The Bombay High Court said on Thursday that it cannot pass an order to make section 498A (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a compoundable offence.
Compoundable offences are those offences where the complainant / victim enters into a compromise / settlement with the accused, and agrees to have the case dropped against the accused.
Compoundable offences under Section 498A can harm the interests of women
A division bench of Justices Ajey Gadkari and SG Dige refused to pass an order saying that the issue falls within the domain of the legislature.
The bench also noted that the Central government had filed an affidavit earlier stating that making Section 498A a compoundable offence will adversely affect the interests of women. “We have read the affidavit of the Union government. We cannot direct them to legislate,” remarked Justice Gadkari.
However, the bench said that it has power to quash cases under section 198A where the parties have reached a settlement and the complainant has consented for the same.
Justice Gadkari said, “In our experience we have seen that out of 10 matters, if all are sent to mediation, 8 matters are worked out and 2 matters may have some problem. But their stand is clear.” The HC was hearing a petition filed by three members of a family – husband, his mother and sister – seeking quashing of the FIR registered against them.
In September 2022, the HC had quashed the case against the family. At the time, the bench headed by Justice Revati Mohite-Dere had recommended to the Central government to make the offence under Section 498A compoundable. It had remarked that the State of Andhra Pradesh had made offence compoundable way back in 2003.
Matrimonial disputes were registered only after preliminary enquiry by police
The Union Ministry of Women and Child development stated that all matrimonial disputes under section 498A of IPC was registered only after preliminary enquiry was conducted by the police. The parties are also sent for mediation, if they fail to compromise, an FIR is lodged.
In June 2020 the Central Ministry on Women and Child Development said “dilution of section 498A” will not be in the interest of the victim.
On Thursday, the HC asked the petitioners to submit their suggestions to the Additional Solicitor General in two weeks, who will then discuss it with the government authorities.