Section 498A Indian Penal Code best explanation

Section 498A Indian Penal Code-

Section 498A – The word “Cruelty” has been extensively defined under this section which includes not only harassment done by the husband but also by his relatives. The punishment for this offence is three years imprisonment and fine.

The section 498 A Indian Penal Code is read as-

“Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty- Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of woman, subjects such womanto cruelty shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.”


For the purpose of this section, cruelty means-

(a) any willful 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 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.”

The intensity of the harassment was so severe that the law makers have to insert this Act as criminal offence.

To ascertain the meaning of the term cruelty is a difficult task as it is not defined in Section 498A of Indian Penal Code.

To complicate the task further, no other statutory law defines the said term.

However the section 498A Indian Penal Code clearly explains the term cruelty as follows:


(1) Voluntary or deliberate behavior of an individual which motivates

or compels a woman to either commit suicide

or cause a grave injury to life or any physical part of body

or mental well being. Thus it covers both physical and mental injury.

(2) It is said to be a cruel behavior when the woman is tortured, tormented,

or harassed in order to force her to fulfill the demand of getting any property

or any other valuable security.

The term cruelty is wide enough to include the harassment by the husband himself, but includes the harassment by any other person

or relative in order to fulfill the demand of getting any property

or any other valuable security.

The Amendment Act of 1983 made the act of subjecting married women to cruelty punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and also liable to a fine.

The cognizance of this offence shall be on the basis of information Relating to the commission being given to an officer in charge of a police station by or on behalf (person related by blood, marriage, adoption, NGOs or public servant belonging to notified class or category).

The provision being dealt with mandates that the offence shall be non bailable and tried by a Magistrate of the First class.

The following components are required in order to attract the provision:

1. The aggrieved person should be a woman.

2. Such woman should be married.

3. She should be subjected to some form of cruelty.

4. Such cruelty includes mental and / or physical cruelty that-

• Would compel her to end her life or injure herself.
• Would compel her to fulfill material demands.

5. Such cruelty should be inflicted by her husband and/or his relatives.

While interpreting the section 498A Indian Penal Code in  Shobha Rani v. 

Madhukar Reddy the Supreme Court observed that, the word cruelty cannot be defined, rather it should be judged in accordance with the kind of relation of the concerned person with each other.

The court further stated that it is easy to ascertain the physical cruelty on the basis of facts and the physical injury incurred, but it is very difficult to identify or prove the mental cruelty.

One can say that the Supreme Court has shed some light on ascertaining the concept of mental cruelty in Samar Ghosh v. Jaya Ghosh where the Court opined that, to find out whether cruelty prevailed or not,

one has to take into consideration many other surrounding factors such as customs, education of the person, family background, cultural and religious beliefs, financial status, the traditions and the degree of sensitivity of the concerned person.

judgment as the term cruelty is abstract and above mentioned factors would play a crucial role in identifying the existence of cruelty in any given circumstances.

Hence the circumstantial evidence has to be considered by the court while

adjudicating the term cruelty.


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