Wednesday, April 17, 2024

BNS 84, IPC 498A - Types and Punishment of Cruelty by Husband or His Relatives towards Women

- Prior to the introduction of various legal protections, women in India did not have the right to divorce, and domestic violence was often overlooked or ignored, even by their own families. In response to the widespread prevalence of atrocities against women, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was amended in 1983 to criminalize cruelty against women. A new chapter, 20A, and a new section, 498A, were added to the IPC to specifically define and address these offenses.

Section 84 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 (BNS) and Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC)

Under Section 84 of the BNS and Section 498A of the IPC, any husband or relative of a husband who subjects a woman to cruelty is considered guilty of an offense.
What Constitutes Cruelty?
Cruelty, in the context of this law, encompasses a wide range of actions and behaviors that cause harm or distress to a woman, including:
  1. Endangering the woman's life or health
  2. Causing mental anguish or emotional torture
  3. Repeatedly demanding dowry
  4. Physically assaulting the woman
  5. Unreasonably harassing or tormenting the woman
  6. Instigating or encouraging the woman to commit suicide

Note: If a husband routinely comes home intoxicated late at night and harasses his wife while under the influence of alcohol, but does not behave similarly when sober, this may not be considered an act of cruelty under the law.

Provisions for Punishment under Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Section 84 and Indian Penal Code Section 498A

Offenses under these sections are cognizable and non-bailable, meaning that a police report (FIR) can be filed at the police station. If an FIR is not registered, the aggrieved woman can also file a complaint (petition) with a First Class Judicial Magistrate. These offenses are triable by a First Class Magistrate and carry a maximum penalty of three years' imprisonment and a fine.

Supreme Court Ruling in Sushil Kumar Sharma vs. Union of India

In the case of Sushil Kumar Sharma vs. Union of India, the Supreme Court emphasized that the primary objective of Section 498A of the IPC is to eradicate the social evil of dowry. The court cautioned that if this provision is not strictly enforced, it could lead to legal terrorism.

Threatening to Send Wife Back to Her Parents' Home Constitutes Cruelty

In the case of Indra Raj Malik & Ors. vs. Smt. Sunita Malik, the husband was accused of repeatedly threatening his wife that if she did not force her parents to sell their property to fulfill his unreasonable demands, he would take away their son. The court ruled that this constituted an act of cruelty towards the wife and convicted the husband under Section 498A of the IPC.


The introduction of Section 84 of the BNS and Section 498A of the IPC has been a significant step towards protecting women from domestic violence and cruelty. These provisions provide a legal framework for addressing such offenses and ensuring that perpetrators are brought to justice. While there is still a long way to go in eradicating gender-based violence, these laws have undoubtedly empowered women and sent a strong message that such acts will not be tolerated.