"At the end of 2006, 2.06 lakh cases were pending and this number increased to 5.15 lakh by the end of 2016, an increase of more than 150 percent in 11 years" So much of judiciary's time & taxpayers money going into #FakeCases! #Scrap498a
Further to its decision in 2014, ruling out automatic arrests in Sec 498-A cases, the Supreme Court had issued important directions in dealing with cases registered under Sec 498-A of the IPC, published Factly.
The Supreme Court had also directed in 2017, that Family Welfare Committees be constituted by the District Legal Services Authority. The committees are expected to look into all such cases filed under Sec 498-A and submit a report within one month.
A three judge bench of the Supreme Court has now modified the 2017 judgment, holding that the Family Welfare Committees are an extra judicial authority and they cannot exercise statutory function. The bench, however, upheld other directions given in the 2017 judgment.
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 498-A?
Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code deals with domestic violence and cruelty towards women by the husband or his family.
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 11 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 including Sec 498-A.
Between 2006 and 2016, the number of cases filed under Sec 498-A of IPC have risen and there has been a 10 percent increase on average, in the number of pending cases each year. The number of pending cases at the end of 2016 was 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 5.15 lakh by the end of 2016, an increase of more than 150 percent in 11 years.
Acquittals Increase While Convictions Decrease
While the number of convictions ranged between 5,000 and 8,000 in each of these 11 years, the number of acquittals have increased consistently. From 24,404 acquittals in 2006, this number went up to 39,248 in 2016, an increase of more than 60 percent.
From the year 2012, the number of cases withdrawn has overtaken the number of convictions in each year. The number of convictions under Sec 498-A, in the year 2016, was the lowest in 11 years.
In the last 11 years, for every case that resulted in conviction, five other cases resulted in an acquittal and one case was withdrawn with the net result being that only one out of every seven cases resulted in a conviction.
Conviction Rate of Crimes Under Sec 498-A vs Other IPC Crimes
While the number of cases registered under Sec 498-A have been increasing each year, the conviction rate in these cases have witnessed a fall. 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 percent in 2006 and dropped to 12.2 percent in 2016, while the average conviction rate in other IPC crimes remained at around 40 percent in these 11 years.
In fact, the conviction rate of all IPC crimes have increased in the last two years where as the conviction rate of Sec 498-A cases was at its lowest 2016. The conviction rate of cases under 498-A was almost 1/4th the conviction rate for all other IPC crimes in the year 2016.
Conviction Rate of Sec 498-A Cases Is Among the Lowest of All IPC Crimes
The NCRB’s ‘Crime in India’ report categorizes crimes under various heads of the IPC. Till 2013, crimes were grouped into 23 categories. In 2014 & 2015, all IPC crimes were grouped into 34 different categories. In the year 2016, they were grouped into 32 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 10 out of these 11 years between 2006 & 2016, the conviction rate of Sec 498-A cases was in the bottom three while it was in the bottom four in each of the 11 years. In 4 of the 11 years, this category had the lowest conviction rate of all IPC crimes. It also has to be noted that this category consistently figures in the top 10 in the number of cases registered.
Are False Cases on the Rise?
There is no conclusive evidence apart from the falling conviction rate to prove that the false cases are on the rise. But the continuous fall in the conviction rate in itself is very alarming and will need a deeper analysis to understand the underlying causes.