Introduction to IPC Section 498aTop of Page
There are many laws in India. These can be divided into constitutional law, civil law, criminal law, family law, patents law, property law, law of torts, and many other varieties of law. The Indian Penal Code is one of the primary sources of criminal law in our country.
Usually married life and its problems are covered by family law. But certain actions conducted (or alleged to have been conducted) within the bounds of marriage by the husband and his parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and other relatives except children and the wife's natal family are deemed to have criminal nature. These actions are governed by some parts of the criminal law family of law, and by some laws which have a criminal as well as a civil colour.
The most commonly used of these laws and acts are some sections of the Indian Penal Code, including but not limited to IPC 498a, IPC 406, IPC 34. IPC 498a refers to cruelty committed on daughter-in-law / wife by parents-in-law / husband, and to any cruelty committed by any relative of her husband on the natal side of his family. Such cruelty should normally be in relation to a dowry demand to attract this section. In rare cases this section can be invoked even in the absence of a dowry demand, if the cruelty committed has been of a a nature which would lead a psychologically normal bride / wife to attempt suicide due to extreme demoralisation, OR which would injure her seriously in the physical and/or mental sense of the word 'injury'. The bare text of IPC 498a is as follows—
IPC Section 498a is the only section of the IPC which has a whole chapter dedicated to itself. IPC 406 refers to criminal breach of trust. In case of stridhan misappropriation, real or fictitious, it can be invoked in dowry related complaints. IPC 34 refers to common criminal intention.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.
1. Explanation.- For the purposes of this section," cruelty" means—
(a) 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
(b) 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. 
Questions related to 498aTop of Page
Is it possible to avoid a 498a case?Top of Page
Sometimes people put this question in a clearer fashion, "Is it possible to avoid registration of an FIR after a complaint by a wife?" The answer to this question deserves to be stated equally clearly. If your wife has filed a criminal complaint against you indicating behaviour of the sort which is described in the text of this IPC section above, AND the period of limitation since husband (or his relatives) and wife last contacted each other or met each other or lived with each other has not expired, AND you fail to reach a settlement with her, then there is no way to avoid an FIR.
Is it possible to avoid arrest after registration of an FIR in a case u/s 498a?Top of Page
Yes it is possible, if the police decides that they do not need to arrest you then you can avoid being arrested. However they can arrest you later if they change their mind during the investigation phase, chargesheet phase, or trial phase. Another way to avoid being arrested is to get anticipatory bail from a competent court.
Can a wife accuse anyone in her complaint, like for example bhabhi, uncle, aunty etc. of her husband?Top of Page
She can name the pope if she wishes to do so, but inclusion of random relatives in 498a complaints are not taken seriously even by the police, forget about courts. Such inclusion does not mean in any way that such relatives will be arrested or even invited for questioning by the police. It also weakens her chances of securing the conviction of her husband in his trial.
Will I be arrested? Will my parents be arrested?Top of Page
Parents are arrested in a very small percentage of cases. Husbands are arrested in cases where police decides to make any arrest. But even a husband cannot be arrested if he gets a favourable court order upon his anticipatory bail application.
Is 498a a continuing offence?Top of Page
This question itself is a wrong question. A Correct question would be, "Can an offence of dowry harassment / mental torture / physical torture against a wife be deemed a continuing offence, and consequently lead to registration of an FIR u/s 498a upon complaint by said wife, even after expiry of the limitation period?" The answer is, "Quite possibly, yes. Especially if the mental torture is of such a variety that it keeps troubling the wife even after long absence of her husband and / or his family members from her life." One might ask here if the police are competent to judge the answer to this last question. The answer sadly is no, only a judge can judge this. So in effect 498a can be filed even after expiry of the usual limitation period (three years) and an FIR has every chance of resulting from such complaint.
Why was section 498a given a number with a letter suffixed to it? Why 498 and not 499 or 497?Top of Page
Yes indeed. Why was it not called IPC section 2000 or IPC section 444 or something else?
