498 A|Dowry|Anticipatory Bail

498A |Dowry| Anticipatory Bail are part and parcel of a matrimonial dispute. Let us understand the meaning and implementation part of 498A, Dowry & Anticipatory bail in the same context.

498A IPC:

498 A was inserted into criminal law to prevent the social evil of dowry. Its main objective was the eradication of dowry in the Indian social set up. 498A IPC made demand of dowry by the husband or his relative a criminal offence. It covers action of demand of dowry and cruelty met out to the wife. Cruelty is incorporated in a broad and liberal sense. Cruelty can be mental or physical. Law prescribes three years maximum punishment for the offence.

Section 498A in The Indian Penal Code

 498A Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.
Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished ­ with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
Explanation For the purpose of this section, Cruelty means
  • any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the  woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or
  • harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.

USE & MISUSE OF 498A IPC

Law regarding criminalising offence of dowry was made with correct intent and for a larger social objective. In the initial days of the passing of law, First Information Report(FIR) used to be registered instantly upon the complaint of the wife. There used to be imminent threat of arrest of person agains whom allegations are levelled in the Complaint by wife. Such person usually included husband, father in law, mother in law, sister in law. In some case,  extended family members are also made accused. Balance in the society was being tried to achieve with the intervention of the State in Family matter. Law has brought chilling effect on the offender.

But, after few years, law had started to be misused as much as it was used. In view of the misuse, many people suffered through Jail. Person accused of the offence had recourse to the Justice system by seeking Anticipatory Bail. Even getting Anticipatory Bail was not easy.

In view of striking balance between use and misuse, it became mandatory that mediation and counselling between the complainant wife and her husband and his family members are done. Objective was to ensure that institution of marriage should not collapse. And general disputes between husband and wife or in laws does not lead to immediate arrest.

Dowry still remains a reality in the Indian Society in many way even today. And thus need to balance remain. Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has laid down  guidelines from time to to ensure that the false complaints or misuse of 498A is dealt adequately. Comprehensive guidelines were laid down in the case of Arnesh Kumar versus State of Bihar in the year 2014. Many says that law to curb the menace of dowry has been diluted. Many see it as a welcome step to prevent the misuse. Both point of view has its own merits and demerits.

How to lodge a Complaint for Dowry

Complain for Dowry or 498A  can be lodged  before concerned Crime Against Women Cell( CAW), Women Cell, Mahila Thana as existing against the husband and his family members who have committed offence

Upon the receipt of the complaint of harassment, husband and her family members are summoned before the concerned Authority.

Firstly, efforts are made to counsel parties to reconcile their differences. Preservation of marriage is always considered as a priority.

Secondly/ alternatively, upon failure of efforts of reconciliation, parties are counselled for amicable resolution of their dispute by agreeing for mutual consent divorce on terms and conditions as mutually agreeable to both sides.

Consequent upon failure of both possibilities, complaint is referred for the registration of FIR.

Anticipatory Bail in Dowry/498A 

Husband and his family may be required to seek anticipatory bail against the offence of 498A/Dowry. Such anticipatory bail application are filed before the Court of Session judge as a normal practice though High Court has concurrent Jurisdiction. Anticipatory bail are decided by the Court as according to the merits of each case.

Investigation Authority ie Police is also mandated to bound down the accused by taking undertaking under section 41 A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.). Use of 41 A is necessitated since guidelines are laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Arnesh Kumar as mentioned above.

Police is required to file chargesheet after investigation of the case. Thereafter, matter goes to the Court(Mahila Court) where the process of cognisance, summoning, charge and trial takes place.