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MISUSE OF SECTION 304-B AND SECTION 498-A OF IPC IN INDIA

Author: Dhiraj Kumar Sharma, III year of B.A.,LL.B. from University Law College (Vinoba Bhave University), Hazaribagh


Introduction

Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with dowry deaths, which occur when a married woman is subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or his relatives for dowry, and it results in her death. The provision was introduced in 1986 as an amendment to the IPC in response to growing concern over the practice of dowry-related violence and deaths in India. Unfortunately, there have been instances of misuse of Section 304(B) by some women who falsely implicate their husbands and in-laws in dowry harassment cases. This misuse of the law has led to innocent individuals being arrested and jailed, resulting in great injustice. there have been instances where this provision has been misused, with false or exaggerated allegations of dowry harassment being made against the husband and his relatives. This has led to innocent people being arrested and prosecuted.


One of the major criticisms of Section 498-A is that it is often misused by women to settle personal scores or to extort money from their husbands and in-laws. In many cases, false and frivolous complaints are filed by women and their families, leading to the arrest and harassment of innocent people. The provision has been used as a tool for revenge and blackmail, and has caused immense mental and financial trauma to the accused and their families.This has resulted in a decrease in the credibility of the provision and has led to an increase in false complaints being filed. Furthermore, the provision has been criticized for being biased towards women and not providing adequate protection to men who are victims of domestic violence. Men who are falsely accused under Section 498-A have reported being subject to humiliation, social stigma, and loss of employment opportunities.


To prevent such misuse

The Supreme Court of India has laid down certain guidelines in its landmark judgment in the case of Kaliyaperumal vs. State of Tamil Nadu (2003) 2 SCC 240[1].


In the case of Kaliyaperumal vs. State of Tamil Nadu (2003) 2 SCC 240, the Supreme Court of India dealt with the issue of the misuse of Section 304B and 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).


Section 304B deals with dowry death, which is the death of a woman caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs in unnatural circumstances within seven years of her marriage, and where it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or his relatives in connection with a demand for dowry. On the other hand, Section 498A deals with the offence of cruelty by a husband or his relatives towards a married woman.


In this case, the Court observed that there have been instances where Section 304B and 498A of the IPC have been misused by women to settle personal scores, and innocent persons have been falsely implicated. The Court further observed that the provisions of Section 304B and 498A of the IPC cannot be invoked lightly, and the ingredients of the offences must be made out before a person can be convicted.


The Court held that the ingredients of the offences under Section 304B and 498A must be proved beyond reasonable doubt, and there must be a clear connection between the alleged cruelty and the death of the woman. The Court further observed that the allegations of cruelty and harassment should not be based on vague and general allegations and must be specific in nature.


The Court also observed that the police and the courts must ensure that innocent persons are not falsely implicated in such cases, and the investigation and trial must be fair and impartial. The Court directed that in cases of dowry death, the police must conduct a thorough investigation and collect all the relevant evidence before making any arrest.


Overall, the Kaliyaperumal judgment emphasizes the importance of ensuring that the provisions of Section 304B and 498A of the IPC are not misused to harass innocent persons and that the investigation and trial must be fair and impartial.


In the case of State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal [(1992) supp(1) scc 335][2] the Supreme Court laid down guidelines for preventing the misuse of Section 498-A (which deals with cruelty to married women) and Section 304-B. The Court directed the police to verify the veracity of the complaint before making an arrest and to follow the procedure laid down in the Code of Criminal Procedure.


Kans Raj v. State of Punjab (2000)[3]: In this case, the Supreme Court observed that in order to prove an offence under Section 304-B, it must be shown that the death of the woman was a direct result of cruelty or harassment by her husband or his relatives in connection with dowry demands. The Court also held that the prosecution must establish a clear and complete chain of events, which lead to the death of the woman.


It is important to note that while Section 304-B has been misused in some cases, it remains an important law to protect women from dowry harassment and related offences. The misuse of the law should not overshadow its intended purpose of preventing violence against women.


