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  Can a Case Under Section 498A IPC be filed after a Divorce?

  Can a Case Under Section 498A IPC be filed after a Divorce?

India is a male dominant society where many women are not aware of their right under Section 498A IPC. This provision was introduced to protect a married woman from cruelty against her husband and in laws. This provision protects the woman against dowry harassment and cruelty. Cruelty can be both mental and physical. So, if a woman is subjected to cruelty by her husband, she can file a complaint under this provision.   For instance, if a woman is subjected to continuous dowry-demands by her husband in Pune, she can file a complaint with the help of a divorce lawyer in Pune.

What is Section 498A IPC?

Section 498A IPC provides a safeguard to woman against acts of cruelty done by the husband and his family.  It deals with the violent acts done by the husband and his family on the wife after marriage. This act provides for imprisonment for 3 years along with fine. Cruelty as per this provision has been widely interpreted and it includes both mental as well as physical cruelty. It also includes any coercive unlawful demands made to her as well as her family. Forcing the woman or creating a situation which forces her to commit a suicide also falls under the definition of cruelty.  The acts that fall under the definition of cruelty include dowry demands, drinking and beating the wife, mental and physical harassment, causing bodily injuries, etc. So, for example, if a woman living in Pune has been subjected to cruelty by her husband and in laws, she can file a complaint with the help of a divorce lawyer from Pune. An additional criminal complaint along with the petition for divorce is required to be filed in this regard. Cases under this section are quite rampant these days. It makes the woman strong and helps her fight against harassment. But many women use this provision as a sword rather than shield and many false complaints are filed under this section these days by the woman which must be avoided.

Who can file a complaint under this section and when can it be filed?

Under this provision, the woman who is subjected to cruelty can file a complaint or any other person related to her by blood, adoption or marriage can file a complaint on her behalf.  If any such person is not available, then a public servant who is designated by the state government on this behalf can file the case.

As per Section 468 of CrPC, a complaint of cruelty under section 498a IPC can be filed within 3 years of the commission of the act of cruelty. However, under Section 473 of CrPC, the court can take cognizance of an offence if it has necessary grounds to believe that it is in the interest of justice. So, the court can decide upon a case even after the 3-year time period, if it has necessary grounds to believe that it is important in the interest of justice to decide the complaint.  If the act of cruelty is of continuing nature then the wife will have new limitation period every time is subjected to cruelty

Can a Complaint under Section 498A be filed after the divorce?

The SC in a recent case, Mohammad Miyan vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, has held that if a woman files a FIR under Section 498A after a long undue delay, then her compliant will not be sustainable.  In the instant case, the woman had filed the complaint under Section 498A IPC after 4 years of her divorce.

The Supreme Court in its judgment observed that, “Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman….” Therefore, where the complainant approaches with a case that there has been a divorce long back i.e. four years ago before filing of the FIR, section 498A of IPC in terms would not be attracted. We accordingly consider it appropriate to quash the prosecution against all the accused persons under section 498A of IPC and Sections 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.”

So, this judgment makes it clear that there must not be an undue delay in filing a FIR under Section 498A IPC. If a woman is being subjected to cruelty during the course of her marriage, she must consult a lawyer and know about her rights. She must file a FIR in the respective police station. The case must be filed within a bracket of 3 years from the act of cruelty. A complaint under Section 498A must not be filed after years of getting a divorce.

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