Courts must closely scrutinize Section 498A IPC Complaints: Delhi High Court

Posted On - 5 April, 2024 • By - King Stubb & Kasiva


Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code is a gender-specific provision designed to protect women from cruelty inflicted by their husbands or relatives. Enacted to address domestic violence, it prescribes a punishment of imprisonment for up to three years and a fine for those who subject a woman to such cruelty.

[1]On 12th March 2024, a bench of Hon’ble High Court led by Justice Navin Chawla held that the courts must make a detailed effort for scrutinizing the complaints or First Information Report (FIR) lodged by the wife in order to determine the veracity of the allegations put forth and determine the element of truth in them.

In the present case, a petition was filed by the accused husband under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure seeking quashing of the complaint registered against him as a FIR under Sections 498 – A, 406 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code. The Hon’ble High Court, in the present case allowed the petition and discussed the nuances of such complaints against the husbands in detail along with laying down guidelines for efficient trial of such cases.

The wife, who is the complainant in this case, alleges she has faced cruelty from her husband and his relatives for several years, including repeated demands for dowry. However, the complaint regarding these incidents was filed nearly a decade later, raising doubts about the credibility of the allegations. The petitioners argue that the accusations are purely retaliatory, given the ongoing civil proceedings between the parties. Additionally, there is a lack of strong evidence against the husband that could secure a conviction.

Considering the arguments and the absence of clear supporting evidence, the court emphasized the critical need to prevent misuse of such legal provisions. This is especially important in cases where marital relations could be negatively impacted. The court also stressed that criminal proceedings against any party, particularly the husband and his family, should only be initiated when backed by specific, credible evidence and witnesses. They noted that if a wife accuses her husband and his entire family based solely on a lawyer’s advice and allegations against each member, putting them on trial without stronger evidence could lead to a miscarriage of justice and undermine the very purpose of these protections.

The High Court, in this case, has instructed lower courts to carefully examine complaints filed by wives. This scrutiny aims to determine if the allegations are genuine or strategically crafted. While courts cannot conduct full-fledged trials at this stage, they shouldn’t be passive observers either. They must prevent complainants from exploiting procedural loopholes to harass and defame their husbands or in-laws. Additionally, the court emphasized the proper use of Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code. This section allows courts to quash baseless complaints. Consistent application of this section is crucial to prevent unnecessary proceedings that ultimately cause immense hardship and undermine the justice system.

The Court also discussed the lackadaisical role of the Crime Against Women (CAW) cell of the Delhi Police and noted that it did not fulfil its impartial duty as an investigative agency since it did not even summon the accused/petitioner even once for inquiry at a preliminary level and conducted its entire investigation based upon the averments of the complainant. Therefore, the accused petitioner was denied the right to be heard as a part of principles of natural justice at the very first level. Even though the trial court had not framed the charges by the time the petitioner presented his appeal, the petitioner had to suffer huge consequences without even having any corroborative evidence against him.


The High Court’s decision to quash the proceedings against the petitioner was well-founded. The court rightly identified the investigation’s flaws, the lengthy delay, and the lack of compelling evidence to convict the accused. Importantly, the court emphasized the crucial role of courts in thoroughly examining complaints under Section 498A. Guilt shouldn’t be presumed solely based on accusations.

This judgment serves as a reminder of the various actors involved in ensuring an efficient justice system. It underscores the importance of preventing unnecessary legal battles based solely on vindictive claims. While Section 498A protects women’s welfare, its benefits shouldn’t infringe upon another party’s fundamental right to a fair trial and freedom from harassment.