NEW DELHI: Offences under Section 498A of the IPC, relating to harassment for dowry and cruelty to a woman in her matrimonial home, may become less stringent on husbands and in-laws. After getting a number of complaints about its misuse, the Law Commission is set to recommend making the offence compoundable.
This means the husband and in-laws of a complainant will have the choice of compromising and getting the case off their back, provided the woman agrees to it.
Until such a compromise takes place, the offenders will probably stay in jail unless they are granted them bail by court.
After conducting nationwide consultations, the overwhelming response received by the Law Commission, headed by Justice P V Reddy, was that Section 498A be amended to make the offence compoundable. In criminal law, it means avoiding prosecution as a result of an amicable settlement between the parties.
At the same time, the commission feels the offence should remain non-bailable. Though courts have been allowing compounding of 498A cases, such instances have been few and far between because the judiciary has, in general, taken a strong stand against harassment of women in their matrimonial homes. However, in many cases the courts, especially the Supreme Court, have opined that false cases have been foisted by women angry with their in-laws and in such cases, many relatives of the husband, unconnected to the alleged crime, have been dragged in.
The Law Commission, after examining the recent judgments of the Supreme Court and the earlier recommendations of the Malimath committee, concluded, “If the wife is prepared to condone the ill-treatment and harassment meted out to her either by reason of change of attitude or repentance on the part of the husband or reparation for the injury caused to her, the law should not stand in the way of terminating the criminal proceedings.”
In the course of the study, the commission found that there were as many as 1,33,759 cases under 498A pending in trial courts with 3,60,482 accused. Among them, 49,403 were in judicial custody and 2,19,358 were granted bail. In the last three years, 15,818 cases were compounded and 16,038 convicted.