There was already a section 498 when section 498a was inserted in the Indian Penal Code back in 1983. In fact there was a section numbered 499 also, as well as 497. Numbers from 493 to 498 were in use for various sections which defined (and continue to define) offences committed in relation to the bond of marriage by various parties, notably either of the spouses in question. Number 499 was in use for an IPC section concerned with defining defamation. Numbers from 401 to 492 were in use for other IPC sections.
Since harassment and / or torture against a wife is also an offence connected by one of the parties in a marriage –and is inconceivable without the existence of a marital bond to a logical person– the number of the section describing this offence needed to be a logical appendage of the series from 493 to 498.
Due to the above reasons it was given a suffix along with one of the numbers from 493 to 498, which in the event turned out to be 498.
Now the reader may ask why 498 and why not 493a or 495a or 497a, and justifiably so, because 498 (eloping with a married woman) and 498a have nothing in common except the factum of a marriage being indirectly responsible for the definition of the offence. The answer probably is that our lawmakers felt the need to have a separate chapter of the IPC dedicated solely to this offence. One explanation for such a decision could be that sex or an intention to have illicit sex is an essential ingredient of all the offences in chapter 20 of the IPC, i.e. sections from 493 to 498, while neither is an essential ingredient in section 498a. So they made another chapter within the penal code solely for this section and gave it a number suffixed with a letter (again 'a'), viz. chapter 20a of the IPC. Since 20a appears to come after 20, the number of the IPC section had to be at or beyond the end of the series from 493 to 498 if it were to look neat. Hence 498a.
This chapter deals only with offences related to cruelty committed upon a woman by her husband or his relatives on the natal side. You can be sure that if any more offences fitting this description are thought up by our legislatures then they will be given a place in this chapter only, although God only knows what numbers they will be given in the absence of a vacancy at 499 –maybe 498b, 498c, 498d, etc.
Is an accused person under section 498a presumed to be guilty unless proven innocent?Top of Page
No. There is no presumption of guilt at any stage against a person accused under section 498a unless and until he is simultaneously accused of abetting the suicide of a married woman within 7 years of the date of solemnisation of her marriage, as provided under section 117a of the Indian Evidence Act. (Solemnisation can include religious ceremonies like nikaah, seven pheras, or anand karaj, or any civil ceremony.) This section of the evidence act was brought into existence simultaneously with section 498a of IPC by the Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, also known as Act no. 46 of 1983 –and this might have caused some confusion in the minds of any number and variety of persons, but there is no truth to the commonly repeated assertion that any person accused under 498a is to be considered guilty until proven innocent.
Presumption of guilt is also an integral part of charges laid under section 304b of the IPC, commonly known as the dowry death section. This is due to section 113b of the Indian Evidence Act.
Has IPC 498a been repealed?Top of Page
No. Only the Act (Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, also known as Act no. 46 of 1983) which amended the Indian Penal Code was repealed in 1988 by The Repealing and Amending Act 1988, also known as Act no. 19 of 1988. Note that this act did not repeal the section itself nor the (now amended) penal code, but only the act which had amended the penal code. Repealing of the amending act did not have any impact upon the IPC itself. Since the penal code stood amended by virtue of the amending act, you could do anything with the amending act short of declaring it a nullity ab initio and not cause any impact on the IPC.
Is it possible to cancel an FIR filed u/s 498 inter alia? Is it wise for any accused to attempt to obtain such an order?Top of Page
Yes it is possible. But it is not at all easy. Any FIR can be cancelled / quashed by any high court in India due to the powers vested in it under section 482 of the criminal procedure code. However such quashing is provided by courts on extremely rare occasions. There is a reason why this is so, viz. a Supreme Court order passed in [Madhu Limaye vs. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1978 SC 47 : 1978 Cr LJ 165] in which it was held that the following principles are to be followed by high courts while using their powers under section 482—
There are two types of cancellations of FIRs filed under section 498a, broadly speaking—1) The power is not to be resorted to if there is a specific provision in the CrPC for redress of grievance of the concerned / aggrieved party.
2) It should be exercised very sparingly to prevent abuse of the process of any court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.
