Section 498A IPC was enacted to punish cruelty by husband but now being misused: Jharkhand High Court

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The Jharkhand High Court recently observed that while Section 498A (cruelty to woman) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was originally introduced with the laudable object of punishing cruelty inflicted by husbands or their relatives on married women, it is currently being misused [Umesh Kumar & Ors v State & Anr].

Justice Sanjay Kumar Dwivedi noted that several courts including the Supreme Court have flagged concern over such misuse.

“Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code was inserted in the statute with the laudable object of punishing cruelty at the hands of husband or his relatives, however, nowadays, the said Section is being misused which has been observed by several High Courts and the Hon’ble Supreme Court,” Justice Dwivedi observed.

The judge added that there are numerous instances, where concerns were expressed by courts over the misuse of Section 498A and the growing trend to implicate the husband’s relatives in matrimonial disputes without considering the potential long-term consequences of such complaints going to trial.

The High Court further referred to Supreme Court judgments, where the top court had expressed concern over cases under Section 498A being lodged in the heat of the moment, and where omnibus allegations are made to implicate the family members of the husband in matrimonial disputes.

The observation was made in a plea to quash a criminal case lodged against the brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law (petitioners) of a man, who was facing allegations of being cruel to his estranged wife.

Considering the presence of general and omnibus allegations against the petitioners, the High Court ultimately exercised its inherent powers under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and quashed the case against them.

“What are the nature of torture made by these petitioners, has not been disclosed in the complaint petition as well as in the solemn affirmation,” the Court noted.

The Court, however, clarified that it has not interfered with the complaint and criminal proceedings pending against the husband.

Advocate Rajesh Kumar represented the petitioners, advocate Lalan Kumar Singh appeared for the wife and advocate Shailesh Kumar Sinha represented the State.

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