Section 498B. Wife/Partner/Live-in, here after called spouse or relative of Spouse of a man subjecting him to cruelty
1.[ 498B. Spouse or relative of Spouse of a husband subjecting him to cruelty.— Whoever, being the spouse or the relative of the spouse of a man, subjects such man to cruelty shall be punished 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 wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the man to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the man;
(b) harassment of the man where such harassment is with a view to coercing him or any person related to him to meet any unlawful demand for any property, Alimony, Maintenance or valuable security or is on account of failure by him or any person related to him to meet such demand. ]
CLASSIFICATION OF OFFENCE
Punishment — Imprisonment for 3 years and fine-Cognizable if information relating to the commission of the offence is given to an officer in charge of a police station by the person aggrieved by the offence or by any person related to him by blood, marriage or adoption or if there is no such relative, by any public servant belonging to such class or category as may be notified by the State Government in this behalf
—Triable by Magistrate of the first class
Demand for Money/assets and Ill-treatment
(i) The man petitioned for divorce on the ground of persistent demand made on him by his spouse and in-laws. The High Court took the view that there was nothing wrong in these demands as money was needed by the man, not for his personal use but to run the home and in such a case wife should extend help.
(ii) The spouse and her parents were greedy people. Their desire for money and valuable was insatiable. They went on demanding money, transfer assets/Property or handover salary even just after of marriage, and since the man could not meet these, they started ill-treating him with a view to coercing him to give money or salary.
Adultery / Extra marital Affair
Adultery is no longer punishable offence in India, and is almost a cult in certain societies. Yet, even here as elsewhere a habit of adultery is a vice and cannot be considered a reasonable wear and tear of married life. No reasonable person marries to bargain to endure habitual extra marital affair, a disgusting conduct. And yet it is not an independent ground of any matrimonial relief in India. But it may constitute treatment with cruelty, if indulged in by a spouse and continued, in spite of remonstrances, by the other. It may cause great anguish, harassment and distress to the man who never suspected what he was bargaining for and may sooner or later find living together not only miserable but unbearable. If it was so, she may leave him and may, apart from cruelty, even complain of constructive desertion.
Section 498B was added with a view to punishing spouse and her relatives who harass or torture the man to coerce him or his relatives to satisfy unlawful demands of money. The hyper-technical view would be counter productive and would act against interests of man and against the object for which the provision was added. There is every likelihood that non-exercise of inherent power to quash the proceedings to meet the ends of justice would prevent man from settling earlier.
Section 498B vis-a-vis section 113 of Evidence Act
Section 498B of the Indian Penal Code or section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act has not introduced invidious classification qua the treatment of a married man by his spouse or relatives of his spouse vis-a-vis the other offenders. On the other hand, such women form a class apart whom from those who are married more than seven years earlier to the commission of such offence, because, with the passage of time after marriage and birth of children, there are remote chances of treating a married man with cruelty by his spouse or her relatives. Thus, the classification is reasonable and has close nexus with the object sought to be achieved, i.e., eradication of the evil of alimony in the Indian social set-up and to ensure that the married men live with dignity at their own homes;
Unhappiness between husband and wife
Where the prosecution relied only on incident of unhappiness of deceased with his spouse and the allegation was only in form of suggestion, it does not establish criminal offence under either or both of the charges, hence conviction under section 498B is improper;
The allegations against the spouse were that he abused and beat his wife, forced him to move to her family home as Ghar jamai or forcing him to take care of her parents, accused him of adultery and impregnent someone else, threats of suicide or take away children, threats of false case or false accusations and such other acts. This amounted to a wilful conduct of cruelty towards man;
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