3) It should not be exercised as against the express bar of the law engrafted in any other provision of the code (CrPC). 
1) Quash / Cancellation in toto, and
2) Compounding of offence by the complainant, which is to say quash / cancellation post compromise.
The first type of quash is very rarely granted, and it is not always wise to apply for such a quash because the grounds on which a quash is sought are almost certain to be the whole or a part of the grounds on which an acquittal is to be sought during trial. If an adverse order is passed in quash proceedings then a triple disadvantage for the petitioner (i.e. the accused u/s 498a) is bound to arise –they will get discouraged by the negative order, they will have lost time, money, and legal advantage, and they will have ended up revealing all or most of their cards to the complainant.
The second type of quash is fairly common, as can be seen for instance in [State of Andhra Pradesh vs. Aravapally Venkanna, AIR 2009 SC 1863 : (2009) 13 SCC 443] even though it flies in the face of the third point given above in Madhu Limaye vs. State of Maharashtra.
Famous cases under IPC Section 498aTop of Page
Andhra Pradesh minister case Top of Page
A member of Andhra Pradesh legislative assembly named P Shankar Rao was arrested by the police in 2013 following allegations of intimidation of witnesses after he had successfully obtained anticipatory bail in a dowry case. This man was a people's representative from Secunderabad at the time of his arrest, and had earlier held positions of irrigation minister and deputy leader of Congress legislature party in happier days. He has apparently faced cases related to allegations of forgery, cheating, and land grab also.
Odisha minister case Top of Page
Raghunath Mohanty, Law Minister of Odisha was arrested along with his wife in March 2013 following a complaint filed by his daughter-in-law. His career and family life suffered several blows in the space of less than a month. First he lost his job as law minister. Then his son was arrested. Then he and his wife were forced to seek secret refuge in West Bengal. Then they were arrested by a special crack team of Odisha police's human rights cell from Howrah before the crack of dawn one night.
Yukta Mookhey / Prince Tuli case Top of Page
This case caused immense notoriety to Prince Tuli, a hotel owner and business figure from Maharashtra, in 2013. He was accused of unnatural sex by his wife, a former beauty queen and an actress. Their wedding had received a lot of coverage in society supplements and glamour magazines. Both bride and groom were photogenic and were proud of their physical beauty. Very soon they were blessed with a baby boy. Ego conflicts due to desire for control started to grow, and eventually led to a total marital breakdown which ended in great public humiliation and undesired publicity for both parties although it can be argued that the husband suffered more since he was branded a criminal in large sections of society while the wife received compensation as is the norm in dowry cases.
Movie star Prashanth case Top of Page
A popular movie star of Tamil Nadu was accused by his estranged wife of dowry harassment and preventing her from contacting her own parents, in 2007. An FIR was promptly registered but evidently no charges were filed and the case was declared baseless by the police. Later on the FIR was quite definitely quashed as per procedure but reports on such quashing are not available or at least cannot be found by this writer. An interesting discovery which is fairly common in dowry cases was that the actor had been lavishing expenditure on his wife before being accused of cruelty by her.
IPS vs. IPS – Himachal Pradesh DGP case Top of Page
This is a case from 2014. Gurpreet Gill, retired DGP of HP was accused u/s 498a and 406 along with his wife. Their son Arjun Gill was accused by his fiancee' u/s 376 (rape) and 511 (attempt to commit offence punishable with life imprisonment etc.) also. Arjun Gill was later arrested and remanded to judicial custody. His parents were not arrested due to lack of any evidence against them. Dowry articles were allegedly recovered from Arjun by Punjab police. Incidentally the father of the complainant fiancee' is a senior officer in Punjab police at Inspector General level, and posted in the capital Chandigarh.
IPS vs. IPS – Punjab DGP case  Top of Page
The DGP of Punjab police gave away his daughter in marriage to a young IPS officer from Punjab posted in Kerala in 2006. The daughter of SS Wirk did not get along with Vikramjit Singh who was newly posted as an assistant superintendent of police. She filed a dowry harassment complaint against him following which an FIR was registered by Kerala Police against its own officer. The young IPS officer filed an anticipatory bail application which was granted following a compromise of sorts with his wife. Later his parents were ordered to pay fifteen lakh rupees to his bride in lieu of her wedding expenses.
