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How to protect yourself against IPC Section 498a?

Somewhere down the line, no one can deny that women are more often victims when compared to men, but when it comes to false allegations, men are more prey to it. Section 498a IPC is made to protect the women who actually face troubles from the husband and his family, but increasingly, the number of innocent men & their families tortured through this law has been seen.
Written by:
Swati Shalini
Published on

Well according to the Indian Law, IPC Section 498a states – “Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty, shall be subject to imprisonment for a term of three years and shall also be liable to fine.”

As of today though, Section 498a IPC is used by a woman in India to file a complaint against her husband for mental, physical, and psychological or any other agony or harassment and the punishment for 498a case under the IPC is also known well to the society due to the build-up of so many 498a cases coming in the limelight.

If a husband or his relatives are accused of subjecting a married woman to cruelty or any form of harassment, they can be sentenced to up to 3 years in prison and fined. This legal provision aims to deter such behaviour.

Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) is increasingly being misused, leading to frivolous lawsuits and undue hardship for innocent husbands. While women are undoubtedly victimised in society, there is a rising concern regarding false accusations against men. Balancing the rights and protection of both genders is essential, guided by the principle of ensuring no innocent person is wrongfully convicted. 

The last 7 decades of  Indian history have seen many women protection laws being made and amended, only from a perspective to uplift and protect the rights of Indian women. However, during the last few years, several activists have been raising their voices against such biased laws and recommend harrassed women to get divorced via divorce process India.

In the past few years, it has been seen that there has been a rise in the misuse of Section 498 IPC and cases of false 498A have much increased. In the absence of a clearly defined and easy mutual divorce process, 498A often becomes an easy choice to settle scores. It’s been observed that these laws don’t protect or acknowledge the abuse done to men when compared to women, showing a clear disparity in the system. 

Understanding Section 498A IPC:

Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, addresses violence against women after marriage, whether by their husbands, in-laws, or other relatives. This section, introduced in 1983, aims to protect married women from dowry-related harassment and cruelty. It empowers married women to file cases against their husbands or in-laws for various forms of harassment, be it mental, physical, or psychological. However, it has become one of the most contentious sections of the IPC due to its misuse.

Forms of Cruelty Under Section 498A IPC:

Cruelty under Section 498A is broadly defined and encompasses various acts such as persistent demands for dowry, extra-marital relations, non-acceptance of female children, vexatious litigation, harassment for non-dowry demands, false attacks on chastity, taking away children, and cruelty due to deprivation and wasteful habits.

How to seek protection against Section 498A IPC?

It has however been seen that Indian laws have several loopholes that need to be identified. Below is a list of legal remedies that one can use for protection against section 498a IPC if a woman decides to misuse the law and threatens to register a false case against you for personal gains.

  • Collect all Evidence & Documents: The first step in proving a false accusation would be to gather all substantial material elaborating well on the 498a case details. You must start collecting as much evidence as possible, which includes: 
      Any conversation between you or your family member with your wife or her relatives like any SMS, emails, letters, call recordings, etc. 
    • Any evidence that proves that your wife moved willingly out of your house.
    • Any evidence that shows no demands for dowry were made before or after the wedding
  • Get an Anticipatory Bail: If you think your wife may file an FIR under Section 498A, hire a criminal defense lawyer and get an anticipatory bail to prevent yourself or your family member’s arrest. Anticipatory bail is like a precautionary bail in case police move ahead to arrest you or your family members. You can file for anticipatory bail for protection against section 498a IPC case under Section 438 of CrPC[1].
  • Get the 498a FIR Quashed: You can also get the false 498A FIR quashed by High Court under Section 482 of CrPC. Courts are generally reluctant to quash an FIR or interfere in the law and order process, but if you have sufficient proof, the court has the power to quash the false 498A FIR filed by your wife.
  • File an FIR against your wife for false 498A complaint: You can also file an FIR against your wife for blackmailing or filing a false 498A case against you. Police in India usually do not favor such FIR, but if you make your case foolproof, the police cannot deny you to file an FIR against your wife. Get your complaint drafted by a good criminal lawyer so that the police cannot reject it on any grounds. If the police refuse to register your FIR, you can file a written complaint against the police officer, with the Superintendent of that police station.
  • File a case for Restitution of Conjugal Rights: If your wife has left her matrimonial home and went back to live with her family, you can file a case for RCR i.e. restitution of conjugal rights against your wife under Section 9 of Hindu Marriage Act(2). You can mention all the terms and conditions that she’ll have to follow to start living with you once again.
  • File a defamation case against false 498A case: You can also file a defamation case against your wife for maligning your image by filing a false 498A case against you. 

