In the wake of such widespread violence and cruelty inflicted upon women, section 489A has been inserted in the Indian Penal Code, which specifically deals with cruelty towards a woman by her husband or his relatives.
This provision brought some relief to women, whose life has become miserable because of torture and violence perpetrated against her by her husband or his relatives and at the same time, the impugned provision pays a tribute to those, who chose to commit suicide after being frustrated by persistent harassment causing them to suffer from mental as well as physical agony.
It was for the first time that the impugned provision made it punishable for a husband or his relatives to subject a woman to cruelty. The law explicitly recognised mental cruelty and mental health as well.
Cruelty was defined as any conduct likely to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb, and the mental or physical health of a woman or to drive her to commit suicide. Harassment or coercion of a woman or her relatives to fulfill demands for money or property was included within the definition of ‘cruelty’.
Since its inception, this provision has drawn flaks from various quarters in a quite systematic and sustained manner. The opponents to this provision termed it as unfair and responsible for the victimization of husbands by their wives and her relatives.
The constitutionality of section 498A has also been challenged in Girijq Shankar v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 1989 Cr LJ 242 MP, where it was declared that the impugned provision was constitutionally valid and not volatile of Article 14. Again in B.K. Moghe v. State of Maharashtra, (1998) Cr LJ 4496, similar question was put to test with similar observation by the court.
In 2005 the Apex Court in Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India, AIR 2005 SC 3100 upheld the constitutionality of section 498A, IPC. The Supreme Court observed that mere possibility of abuse of a provision of law does not per se invalidate a law. Thus, the provision of section 498A of the Indian Penal Code is not unconstitutional.
However, there is no doubt, the object behind the provision is prevention of the dowry menace, but some Stances have come to light, where complaints are lodged under the garb of this statutory protection to settle their personal score.
Thus, merely because the provision is constitutional and intra virus, does not give a license to unscrupulous persons to wreck personal vendetta or unleash harassment. It is in this background the legislature is at task to look for ways to deal with frivolous complainants.