Whether Cruelty Is Punishable Offence In India?

If we see girls in our country, they are considered as the most vulnerable group of the society. Since childhood, parents teach their daughters that your marital house is everything for you, it does not matter how much she is educated or financially stable. Society always forces a girl that her husband is everything for her and she has to follow him blindly. But, is it just and fair in this 21st century where we are talking about so-called equality. It is also true that women of this century do not believe in such a concept anymore but there are many people especially the women who still think their survival is difficult without her spouse as she is nothing without her husband. Being a girl, talking about the reality of today’s world, marriage is a very beautiful dream for every girl but let me talk about its evil side. If we see the news in newspapers or news channels, we can find every other day that a woman dies because of dowry or cruelty. As we know every woman tries to save her marriage from their part but what might be the situation when the question is related to death and life of a woman. A woman is ready to accept every abuse, cruelty or any kind of harassment because of her husband, or in-laws but it also has some limits. In this article, the author is going to discuss cruelty and its implication in different statues.

What is cruelty?

Cruelty is considered as violent acts. As per the Indian Penal Code (IPC) violence is committed by her husband or in-laws or any spouse relative of women after her marriage.[1] As per IPC, a person who is charged with cruelty can be punished with imprisonment of 3 years and a fine.
Any conduct or act which would amount to cruelty should be grave as well as harmful in nature. But grave violence always not means physical violence but also mental violence. It is true that physical violence is a necessary condition which leads to cruelty but mental torture is also considered as cruelty apart from that a continuous process of ill-treatment or mental or physical torture to either of the spouse is also cruelty.
In the year of 1983, Section 498A, IPC, 1860 was adopted in order to protect the married women who are subjected to mental or physical abuse by her husband or relatives of the husband. The word “cruelties” has been defined broadly as it includes physical as well as mental harm on the woman’s body or health and indulging in acts of violence with an intention in order to pressurize the married woman or her relatives in order to satisfy any unlawful demand, related to property or any kind of valuable protection.

Ingredients of Section 498A of the IPC, 1860

· The woman must be legally married to her husband.
· The woman must have been subjected to cruelty or marital abuse by her husband or relatives of her husband.
· Such cruelty must be done by her husband himself or the relatives of the husband and here the term ‘relative’ only includes the husband’s parents, and siblings and nobody other than them.
· If the husband commits such cruelty he shall be liable for imprisonment which may extend to three years with fine under IPC, 1860.

Kinds of cruelty

As per the needs of society, the law has to also change as society is a very dynamic process. This is the reason why the legislature has widened the scope of the cruelty as cruelty is not just a physical one but also includes mental cruelty. Let’s see both types:

Physical cruelty

Physical cruelty is defined as any violence that takes place by the husband or relatives of the husband. It talks about any physical violence, bodily injuries, the threat to life; limb and health apparently causing apprehension in the mind of the woman that her life is in danger will be considered as physical cruelty. Offences like cruelty against the married woman increase day by day at a very high rate in India.

Mental cruelty

Cruelty is not only physical cruelty but it also includes mental cruelty as both have an equal effect is not just about physical cruelty, if any woman has apprehension that her life is in danger because of some conduct from the side of her husband or in-laws, then it will be considered as mental cruelty which has the same weightage as compared with physical cruelty. Ascertaining mental cruelty is kind of more challenging than proving physical cruelty. For example, if the spouse is forcing the wife to do something without the consent or willingness of the wife. Anything which is not expressed by the spouse which creates a sense of doubt in the mind of the wife also leads to mental cruelty.

Need for Section 498A

As we have patriarchal society, basically male dominating society and where women are a vulnerable group of society, these laws provide protection to the women who help the women to fight back and raise voice, and then only women feel that they are being heard. Especially, a country like India, these kinds of laws are very necessary which provide protection to women against the offences that happened against them.

(a) 99 out of 100 cases are from dowry death or harassment to the married woman.

(b) Women are tortured, intimidated or harassed for asking something or something else. The IPC’s Section 498A helps the woman in order to protect herself and by way of Section 498A, wrongdoers can be punished.

(c) The woman is subjected to mental cruelty in some cases.

(d) In many cases when women do not know about their rights and under pressure from society, keep trying to save her marriage.


Section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

As per the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, this section[2] was enacted in order to fight the threat of death occurring because of dowry. The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1983 (Act 46 of 1983) incorporated it into the Code. “As per Section 113-A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 which was introduced by the same Act, talks about presumption of suicide abetment by a married woman.” The main objective of section 498-A is to provide protection to a woman who is being harassed by her husband and relative of the husband. Cruelty, as well as harassment, is considered the same as within IPC section 498A.

Section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act talks about Presumption as to dowry death-“Where the issue is whether a person has committed a woman’s dowry death and it is shown that such a woman was subjected to cruelty or coercion for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry soon before her death, the Court shall conclude that that person had caused the dowry death.”

Misuse of Section 498A of IPC

The Supreme Court of India had given the title to section 498A, IPC as ‘ legal terrorism’. The statute is misused or violated by women. Additionally, in most cases, they sue the husband and his family.

(a) In many of the cases, women use section 498A as a weapon rather than as a shield. One of the great examples is case law Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar. In this case, the wife had filed a false case against her husband and relatives of the husband.[3] It resulted in arrests of innocent grandfathers and grandmothers and even relatives who were living abroad. Judiciary witnesses in many cases that this section is misused by women to detain their husbands if they are not pleased with them or not according to her wife. Every year, there are many false cases which leads to the pendency of court cases.

(b) Because of these fault cases, the husband has to suffer a lot. Police visit the husband’s office premises, which leads to destroying the reputation of the husband. Sometimes Police also arrest family members of the husband, even if they are innocent but they have to suffer a lot. Such detention does not need any evidence. It is true that women are a vulnerable group of society but it is also not always true that women will always be correct on their part. Even if a minor disagreement occurs, women can use the section to seek revenge but Police or judiciary needs to be more careful as they need to adjudicate the case from both the parties as it is necessary to ensure the interest of both parties.

Recent case laws

Case:- Arnesh Kumar v. the State of Bihar

In this case, the wife raised the contention that her in-laws were asking for dowry from her including her husband, for this she was mentally as well as harassing the matrimonial family and she was forced out of the marital home on failure to fulfil these demands. The husband was not able to get anticipatory bail from the court against the allegation made by his wife against him. Therefore, the husband made an appeal in the Supreme Court by way of special leave appeal.

Observation of the Court

In this case, the Supreme Court observed that the Section 498A, IPC, is a barely recognizable and non-Bailable offence and is more commonly used by women in order to protect her rights and protect herself from offences. But what will be the situation, when it is misused by the wife just to take revenge from the husband. Provisions are made to protect the right but not to misuse it. This results in threatening the husband and his family by arresting them under this section and it is more disturbing to see the arrest of bedridden grandfathers and grandmothers without a prima facie case. The court found that it is a misuse of section 498A by the wife.


1. The Indian Penal code, 1860(Act 45 of 1860), s.498A.
2. The Evidence Act, 1872 (Act 1 of 1872), s 113A.
3. (2014) 8 SCC 273.


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