Section 498-A was introduced in the year 1983 because of increasing the number of dowry deaths. It was observed by the joint committee of the houses that there were innumerable cases involving cruelty by husband and his relatives on wife out of which only few cases of murder or suicide et cetera were reported while all others remained unreported because of no provision to assist hapless women. It was therefore proposed that Indian Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and Indian evidence act should be amended to effectively deal with dowry related crimes against women.
Ingredients of section 498-A
Section 498-A provides for punishment to the husband or his relatives if the subject of women to cruelty for the purpose of dowry. The term cruelty has been defined in the explanation of section 498-A. Cruelty may be any wilful conduct which may lead to suicide of a woman or any grave injury or danger to life or health (whether mental or physical). Cruelty may also include harassment of a woman for the purpose of any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security. This means that a case of assault or injury to wife will not attract section 498-A, although other sections like section 323 of the Indian Penal Code might be attracted. There are specific ingredients of section 498-A and those ingredients must be existing in the complaint to initiate proceedings under section 498-A. For example – wife says she was ill treated and was not given good food. This does not attract section 498-A.
Who can register section 498-A case?
Any person, for example uncle, father, brother, mother of the wife can complaint to the police and initiate criminal proceedings against husband or his relatives under section 498-A. Under no circumstance, it can be said that complaint is not maintainable merely because it has not been initiated by wife herself. The courts have generally observed that there must be specific allegations in the complaint under section 498-A against the husband or his relatives, this is not a rule. There may be a circumstance when a woman complains of continuing and unending acts of mental and physical cruelty by husband or his relatives. In such circumstances long-suffering becomes a continues process and therefore the exact date, time and month and exact allegations may not exist.
For conviction under section 498-A, ingredients of section 498-A must be proved by convincing and direct evidence. Circumstantial evidence, where death or grievous hurt has not occurred, generally results in acquittal and not conviction. Further, it must come in the complaint (First Information Report) and evidence that the wife suffered because of offense under section 498-A. All the relevant material must be placed on record as evidence to ensure conviction.