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Updated: Feb 20, 2022

Written By - Apeksha kushwaha


A social establishment where a spouse has certain obligations towards his or her better half is known as a marriage. It is the foundation of a civilized and stable society. It is a two-way process and thus, for making a marriage happy and healthy, it takes mutual trust, regard, respect, love, affection, and reasonable compromises from both husband and wife. It becomes impossible for a relationship to work in the absence of these emotions, and thus, makes a matrimonial relationship toxic.

What is Cruelty?​

Disagreements are likely to occur among two individuals with different views. Cruelty in matrimonial behaviour can be of various types. Disagreements or differences of thought are a major cause of Cruelty. Cruelty to a woman includes inflicting mental or causing physical harm to the health or body of a woman and, indulging in acts of harassment in order to coerce her or her relations to meet the demand for any property or valuable security that is unlawful.

Cruelty defined under the Indian Law​

Cruelty is the violation of the fundamental right to live a life with dignity and respect that is guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. It has been introduced in The Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, 1983 as:

Section 498A: Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty-​ Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

Explanation- For the purpose of this section, “cruelty” means-

a) any wilful 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 the 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.”[1]

It is a non-bailable offence and is cognizable if the information relating to the commission of the offence is given to the officer.

Calcutta High Court recently held that harassing a woman because of her ‘dark complexion’ also amounts to cruelty.[2]

Section​ 113-A, Indian Evidence Act, 1872: Presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman- When​ the question is whether the commission of the suicide by a woman had been abetted by her husband or his relatives and it is shown that she had committed suicide within a period of 7 years from the date of her marriage and that her husband or his relatives had subjected her to cruelty, the court may presume, having regard to all the other circumstances of the case, that such suicide had been abetted by her husband or his relatives.”[3]

Essential Elements​

Section 498A was added with a view to punishing a woman’s husband or his relatives who torture her to satisfy unlawful demands relating to the property or any other valuable security.

In, U.​ Suvetha V. State, 2009​[4]​, the Court held that in order to establish an offence under this section, the following are the necessities:

· Woman must be married;

· She must be subjected to cruelty or harassment;

· Such cruelty must be shown by her husband or his relatives or both.


Misuse of Section 498A​

This section is called “Legal Terrorism” by the Supreme Court of India. This section has been misused of times, mostly by urban and educated women. Men have also faced a lot of cruelty by women. There have been various cases where men are made to do certain things, which is unethical, just because of fear of punishments.


In a genuine case of cruelty by the husband or his relatives, section 498A proves to be the supporting pillar for the wife. But the courts while determining the same must ensure to take notice of all the facts and details as it may be a fake case filed by an educated woman. In order to prevent such fatal incidents, one must take due care of all possible cases and then decide in favour of the innocent.

[1] Chapter XXA of The Indian Penal Code, 1860 [2]Mazidul Miah @ Mia & Ors. v. State of West Bengalal [3] ​Chapter 7: The Burden of Proof [4] 6 SCC 757

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