Section 498A IPC has been copied verbatim in new criminal law; make changes: Supreme Court to Centre

Chambers of Ishaan Garg

Ch. No. 217, Western Wing, District & Sessions Court, Tis Hazari, New Delhi, Delhi 110054

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"We request the legislature to look into the issue taking into consideration the pragmatic realities and consider making necessary changes," the Court said on Sections 85 and 86 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita.

The Supreme Court urged the Central government and the parliament to make necessary changes to the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita (BNS) with respect to the provision replacing Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Section 498A IPC section penalises cruelty to wife by her husband or his relatives.

A Bench of Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra noted that Sections 85 and 86 of BNS has reproduced Section 498A of the IPC verbatim.

"We request the Legislature to look into the issue taking into consideration the pragmatic realities and consider making necessary changes in Sections 85 and 86 respectively of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, before both the new provisions come into force," the Court said.

It, thus, asked that the changes called for in a 2010 judgment of the apex court, particularly regarding false allegations be looked at for this purpose.

The observations came while quashing a cruelty case filed by a wife against her husband and in-laws.

The Bench was hearing an appeal of a Punjab and Haryana High Court order that had refused to quash the chargesheet in the matter.

The apex court at the outset noted that the wife's allegations were nothing but a counterblast to divorce and domestic violence proceedings initiated by the husband.

"The plain reading of the FIR and the chargesheet papers indicate that the allegations levelled by the First Informant are quite vague, general and sweeping, specifying no instances of criminal conduct. It is also pertinent to note that in the FIR no specific date or time of the alleged offence/offences has been disclosed. Even the police thought fit to drop the proceedings against the other members of the appellant’s family," the Supreme Court said.

The top court said that probing allegations in such cases in a hyper-technical manner is counterproductive to the very institution of marriage.

"Many times, the parents including the close relatives of the wife make a mountain out of a mole. Instead of salvaging the situation and making all possible endeavours to save the marriage, their action either due to ignorance or on account of sheer hatred towards the husband and his family members, brings about complete destruction of marriage on trivial issues. The first thing that comes in the mind of the wife, her parents and her relatives is the Police, as if the Police is the panacea of all evil. No sooner the matter reaches up to the Police, then even if there are fair chances of reconciliation between the spouses, they would get destroyed," the Court stated.

The foundation of a sound marriage is tolerance including of one another's faults, the Bench opined.

"Petty quibbles, trifling differences are mundane matters and should not be exaggerated and blown out of proportion to destroy what is said to have been made in the heaven ... In matrimonial disputes the main sufferers are the children ... There may be cases of genuine ill-treatment and harassment by the husband and his family members towards the wife. The degree of such ill-treatment or harassment may vary. However, the Police machinery should be resorted to as a measure of last resort and that too in a very genuine case of cruelty and harassment."

The police cannot be used to hold the husband at ransom as not every annoying matrimonial conduct amounts to cruelty, it was made clear.

"Mere trivial irritations, quarrels between spouses, which happen in day-to-day married life, may also not amount to cruelty," the Court stated.

It was pointed out that the police had filed a closure report against the co-accused in-laws.

Therefore, the appeal was allowed and the High Court order refusing to quash the chargesheet and criminal proceedings, was set aside.

A copy of the verdict was directed to be sent by the Registry to the Union Law and Home Secretaries.