deaths is a matter of serious concern the extent of evil has been commented upon by the Joint Committee of the Parliament constituted to examine the working of Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 case of cruelty by the husband and the relatives of the husband which culminate in suicide by, or murder of the hapless woman concerned, constitute only a small fraction of the cases involving such cruelty. It is therefore proposed to amend the IPC, CrPC and Evidence Act suitably to deal effectively not only with cases of Dowry Death but also cruelty to married woman by their in laws.

The Joint Committee of Parliament had also recommended the cruel treatment to a married woman for demanding and procuring dowry must be made punishable. As a result Section 498 A IPC was introduced in the year 1983 because as per committee very large number of women were subjected to ill-treatment short of Dowry Death, for bringing insufficient dowry which required stringent punishment to control the number of Dowry Deaths.

It is common knowledge that despite prohibition of the pernicious social evil of demand a payment of dowry under Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 number of Dowry Deaths was escalating. It had become a subject of grave concern to the enlightened sections of societies. It therefore received anxious consideration of the Joint Committee of Parliament. As a result of constant harassment, humiliation etc. at the hands of the husband or his relatives, the married women used to become helpless and being unable to bear with it were driven to commit suicide.  This harassment and humiliation thus required stringent punishment therefore. The existing law was found to be in adequate even though Section 306 IPC stood on the statute book and Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 was enacted. It was in this background Section 498 A was inserted in the Penal Code.”

In (AIR 2003 SC 1386) B. S. Joshi v. State of Haryana the Supreme Court observed,

“There is no doubt that the object of introducing Chapter XX-A containing Section 498A in the Indian Penal Code was to prevent the torture to a woman by her husband or by relatives of her husband. Section 498A was added with a view to punishing a husband and his relatives who harass or torture the wife to coerce her or her relatives to satisfy unlawful demands of dowry. The hyper-technical view would be counter productive and would act against interests of women and against the object for which this provision was added. There is every likelihood that non-exercise of inherent power to quash the proceedings to meet the ends of justice would prevent women from settling earlier. That is not the object of Chapter XXA of Indian Penal Code.”


Constitutional validity of Section 498-A IPC was questioned in (1989 Cri.L.J. 242 MP) Girija Shankar Vs. State of M.P  and it was found to be constitutional and not violative of Article 14. The learned court observed that Section 498 A punishes cruelty by husband or his relatives.
The constitutional validity of this provision was again put to test in (1998 Cri.L.J. 4496) B.K. Moghe Vs. State of Maharashtra The court held,

“---- in our view there is a valid justification for classifying the husband and his relatives as a separate class for the purposes of Section 498 A IPC. Normally the offence is committed within the four walls of matrimonial home, where others have no easy access. There is no invidious discrimination nor is there anything obnoxious to the doctrine of the equality so as soon violate the guarantee enshrined in Article 14 of the constitution. There is thus no merit in contention of the petitioner.”

“….The degradation due to evil of dowry and the unconscionable demands made by greedy and unscrupulous husbands and their parents and relatives resulting in alarming number of suicidal and Dowry Deaths by women shocked the legislative conscience  to such an extent that legislature deemed it necessary to provide additional provisions of law, substantive as well as procedural, to come back the evil and consequently and Section 113 A and 113 B in the Evidence Act, 1872 and Section 498 A and Section 304 B in the IPC have been introduced.”

Regarding the constitutionality of Sec. 498-A IPC in (AIR 2005 SC 3100) Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India it was held by the Supreme Court:

“Provision of S. 498A of Penal Code is not unconstitutional and ultra vires. Mere possibility of abuse of a provision of law does not per se invalidate a legislation. Hence plea that S. 498A has no legal or constitutional foundation is not tenable. The object of the provisions is prevention of the dowry menace. But many instances have come to light where the complaints are not bona fide and have been filed with oblique motive. In such cases acquittal of the accused does not in all cases wipe out the ignominy suffered during and prior to trial. Sometimes adverse media coverage adds to the misery. The question, therefore, is what remedial measures can be taken to prevent abuse of the well-intentioned provision. Merely because the provision is constitutional and intra vires, does not give a licence to unscrupulous persons to wreck personal vendetta or unleash harassment. It may, therefore, become necessary for the legislature to find out ways how the makers of frivolous complaints or allegations can be appropriately dealt with. Till then the Courts have to take care of the situation within the existing frame-work.”


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