SS Wirk was arrested in Delhi next year from Maharashtra Sadan by vigilance bureau of Punjab. A case of disproportionate assets, fraud, land grab etc. was registered against him.
Nisha Sharma dowry cases Top of Page
A woman from Noida named Nisha Sharma turned away her groom's wedding procession from the wedding venue and laid accusations of dowry harassment against him and some of his family members. This was in 2003. Her groom alleged that she had another suitor who claimed to be already married to her. Great media publicity was focussed on this case and the woman married a third man a few months later. The groom Munish Dalal and his family were acquitted by district court Noida after a trial lasting about a decade.
Munish Dalal became a men's rights activist. Nisha was accused of dowry harassment by her brother's wife and an FIR filed in Panipat district of Haryana some years ago.
Introduction to Domestic Violence ActTop of Page
Another commonly used act is the PWDVA 2005 (Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act). This act is not limited to wives alone. PWDVA can be used by sisters against brothers or sisters and mothers against sons also. This Act also allows action against daughters-in-law by mother-in-law also. (Such action may be taken especially in cases where crooked sons and their wives conspire to spoil the life of aged parents. It is not always easy to get such complaints (by mothers-in-law against daughters-in-law) accepted by the police, and an application may have to filed before a magistrate for the same.)
However, the husband and his other relatives have no such right. This is one reason why the Ministry for Women and Child Welfare is called the Ministry for Wives and Child Welfare by a section of men's rights activists. However, one saving grace in this Act is that a mother-in-law cannot be evicted from her own house (while males can be). These days the legal trend is to go easy on all family members of the main accused / respondent –that is to say, the husband– in all sorts of cases including those where civil liability is invoked. PWDVA mostly contains civil elements, with the exception of one or two criminal provisions. Such criminal provisions are also to be invoked only in the case of non-performance by the respondent(s) post court directions. Common reliefs sought by wives against their in-laws under PWDVA include right to residence, maintenance, and/or protection orders against violent husbands.
In ConclusionTop of Page
There is a popular misconception that the wife and her parents, brothers, sisters, bhabhi, jija etc. are immune to criminal liability for any and all of their actions. This is not true. Actions committed by the wife's natal family such as cheating, filing false cases, exaggerating facts, lying in front of police and court, giving false evidence, etc. are punishable under the law. A sufficiently litigatious husband, who has good legal counsel, can bring his wife to book for such acts. Even in heinous crimes like rape and murder, false allegations are sometimes –howsoever rarely– punished. So false allegations under laws which relate to lesser crimes (or alleged crimes, as is the case in this context) should be relatively easier to bring to book. The logic behind my assertion is that makers of serious allegations are given very strong legal protection in the twisted Indian legal system, even if they are false allegations. Witness the protection granted to rape accusers, who cannot even be named, even if their story is found to be totally fabricated from A to Z. But there are ways to achieve legal revenge even in such cases, as any really good lawyer will tell you. Murder cases are easier for defendants, quite incredibly if seen from a logical perspective but understandably if viewed through the prism of public perception especially in a country like ours. Dowry allegations are not so serious, and are not in the category of heinous or even serious crimes if there is no death involved. Hence the above assertion.
One commonly observed phenomenon in the litigation filed by wives against husbands is that a lot of it gets settled out of court finally, and very few cases reach the Supreme Court. Also there is an observation that only about 1 percent of complaints result in conviction. This has led to widespread allegations that the law is very often misused. Even the Supreme Court has said that 498a is often used as "legal terrorism". A lot of high courts have made adverse observations about women filing false cases, and some state including notably Andhra Pradesh have even made the offences committed or alleged to have been committed under the IPC Section 498a compoundable. Momentum is building up against malfeasant wives. You might just be able to make your contribution to it.