The Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, which was passed in 1983, added Section 498A to the Indian Penal Code (IPC). This section’s purpose is to penalize the husband and any other family members who torture the wife to obtain the dowry. Before 1983, harassment of a wife by her husband or in-laws was covered by the broad sections of the Indian Penal Code that dealt with assault, injury, grave hurt, and killing. But attention was drawn to the rise in bride-burning incidents and other forms of violence against women, particularly targeting young women who had recently tied the knot. It was decided that the general IPC provisions were insufficient to deal with the horrible crimes committed against women. In light of the same, section 498A was included in the IPC.
However, we observed that wives have begun to level vacuous and false accusations against their husbands and family members; nonetheless, our patriarchal society never accepts that men endure great hardships. One cannot dispute that, in a democratic nation like India where the law is favorable to women, women suffer more than males do. Hence, considering the same, the husband and his family can protect themselves against a various fictitious Section 498A case. This article will give an overview of one of such rights. i.e. withdrawal of cases once filed under section 498A.
ABOUT SECTION 498A
Section 498A addresses the non-bailable offense of a spouse or a husband's relative abusing a woman by causing her to suffer cruelty. Anyone who submits a woman to cruelty while she is her spouse or a family member of her husband faces up to three years in prison and a fine.
- Any deliberate behavior that puts the woman in danger of killing herself, causing severe harm to her life, or endangering her health, whether it be mental or physical; or
- Harassment of the woman when it is intended to force her or anyone connected to her to comply with an unlawful demand for any kind of property or valued security.
Offenses covered under Section 498A
- Any act that could encourage a woman to attempt suicide;
- any behavior that could seriously endanger the woman's life, limb, or health;
- intimidation to make the victim or her family give their property; and/or
- harassment due to the woman's or her family member's refusal to give up a portion of the property or their inability to accede to demands for additional money.
COURT'S CONSIDERATION AND VALID GROUNDS FOR WITHDRAWAL
A case filed under section 498A is non-compoundable. Once the FIR is filed, even the wife cannot withdraw the case until the High Court allows it. She may provide a restatement in the event the police have not yet filed the charge sheet.
The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, Section 482 grants the High Court the authority to step in and mediate a dispute so that the parties can agree. To do this, the parties must file an application with the High Court indicating their desire to drop the Section 498A lawsuit and reach a peaceful resolution. Hence, while determining whether to allow the withdrawal of a 498A complaint, the High Court considers several important variables. Among these elements are:
- The evidence of settlement between the parties and the conditions of the agreement.
- Reasoning for the withdrawal, making amends, or settling of money issues.
- The prospective impact on the concerned parties, considering both harm and advantages.
- The influence on society as a whole.
- Adherence to pertinent laws, including the Criminal Procedure Code.
- Evaluating the public interest and pursuing justice.
It is important to note that a wife can withdraw the FIR before the chargesheet is filed. She can approach the Investigating Officer (IO) to withdraw a criminal complaint against her husband or other in-laws. The IO will then draft a report about the withdrawal of the criminal charges and send it to the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP). Section 173 of the Criminal Procedure Code allows the DCP to order a closure report after considering the report (CrPC). This report will include the police station's judicial magistrate and details the findings of the police investigation.
OPTIONS AVAILABLE TO WITHDRAW A 498A CASE:
After filing the case, with the assistance of family members, the couple may mediate to reconcile. If, following the negotiations, the wife chooses to return to the husband or if the parties agree to a mutual divorce, the case filed under section 498A can be closed.
Compromise and Mediation
Higher Courts have mandated that matrimonial cases be sent to conciliation and mediation, and that trial courts and the police make every attempt to resolve disputes through channels. In the event, that the parties fail to reach a compromise or a conciliation, a formal complaint can be filed upon reaching the determination that no such compromise or settlement is feasible. However, once the case has been filed, the parties may mediate to resolve the dispute and approach the High Court to withdraw the case.
Quashing of FIR
In the event of a compromise, all proceedings related to a case filed under section 498A can be quashed. As cases under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure are non-compoundable, the parties will reach a compromise to settle the dispute. The Hon'ble Supreme Court made this recommendation in B.S. Joshi v. State of Haryana and Manoj Sharma v. State 123.
Compounding of Offenses
In its 154th report (1996), the Law Commission of India suggested that section 498A be made into a compounding provision with the court's approval. Nonetheless, several state high courts and the Supreme Court have issued rulings addressing different aspects of the case. Hence, depending on the facts of the case and the consensus between the parties, the courts may allow the withdrawal of case files under section 498A.
PROCEDURE FOR WITHDRAWING A COMPLAINT FILED UNDER SECTION 498A
Since Section 498A is a criminal offense, the parties will have to reach the High Courts to seek withdrawal. The following steps must be taken to withdraw:
- Submit a withdrawal motion to the relevant High Court.
- It must be mentioned in the application that this is an application for the High Court to use its authority under CrPC Section 482.
- The parties should also provide written affidavits from each family member confirming that they have no objections to the withdrawal.
- If any party is unable to physically attend the court hearings, it is preferable to emphasize that they all intend to settle the dispute amicably before the court.
Additionally, the parties are required to document the settlement before a Quash Petition is submitted to the High Court.
If, following a mutually agreed-upon divorce, the wife refuses to withdraw the 498A, the husband may unilaterally petition the High Court to have the 498A quashed based on the terms of their settlement. However, the husband will be required to provide a written affidavit wherein the wife has stated that she has no objections to the withdrawal.
THE TIME FRAME FOR WITHDRAWING A 498A CASE
A 498A case trial's duration varies depending on several variables. These include the degree of collaboration amongst the parties involved, the jurisdiction, the workload of the court, and the complexity of the case. A 498A case's resolution time often ranges from a few months to four to five years. This timeframe can take up to ten or fifteen years in more complex circumstances. However, the legal procedure of quashing an FIR filed under Section 498A usually takes a year or so, depending on the availability and quality of evidence that can be utilized to disprove the complainant's baseless allegations.
Rohit Bhargava v. State 2018 Delhi HC (2018)
The matter between the parties in this case was mutually resolved through mediation. Additionally, it was brought to the court's attention that the parties had separated amicably through mutual divorce. The High Court cited Gian Singh v. State of Punjab, (2012) 10 SCC 303, in which the Supreme Court acknowledged the necessity of a mutual settlement of conflicts in situations similar to the one at hand. The High Court was inclined to grant the petition. "Since the subject matter of this FIR is essentially matrimonial, which stands mutually and amicably settled between parties, therefore, the continuance of proceedings arising out of the FIR in question would be an exercise in futility."
Sushil Kumar Sharma vs. Union of India and others (2005)
The claim that Section 498A is unconstitutional under the law and the Constitution was rejected by the Supreme Court of India. The court ruled that there had been other instances when it had been demonstrated that the complaints were not sincere and had been filed for ulterior reasons. Hence, the court has to find remedies that could be taken to put an end to the abuse of the section. Although the section is legitimate, no one has the right to use it as justification for harassment or retaliation. Legislators may therefore need to devise a means of penalizing those who bring false accusations.Until then, the issue needs to be resolved by the Courts within the existing structure.