Some landmark judgments related to the misuse of Section 498-A are

  • Arnesh Kumar vs. State of Bihar (2014)8 scc 273 [4]:- In this case, the Supreme Court of India observed that there is a growing tendency among women to misuse the provisions of Section 498-A. The court directed the police to follow certain guidelines before making any arrests under this section. These guidelines include conducting a preliminary investigation to verify the allegations, arresting the accused only when it is necessary, and releasing the accused on bail if there is no evidence against him.

  • Rajesh Sharma vs. State of Uttar Pradesh (2017)scc 821[5]:- In this case, the Supreme Court issued guidelines to prevent the misuse of Section 498-A. The court directed the District Legal Services Authorities to constitute family welfare committees in every district to examine the complaints filed under Section 498-A. The committee would scrutinize the complaints and submit a report to the police and the magistrate. The court also directed the police to avoid arresting the accused immediately after a complaint is filed.

  • Social Action Forum for Manav Adhikar vs. Union of India (2018)[6]:- In this case, the Supreme Court of India upheld the validity of Section 498-A and observed that it serves as a deterrent to protect married women from cruelty. However, the court directed the government to consider amendments to the section to prevent its misuse.

  • Sushil Kumar Sharma vs. Union of India (1997)5 SCC 536[7]:- In this case, the Supreme Court of India observed that false complaints under Section 498-A could not be ruled out, and such complaints could cause immense harassment to the accused and their families. The court further observed that such false complaints amount to a gross abuse of the process of law, and the accused could seek compensation for the same.

  • In conclusion, while Section 498-A serves an essential purpose of protecting married women from cruelty, its misuse can cause immense harassment to innocent individuals. Therefore, there is a need for strict implementation of the guidelines issued by the courts to prevent its misuse.

Why are women misuse section 304-B?

It is true that false allegations and misuse of the law are occur. Some women are file false cases of Section 304-B for various reasons, such as:-

  • Revenge:- In some cases, a woman may falsely accuse her husband or in-laws of dowry-related violence as an act of revenge or to get back at them for some reason.

  • Pressure from family:-In some cases, the woman's family may pressure her to file a false case of dowry-related violence to extract money or property from the accused.

  • Malice:- Some women may file false cases out of malice or to defame the accused.

  • Misunderstanding: In some cases, a woman may genuinely believe thats he is a victim of dowry- related violence, but her allegations may not be true.


It is important to note that false cases of Section 304- Bare a serious issue, and they can have severe consequences for the accused. However, it is also essential to ensure that genuine cases of dowry-related violence are not ignored or dismissed. A balanced and fair approach is necessary to protect the rights of both the accused and the victims.


How can a person save himself from false allegations and false cases of section 304-B ?

There are several steps that a person can take to protect themselves from false allegations and false cases of Section 304B and 498A. These include:-

1) Communication and transparency:- One of the best ways to protect yourself is by maintaining open and transparent communication with your spouse and in-laws. This can help to address any misunderstandings or issues before they escalate into false allegations.


2) Document everything:- It's essential to keep a record of all interactions with your spouse and in-laws, including emails, text messages, phone calls, and any other communication. This documentation can be used as evidence in court to prove your innocence.


3) Seek legal advice: - If you suspect that false allegations are being made against you, it's essential to seek the advice of a good lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer can guide you through the legal process, help you collect evidence, and defend your rights in court.


4) Cooperate with the investigation:- If you are being investigated for an offence under Section 304B or 498A, it's important to cooperate fully with the investigation. This can help to demonstrate your innocence and establish the truth.


5) Avoid confrontation:- It's essential to remain calm and avoid confrontations with your spouse or in-laws, as this can exacerbate the situation and make it more difficult to resolve.


6) Build a strong support system:- Surround yourself with family and friends who can provide emotional support during this challenging time. It's essential to have a strong support system to help you through the legal process and provide encouragement along the way.


In summary, protecting yourself from false allegations and false cases of Section 304B and 498A requires careful communication, documentation, legal advice, cooperation with the investigation, avoidance of confrontation, and building a strong support system.