While fighting the 498a case, the duration of the case will depend largely on the evidence produced before the court and how efficiently your lawyer fights in the court representing your case.

The Need for Section 498A IPC:

Indian courts employ Section 498A to safeguard married women from marital cruelty and harassment, particularly related to dowry. It fills a critical legal gap where women face mental harassment without straightforward legal remedies. Section 498A acts as a deterrent against unlawful demands and actions by husbands and their relatives.

Misuse of Section 498A IPC

Here in India, you will often come across the phrase - “Log kya kahenge (i.e. what will people say?), which somehow finds more value than what one is subjected to bear when it comes to registering a police complaint or even fighting a court case. 

While we all have heard people saying, “Men deserve this treatment” especially after all the things they have done to society and the disrespect they have shown to women, the public opinions play a great role of significance especially in a democratic or patriarchal society like ours. 

With so many cases coming up under this section, it’s alarming to see the rate at which false allegations are rising, after the fallout of marriage or any relationship due to insecurities a woman feels, with the fear of being rejected. 

Section 498A instantly offers an umbrella of protection to women, while putting the husband and his family behind bars, with immediate effect. However, over time, understanding the frequent misuse of this section has led the Law to amend it and today, the husband or his family do not have to bear the shame in society, in case of false accusations.

Counter Cases Against False 498A Allegations:

Falsely accused individuals can protect themselves by filing counter cases under various IPC sections:

  1. Defamation (Section 500 IPC): If a woman falsely accuses her husband or in-laws and damages their reputation, a defamation case can be filed.
  2. Criminal Conspiracy (Section 120B IPC): If a husband believes his wife is conspiring against him or his family, a countercase for criminal conspiracy can be initiated.
  3. False evidence (Section 191 IPC) can be challenged in court by filing a counter case for wrongful framing.
  4. Under Section 227 IPC the accused can file a counter-lawsuit if they believe the 498A case is false.
  5. Criminal Intimidation (Section 506 IPC): If the woman threatens harm to her husband or relatives, a counter-complaint under Section 506 can be filed

Ways to ease the blow of a 498A case

There are some easy to follow ways, where not every time men can be blackmailed against these laws. Section 498a punishment may state that if a husband or relatives/family of the husband are found to subject the wife to cruelty, then they will be imprisoned for a jail term of three years with a liability to fine.

However, the law which is meant to protect women, if misused then a new set of directions has been implemented by the Supreme Court to prevent this from happening. 

According to the recent order, “Every complaint under Section 498A received by the police or the Magistrate be referred to and looked into by such committee. Such a committee may have interaction with the parties personally or by means of telephone or any other mode of communication including electronic communication. Report of such committee is given to the Authority by whom the complaint is referred to it the latest within one month from the date of receipt of the complaint. The committee may give its brief report about the factual aspects and its opinion on the matter. Till report of the committee is received, no arrest should normally be effected. The report may be then considered by the Investigating Officer or the Magistrate on its own merit.”

