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SECTION 498A OF THE INDIAN PENAL CODE (IPC) REQUIRES PROOF

Author: Abiman Reghunath .C, V year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from SASTRA University


Introduction

The Indian Penal Code, 1860, has Section 498A, which punishes cruelty towards a woman by her husband or his relatives. Because cruelty is a subjective concept, there are a number of prerequisites for demonstrating it in a court of law. When successfully proven, relief may be granted to the woman, who is most typically the victim of domestic abuse in these circumstances. When a woman is subjected to extreme cruelty, she may commit suicide. In such circumstances, it is the prosecution's responsibility to ensure that the wheels of justice are turned in the right direction and that those who perpetrate such crimes receive adequate legal punishment.


What is IPC Section 498A?

Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, prohibits a woman from being subjected to abuse by her husband or his relatives. This offence is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable, and subject to a first-class Magistrate's trial.

Cruelty is defined in this act as any deliberate conduct that has the potential to drive a woman to suicide or to inflict grave injury or danger to her life, limb, physical, or mental health. This section also covers harassment of a woman in the context of coercing her or any other family member to give up any property or personal security. Harassment of a woman for failing to comply with an illegal demand for property forfeiture is also harsh.


As the content of this Section indicates, it is frequently used in cases of domestic abuse. This was stated in the case of B.S. Joshi v. the State of Haryana (2003), which cautioned against a hyper-technical interpretation of this Section. However, the growing use of this Section to settle personal scores requires special scrutiny. Courts must carefully consider whether a case of cruelty is serious enough and has sufficient evidence to warrant prosecution.


The difference between Sections 498A and 304B of the IPC

Section 304B punishes a husband's or his relatives' cruelty and harassment of a woman, the wife, where such cruelty (which can be related to dowry) results in the lady's death by bodily injuries, burns, or other means (or any other method which deviates from the normal circumstances). Furthermore, the death must occur within seven years of the marriage, which is referred to as "dowry death."

In Shanti v. the State of Haryana (1991) and Keshab Chandra Panda v. State of Haryana (1993), the distinction between these two Sections was defined (1994). These two sections are not mutually exclusive, as stated. While cruelty defined in Section 498A is the same as cruelty described in Section 304B, cruelty is penalised under Section 498A. However, dowry death caused by cruelty is punishable under section 304B. Furthermore, Section 304B specifies a seven-year time limit, which is absent from Section 498A. Furthermore, if a case is made out, a person accused under Section 340B might be convicted under Section 498A even if the charge is not present.


Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) requires proof

According to a straightforward reading of Section 498A, the ingredients of cruelty must be an overt, wilful act that could lead to a woman's suicide or serious injury to her physical or mental health. In addition, harassing a woman on a regular basis is harsh. The forms of evidence that can help build a solid prosecution case and lead to the accused's conviction have been listed below. Despite the fact that these categories overlap, they each require a separate discussion because to the differing standards for admissibility in courts.


Oral Statement

Oral comments made under oath in court aid in the examination of witnesses and parties involved, as well as the decrease of evidence falsification. Oral statements, which are a type of oral evidence, can be used to show material facts of a crime under Section 59 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. (other than the contents of documents or electronic records). Furthermore, the Evidence Act stipulates that oral evidence given by witnesses who saw, heard, or perceived a crime must be direct (Section 60). For example, under Section 498A, eyewitnesses who witnessed a husband hitting his wife or neighbours who overheard a wife being continually disparaged by her husband for years can offer oral statements.


Direct Evidence

Direct evidence is any sort of evidence that points to a crime being committed. It could be either oral or documentary. A wife's diary, for example, can be deemed direct proof because it documents her constant harassment, which eventually leads to her suicide.


Indirect Evidence

To prove a crime, this form of evidence must be backed up by other evidence. A wife's suicide, for example, is indirect evidence of cruelty. Evidence must be shown to show that she was subjected to physical or emotional abuse at the hands of her husband or his relatives, and that this trauma caused her to commit herself.


Medical Evidence

Medical evidence is an important type of evidence that can be used to prove cases of cruelty under Section 498A. They might be either oral or documented in nature. As a result, medical records from the wife seeking professional help for damage either physically or mentally all fall into this category. Of course, such evidence will be circumstantial, and it will be up to the prosecution to convincingly demonstrate a relationship between the injuries and the husband's and his relatives' deliberate and cruel behaviour. It is crucial to note, however, that in the event of a dispute between direct eyewitness testimony and medical evidence, Prem v. Daula (1997) said that eyewitness evidence should be chosen if unimpeachable, and medical evidence cannot negate evidence.


Expert witness

The Indian Evidence Act, Section 45, empowers the court to acquire expert views on a variety of topics, including but not limited to science. As a result, medical professionals such as doctors may be called to testify in court. Such evidence will be included in the oral medical evidence, and when it is corroborated by eyewitness testimony to acts of cruelty, it strengthens the prosecution's case.


Electronic evidence

According to Section 65B of the Evidence Act, electronic records that point to cruelty are admissible in court. A video clip of a man's cruelty to a woman, for example, is an electronic kind of direct evidence.


Section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872 governs presumption

The presumption of abetment of suicide by a married woman is discussed in Section 113A. It provides that if a wife commits suicide within seven years of marriage and it can be established that the lady was subjected to cruelty, as defined by Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, by her husband or his relatives, then the husband or his relatives shall be presumed to have abetted the suicide.


In State of M.P. v. Geetabai (1996), the Court decided that in order to invoke this assumption, the prosecution must first show that the accused was cruel to the deceased. This presumption, on the other hand, will not be raised if the woman commits suicide after more than seven years of marriage, despite the fact that cruelty was committed against her within the meaning of Section 498A. In such circumstances, the prosecution must also show that the woman's suicide was aided by the abuse she was exposed to. In the case of State of Punjab v. Iqbal Singh, this principle was reaffirmed (1991).


Conclusion

From the preceding explanation, it can be determined that direct proof is the most valuable for showing cruelty. A valid prosecution under Section 498A cannot be based on a single act of cruelty. Instead, a succession of acts that may be demonstrated to have ongoing negative emotional and physical repercussions on the woman can lead to conviction.

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