Backlash by Judiciary: Against Victimisation of Male Spouses on False Cruelty Charges

Pragya Sharma[1]

In the past decade it has been observed by several High Courts as well as the Apex Court of the country that there has been spurt in the number of false charges of cruelty against male spouses as well as their families as a means of personal vengeance by wives and their families.

This essay aims at emphasising upon gravity of criminal victimisation of such male spouses by a mere false complaint by their female spouses in the name of revenge/harassment and how the judiciary has reacted against this rampant misuse of laws that were meant to protect vulnerable women.

In the case of K. Srinivas Rao v. D.A. Deepa[2], the wife lodged criminal complaint against the husband stating that latter is harassing her for more dowry. The High Court held that the couple did not live together for a long time and, therefore, the question of their treating each other with cruelty could not arise. The Supreme Court, also held that such false complaints “have adverse impact on the business prospect or the job of the spouse and filing repeated false complaints and cases in the court against the spouse would, in the facts of a case, amount to causing mental cruelty to the other spouse.”[3]

In addition to this, the court also found that “The statement that the mother of the appellant-husband asked her to sleep with his father is bound to anger him”[4]and concluded it to be a fit case of mental cruelty as those were scurrilous, vulgar and defamatory statement.

In a more recent judgment, the Supreme Court was appalled by witnessing the prevailing realities of rampant misuse of section 498A IPC. In the case of Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar[5], the court acknowledged the fact that “Section 498-A is a cognizable and non-bailable offence has lent it a dubious place of pride amongst the provisions that are used as weapons rather than shield by disgruntled wives.”[6] The court rightfully observed that “bed-ridden grand-fathers and grand-mothers of the husbands, their sisters living abroad for decades are arrested.”[7]

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This judgment extensively referred to ‘Crime in India 2012 Statistics’ published by National Crime Records Bureau and concluded that the rate of charge-sheeting in cases under §498A, Indian Penal Code is as high as 93.6%, while the conviction rate is only 15%, which is lowest across all heads whereas out of 3,72,706 pending trial, it is possible that approximately 3,17,000 are likely to be acquitted.[8]

Thus, overall it can be concluded that courts have started scrutinising section 498A IPC cases even more strictly and is not impressed with the effects such beneficial legislation is causing.

There exist grave repercussions of misuse of beneficial legislations by women The law commission of India brought forth ‘triple problems’ with respect to compliance with provisions of section 498a IPC:

“ ..(a) the police straightaway rushing to arrest the husband and even his other family members (named in the FIR), (b) tendency to implicate, with little or no justification the in-laws and other relations residing in the marital home and even outside the home, overtaken by feelings of emotion and vengeance or on account of wrong advice, and (c) lack of professional, sensitive and empathetic approach on the part of the police to the problems of woman under distress.”[9]

The Law Commission, in its recommendations, suggested a solution that “Ministry of Home Affairs can issue ‘advisories’ to State Governments to avoid unnecessary arrests and to strictly observe the procedures laid down in the law governing arrests.”[10] Similarly, it has been observed by the Law Commission that the practice of obtaining the permission of ACP/DCP level officers before effecting arrest of husband/relatives is being followed in Delhi. In addition to this, it was also recommended that offence under S, 498-A “shall be made compoundable, with the permission of Court and subject to cooling off period of 3 months.”[11] The Justice Malimath Committee’s report on Reforms of Criminal Justice System made following observations:

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“The harsh law, far from helping the genuine victimized women, has become a source of blackmail and harassment of husbands and others…. When the members of a family are arrested and sent to jail, with no immediate prospect of bail, the chances of amicable re-conciliation or salvaging the marriage, will be lost once and for all.”[12]

 These recommendations have been proved to be not mere paper works. The recent judicial trends witness that the Supreme Court has now and then considered applying these recommendations. For example, in the case of K. Srinivas Rao, the Supreme Court ruled that wherever possible, courts must “explore the possibility of settlement through mediation.”[13] Similarly, in the case of Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar, the Supreme Court gave necessary guidelines to the police as well as to the magistrates with respect to arrest of husband and/or his relatives in criminal complaint cases under section 498A IPC.

In recent years, courts have acknowledged that it cannot prima facie give benefits to all women who come before them seeking reliefs and the same would tantamount to sheer disregard of the aims and objectives of those beneficial legislations. A stricter approach by the courts is very essential, keeping in mind the rampant abuse of the process of law as well as abuse of the statutes per se. False cruelty charges and associated criminal victimisation is one of its kind because it mostly targets people with no criminal records and the social arrangement in India is such that once the neighbourhood comes to know that their neighbour has been arrested on criminal charges, it becomes a life-long labelling of such person as a violent/criminal person.


[1] Student.

[2] K. Srinivas Rao v. D.A. Deepa, (2013) AIR 2176.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar, (2014) AIR 2756.

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[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Law Commission of India, August 2012, 243rd Report on Section 498A IPC, 15 (Jan 19, 2018), http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/report243.pdf..

[10] Law Commission of India, supra note 18, 14.

[11] Law Commission of India, supra note 18, 44.

[12] Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, 2003, Law Commission of India, August 2012, 243rd report on Section 498A IPC, 48.

[13] K. Srinivas Rao, supra note 5.