Compromise in Criminal Trials under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code: A Critical Analysis

Compromise in Criminal Trials under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code: A Critical Analysis

Written by: Neetu Lather

Introduction

Cruelty includes deliberately and maliciously torturing (Mentally and physically) the wife to meet the unlawful demands of the husband and his relatives. The Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, 1983 on 26th December 1983 by amendment inserted a new Section 498(A) under Chapter XX-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), Of Cruelty by Husband or Relatives of Husband. An amendment for the safeguard of women’s rights & empowerment. Subjecting a woman to cruelty for extortion of any property or valuable security is punishable under Section 498A of the IPC.

Essentials to attract Section 498A are:

  1. The woman must be married;
  2. The women must be subjected to cruelty or harassment; and
  3. Either the women’s husband or the relative of her husband must have subjected her to cruelty or harassment.

Cruelty includes:

  1. inflicting physical or mental harm to the body or health of the woman; or,
  2. Indulging in acts of harassment to coerce her or her relations to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security; or, security or in a situation of her or of any person related to her failure to meet such demand; or,
  3. Harassment for dowry comes under the explanation of the Section and by creating a situation abetting the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb.

Punishment under Section 498A

  1. According to Section 498A, either the women’s husband or the relative of her husband subjecting her to cruelty or harassment will be sentenced to imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years & shall be charged with a fine. As the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, etc. there are some provisions interrelated to IPC sections.
  2. Section 113B of The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 is based on presumption as to dowry death through brutal torture (physical & mental) to the woman. The section applies to the cases where the wife commits suicide or her death happens within the 7 years of the marriage.
  3. Section 306 of IPC also plays an important role in 498A cases. The person who created a situation and abets the woman to commit suicide will be sentenced to the imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, & shall be charged with a fine.

Classification of Offense under Section 498A

Cognizable offence –Cognizable offences are those where the police can arrest without any warrant as per the First Schedule or under any other law for the time being in force. If information related to the commission of the offence under sec 498A is given to the officer then it is cognizable.

Non-Bailable Offense –Non-bailable offences are grave offences where bail is a matter of discretion of court or privilege to the accused. The case reported under 498A are non-bailable & bail depends on the discretion of the magistrate.

Non-Compoundable Offense – non-compoundable offences are those where the court cannot record the compromise between the parties and drop charges against the accused. The offences registered under 498A are non-compoundable in the whole of India except in Andhra Pradesh.

Compromising in 498A case

If there is a genuine compromise between the parties, police cannot quash the already filed 498A FIR, therefore it is forwarded under section 482 CrPC (Saving of inherent powers of High Court) to HC. Since HC is overburdened with work, it transfers the case to IO (Investigating Officer). IO verifies the Compromise & agreement done between the parties and submits the report to HC.

The HC is required to consider the antecedents of the accused; the conduct of the accused[1], see that the settlement/compromise has taken place voluntarily, without any force, pressure, or coercion And decide whether to quash the proceedings or not.

Compromise between parties and quashing of proceedings

Section 498-A of IPC is non-compoundable. However, if there is a genuine compromise between parties, criminal trials arising out of marital conflict can be quashed by the HC under Section 482 CrPC (inherent powers), even if the offences reported therein are non-compoundable because such offences are private in nature and don’t affect society unlike heinous offences like murder, rape, etc.

In case, the decision has been recorded and sentence is awarded under Section 498-A, and if the Court feels that the parties want to end the conflict, in the interest of peace, it can decrease the sentence of the accused to a period of sentence already undergone, [2]

the power granted under Section 482 of CrPC to quash the criminal trial for the non-compoundable offences under Section 320 of the CrPC can be exercised having overwhelmingly and predominantly the civil character, particularly those arising out of commercial transactions or arising out of a matrimonial relationship or family disputes and when the parties have resolved the entire dispute amongst themselves; it depends on facts and circumstances of each case – Before exercising of inherent power under S.482, High Court must have due regard to nature and gravity of the crime and its societal impact.[3]

HC, in such cases, must consider whether it would be unjust or contradictory to the interest of justice to continue with the criminal trial or continuance of criminal trial would be equivalent to abuse of process of law despite settlement and compromise between husband and wife and to secure ends of justice, it is appropriate to put the criminal case to an end. If such question is answered with consent, HC shall be well within its jurisdiction to quash the criminal proceedings…”[4]

Compromise between parties and not quashing of proceedings   

Heinous and serious offences of mental depravity, rape, dacoity, murder, etc., or under special statutes like the Prevention of Corruption Act or offences committed by public servants, cannot be quashed even though the victim or victim’s family and accused have compromised[5]. Therefore, can’t be quashed in exercise of powers under Section 482 of the CrPC, on the ground that the parties have settled their entire dispute amongst themselves.

Conclusion

According to Section 498A if a husband or relative of a husband of a woman subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years & shall also be charged with a fine. The offence under Section 498A is non-compoundable, non-bailable, and cognizable. Where the parties have settled their dispute, depends on the facts and circumstances of each case.

Before exercise of inherent quash power under S.482, High Court must consider the nature & gravity of the crime and its impact on society. Power to quash criminal proceedings may be exercised in disputes where the wrong is private or personal in nature but can’t be quashed where the wrong is not private in nature & have a serious societal impact.

About the Author

Compromise in Criminal Trials under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code: A Critical Analysis

Neetu Lather

Student at Vivekananda School of Law and Legal Studies, VIPS.

She has participated in various academic events including moot court Competitions and successfully completed the Legal Drafting and Office Management Course at Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies. Her areas of interest and research work are Constitutional Law, Competition Law, Criminal Law, Intellectual Property Rights and International law.


[1] Dharanbhai Hirenbhai Shah vs the State Of Gujarat,2021 0 Supreme(Guj) 374

[2] Manohar Singh v. The State of M.P., (2014) 13 SCC 75

[3] State of Madhya Pradesh v. Laxmi Narayan and others  (2019) 5 SCC 688

[4] Sri Parameshwar J vs The State Of Karnataka, (2018) 3 DMC 169

[5]State of Madhya Pradesh v. Laxmi Narayan and others  (2019) 5 SCC 688

Read the Previous Article

Public-Private Partnership in Airports Development in India: A critical study

The era of Industry 4.0 and Gig Economy: The Future of Work and the New Labour and Industrial Regime

Climate Change Adaptation and Technology Transfer: Tightening the Knot by Human Rights

Advertising Law: Observing the Fine line Amongst Online Advertising and the Law

Censorship, State Control & Issues in the Modern-Day Conception of Freedom of Speech and Expression in Democratic Societies