The Supreme Court had issued certain guidelines for the enforcement authorities for dealing with 498A cases in India which are: 

  • In every district, 1 or more Family Welfare Committees must be established by the District Legal Services Authorities to deal with cases filed under Section 498A.
  • All complaints under Section 498A IPC received by the police or Magistrate must be sent to the committee. 
  • The committee must look into the matter and send a report on it within 30 days to the authority that referred the complaint.
  • No arrest must be made until a report is sent by the committee.
  • If an anticipatory bail for 498A is filled with one day’s notice, it must be decided within that time frame only.
  • Personal appearance of all family members may not be required in court and appearance by video conferencing must be allowed for outstation family members.

Rights Guaranteed

Section 498A allows women to file complaints against husbands or families for cruelty or harassment. This section enables immediate custody of the accused, as it is cognizable and non-bailable.

If a woman has been harassed for dowry or threatened for the same, before, during or after marriage, her husband, his family or in-laws can be subjected to punishment under the dowry act, 498a and even Section 304a, (in case her life has been threatened). 

Yet, despite the lack of legal protection against section 498A IPC case, there is a list of sections which we have identified for you, which might be helpful in this case, if you wish to file a counter case against your wife such as: 

  • If your wife is conspiring a crime against you, then under Section 120B IPC, you can file a case against her. 
  • If you suspect that false evidence is being framed or presented against you then under Section 191 IPC, you can file a case alleging that you are being framed wrongfully.
  • Man being a social animal, reputation is everything for him. So if she threatens you to defame or falsely drag you and your family to court, you can file a counter case of defamation under Section 500 of IPC.
  • In a situation where your wife threatens you to do harm to you or your family or anything related to you, gather the evidence and present it to court under Section 506 of IPC.
  • If you believe that the complaint registered by your wife is false you can file an application under Section 227 stating that the 498A case filled by your wife is false. 
  • If you have enough proofs, or if she does not have enough proof to substantiate the charges, chances are that the judge just dismisses the 498A case as it is a framed one.
  • If she breaks into your home, creates a scene, and goes to a 'protection officer' and lies that you abused her 'physically, emotionally, or economically', file a damage recovery case under Section 9 of CPC against her. 

Legally, you must issue notice on the same day or the next day. The suit will continue for a long time. It has no risk.

The Indian courts and enforcement authorities have become vigilant in dealing with cases regarding Section 498A due to an increasing number of false cases. However, if you are a victim who needs protection against section 498a IPC case, then you should be aware of all your legal rights and use them. 

Procedure and Evidence to Prove a False 498A Case:

To safeguard against false 498A cases, the following steps can be taken: 1. Evidence Collection: Gather all relevant evidence and documents, including call records, messages, and proof of the wife leaving her husband's home willingly.

2. Legal Counsel: Seek legal advice from a criminal defence lawyer experienced in handling such cases.

3. Defamation Case: Consider filing a defamation case if the woman has falsely accused you of tarnishing your image.

4. Restitution of Conjugal Rights: In cases where the wife has left her husband's home, a case for restitution of conjugal rights under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, can be filed.

5. FIR Against False Framing: If the woman falsely framed you under Section 498A, an FIR can be filed against her.

Role of a Lawyer in Proving a False Dowry Harassment Case:

Facing charges under Section 498A is a serious matter. A criminal lawyer can help protect your rights and secure the best possible outcome. Their expertise in navigating the complexities of such cases is invaluable.

In conclusion, Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code was enacted to protect married women from cruelty and harassment, but its misuse has become a significant concern. Balancing the rights of both genders and ensuring justice is served is crucial. Taking appropriate legal measures, such as filing countercases and collecting evidence, can help those falsely accused of dowry harassment defend their innocence and reputation. A skilled criminal lawyer can provide essential guidance throughout the process.

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[1Section 438 of CrPC - Under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure when any person has reason to believe that he may be arrested on an accusation of having committed a nonbailable offense, the High Court or the Court of Session may, if it thinks fit, direct that in the event of such arrest, he shall be released on bail and in passing that order, it may include such conditions having regard to the facts of the particular case, as it may deem appropriate.

[2Hindu Marriage Act- An Act to amend and codify the law relating to marriage among Hindus.