According to a senior advocate, the application of this law by police and courts was arbitrary, unconstitutional and void as it had been repealed way back in 1988

New Delhi : Even the Supreme Court was stunned to hear a senior advocate of standing claim that Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on harassment and cruelty of a woman by her husband or his relatives for dowry had been repealed back in 1988 and as such it does not exist to punish any person.

“If that is so, are we convicting and prosecuting people under an invalid law,” asked a Bench headed by Justice H. L. Dattu, directing solicitor general Ranjit Kumar to respond, and listed the matter for August 14.

Senior advocate Pandit Parmanand Katara argued that application of this section as such by police and courts was arbitrary, unconstitutional, void in law and hence violative of Articles 14 (right to equality) and 20 (prohibition against conviction for violation of any non-existent law) and 21 (right to liberty) of the Constitution.

The Bench, which included Justices P.C. Ghose and Arun Misra, agreed to first decide whether the controversial Section 498A is valid or not before proceeding to hear the case the lawyer was arguing.

This particular section came under discussion by another Bench of the Supreme Court as late as on July 3 when the judges expressed exasperation over rampant misuse of Section 498A used as a “weapon rather than a shield by disgruntled wives” and directed the state governments to instruct police not to automatically arrest when a case is registered under this section but to satisfy about the check-list under Section 41 of the Criminal Procedure Code if the arrest is necessary.

On Monday, lawyer Katara told the court that Section 498A cannot be invoked in the country since it stands repealed in 1988 and as such he was challenging the Uttar Pradesh Police invoking a non-existing law against his client Ravindra alias Ravi of Mathura and his family members on the complaint of his estranged wife.

According to him, Section 498A was inserted in IPC through the Criminal Law Amendment Act on December 25, 1983, but it was repealed “as the whole” by the Repealing and Amending Act, No. 19 of 1988, on March 31, 1988., and as such, it cannot be treated as law.

He furnished copies of the (presidential) repeal notification to the court and said he does not know why it is not reflected in the official gazette. “It is for the government to explain,” he said.

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