MUMBAI: The Centre said making the offence of ‘cruelty to wife‘ by husband or in-laws under Section 498A of the IPC compoundable – that is, amenable to an out-of-court settlement or a compromise, with or without nod of the court – “will not be in the interest of women.”
The Central government said this in an affidavit before the Bombay high court in a petition seeking the law be modified in Maharashtra to enable a compromise.
The Centre added that the 243rd Law Commission report quoted by Maharashtra government says “there is no reliable data” on extent of misuse of Section 498A and “revaluation of Section 498A merely on grounds of abuse is not warranted.”
The HC bench of Justices A S Gadkari and Shivkumar Dige were hearing a petition filed last year by one S S Sule and others which cited rampant misuse of Section 498A to file criminal cases and sought judicial intervention to make the law less stringent.
Advocates Abhinav Chandrachud and Datta Mane, representing the petitioner, basically said it was time for the government to have a re-look at the law and the offence of cruelty to wife in the backdrop of a rising number of cases being settled mutually. Chandrachud said the offence was made compoundable in Andhra Pradesh.
The HC on Thursday said it regularly has before it 10 matters a day seeking quashing by consent in Section 498A cases under IPC.
In its reply affidavit to Sule’s plea, the Union ministry of women and child development said “there is a need to adopt a consistent approach towards crimes against women” and added, “uptil now, it has been the policy of Government of India to take deterrent measures for crimes committed against women and children” and reiterated that women’s interest will not be served in making the section compoundable.
The reply said it was a “universal truth” that if the law is modified as sought, “men who have more power and property would be able to compel women into a compromise on their own terms by threatening family and children.”
The Centre said that matrimonial disputes under Section 498A of the IPC are registered as FIR only after preliminary inquiry conducted by the police and failure of mediation. Besides, it said men’s rights are protected as SC had directed all states to instruct police not to automatically arrest husbands or in-laws under Section 498A of the IPC.
The HC on Chandrachud’s request adjourned the matter to July 27 for further arguments on law points to back the amendment plea.

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