Sec 498-A of IPC has been one of the fiercely debated IPC sections, especially after multiple decisions of the Supreme Court. Between 2006 & 2015, the conviction rate for cases under this section has fallen continuously and is among the lowest conviction rates of all IPC crimes.
Further the Supreme Court’s decision in 2014 ruling out automatic arrests in Sec 498-A cases, the Supreme Court has once again issued important directions in dealing with cases registered under Sec 498-A of the IPC. The Supreme Court has now directed that family welfare committees be constituted by the District Legal Services Authority. The committee will look into all such cases filed under Sec 498-A and submit a report within one month. The court also ruled that no arrests should be made before the committee submits its report. The court added that these rules will not apply to offences involving physical injuries or death. As different courts have in the recent past acknowledged the misuse of Sec 498-A, we look at the number of cases registered under this section and the corresponding conviction rate.
What is Section 498A?
Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code deals with domestic violence and cruelty towards women by the Husband or his family. It reads
Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.—Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine. Explanation.—For the purpose of this section, “cruelty” means—
(a) any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or
(b) harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand. What happened to these cases in the last 10 years?
The National Crime Records Bureau releases All India Crime data every year. The report titled ‘Crime in India’ has detailed information on every type of crime registered. This report also has data on number of cases registered under the important IPC sections and their disposal by courts.
|Disposal of cases filed under Sec 498-A of IPC by Courts|
|Year||Total Cases where trial completed in that year||Convicted||Acquitted||Withdrawn||Total Cases Pending at the end of the year||Conviction Rate of Cases under 498-A in %||Average Conviction Rate of all IPC crimes in %|
In the last 10 years between 2006 & 2015, the number of cases being filed under Sec 498-A of IPC is on the rise and there is roughly a 10% rise in the number of pending cases each year. The number of pending cases at the end of 2015 is more than twice the number of pending cases at the end of 2006. At the end of 2006, 2.06 lakh cases were pending and this number increased to 4.77 lakh by the end of 2015, an increase of more than 130% in 10 years.
Acquittals increase while Convictions decrease
While the number of convictions was between 6000 and 8000 in each of these 10 years, the number of acquittals increased consistently. From 24404 acquittals in 2006, this number went up to 39658 in 2015, an increase of more than 60%. Since 2012, the number of withdrawn cases has been more than the number of convictions in each year. For every case that is resulting in conviction, 5 other cases are resulting in an acquittal and one case is withdrawn The net result is that only one out of every seven cases is resulting in conviction.
Conviction Rate of crimes under Sec 498A Vs other IPC Crimes
While the number of cases registered under Sec 498-A is increasing each year, the conviction rate in these cases is falling. This could be because of false cases or the failure of the prosecution to prove that the accused were guilty of the offense. The conviction rate of cases under Sec 498-A was 21.9% in 2006 and dropped to 14.2% in 2015 while the average conviction rate in other IPC crimes remained more or less at 40% each year and has in fact increased in the last two years. The conviction rate of cases under 498-A was less than 1/3rd of the conviction rate for all other IPC crimes.
Conviction rate of Sec 498-A cases is among the lowest of all IPC crimes
The NCRB’s ‘Crime in India’ report categorizes crimes various heads of the IPC. Till the year 2013, crimes were grouped into 23 categories. Since 2014, all IPC crimes are now grouped into 34 different categories. If one looks at the respective conviction rates of all the categories, cases registered under Sec 498-A (Cruelty by Husband & Relatives) have one of the lowest conviction rates. In 9 out of these 10 years, the conviction rate of Sec 498-A cases was in the bottom three while it was in the bottom four in each of the 10 years. In 3 of the 10 years, this category had the lowest conviction rate of all. It also has to be noted that this category consistently figures in the top 10 in the number of cases registered.
|Year||Conviction rate of cases under Sec 498-A||Average Conviction rate of all Crimes (IPC)||Rank of Conviction rate of Sec 498-A (Highest Conviction rate ranked 1)|
|2006||21.9||42.9||21 out of 23|
|2007||20.9||42.3||20 out of 23|
|2008||22.4||42.6||21 out of 23|
|2009||19.8||41.7||22 out of 23|
|2010||19.1||40.7||23 out of 23|
|2011||20.2||41.1||21 out of 23|
|2012||15||38.5||23 out of 23|
|2013||16||40.2||23 out of 23|
|2014||13.7||45.1||33 out of 34|
|2015||14.2||46.9||33 out of 34|
Are False Cases on the rise?
There is no conclusive evidence to prove that the false cases are on the rise. But the continuous fall in the conviction rate is alarming and will need a deeper analysis to understand the underlying causes.
Inputs by Prudhvi