Some of the reasons why section 498-A is being misused are

  • False allegations:- Women have been known to make false allegations of harassment and violence against their husbands and in-laws to extract money or seek revenge.

  • Overzealous police:- In some cases, the police have been known to arrest the accused without proper investigation, leading to harassment and inconvenience.

  • Lack of safeguards:- There are no safeguards in the law to protect the accused from false allegations or misuse of the provision.

  • Long-drawn legal process: -The legal process can be lengthy and expensive, with cases often taking several years to resolve. This can lead to hardship for the accused and their families.


How can men save themselves from false case of section 498A of IPC ?

Here are some steps that men can take to protect themselves from false cases under Section 498-A of the IPC:

  • Maintaining good relations: -The best way to avoid false cases is to maintain good relations with your spouse and in-laws. Communication and mutual respect can go a long way in avoiding misunderstandings that may lead to false cases.

  • Documenting evidence:- Keep records of all communication, such as text messages, emails, or phone calls, with your spouse and in-laws, which can serve as evidence in case of false cases. It is also essential to keep records of any financial transactions, such as gifts or property transfers.

  • Avoiding provocation:- Avoid provoking your spouse or in-laws, especially during arguments or disputes, as it may lead to false accusations of cruelty or harassment.

  • Seeking legal advice:- If you are facing false accusations, it is essential to seek legal advice from a competent lawyer as soon as possible. A good lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and guide you through the legal process.

  • Filing a counter-case:- In case of false accusations, you can file a counter-case for defamation or filing a false case against you. However, before taking any legal action, it is essential to consult with your lawyer.

  • Following legal procedures:- If you are arrested under Section 498-A, it is crucial to follow legal procedures and cooperate with the investigating authorities. Do not resist arrest or tamper with evidence, as it may weaken your case.

  • Applying for anticipatory bail:- If you fear arrest, you can apply for anticipatory bail from a competent court, which can protect you from arrest for a specified period


Conclusion

In conclusion, while section 304-B of the IPC is an important provision to protect women from dowry-related harassment and death, it must be used judiciously to prevent its misuse. The courts have a crucial role to play in ensuring that the provisions of the law are not abused to harass innocent persons. The guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in the Kaliyaperumal case serve as a useful framework for the proper implementation of section 304-B.while the intention behind the introduction of Section 498-A was noble, its implementation has been flawed and has led to a rise in false complaints and harassment of innocent people. The provision needs to be reformed to ensure that it is used as a tool for justice and not as a means for extortion or harassment. Adequate safeguards need to be put in place to protect the rights of the accused and to prevent misuse of the provision.


some important date regarding the misuse of section 304-B and 498-A

  • Every year more than 10,000 complaints of dowry harassment are found to be false . As per report of The times of India.

  • 31,292 cases of cruelty by husband and relative , filed by women under section 498A of IPC between year 2011 and 2014 were found false . As per the report of The times of India.


References

· K.D Gaur IPC ( text book) pg no :- 852 to 878 & 1291 to 1299 and Pillia IPC ( text book ) pg no :- 694 to 705 & 629 to 647.

· Bare act of IPC ( Universal publication) chapter no :- XVl , pg no :- 118 & chapter no :- XXA pg no :- 189.

· https://www.livelaw.in/tags/section-304b-ipc

· https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/498a-ipc-general-omnibus-allegations-husband-wife-relatives-supreme-court-abuse-of-process-kahkashan-kausar-sonam-vs-state-of-bihar-191440

· https://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/472/Sec.-498A-I.P.C.--Its-Use-and-Misuse.html#:~:text=498A%20as%3A,be%20liable%20to%20a%20fine

· https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/10-of-dowry-cases-false-government-plans-changes-in-law/articleshow/46649047.cms

· https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/steady-increase-in-number-of-women-filing-false-cases-against-husbands/articleshow/46452475.cms#:~:text=The%20number%20of%20false%20cases,found%20untrue%20after%20police%20investigation

[1]indian kanoon [2]www.kanoonirai.com [3]indian kanoon [4]live law [5]law insider india [6]law times journal [7]indian kanoon

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