Section 498A, Indina Penal Code

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‘Cruelty’ under Section 498A means:

    - Any act which causes a serious mental or physical injury to a married woman (like beating, slapping, kicking, or constant mental torture which will affect the mental health) or

    - Any act which drives a married woman to commit suicide or

    - Any harassment of a married woman for dowry

Simply put, any kind of serious harassment will come under cruelty.

Cruelty means harassment which is of a serious nature, which is likely to cause mental or physical injury to the married woman. Harassment can include acts of harassment which are of a less serious nature (like taunting or ridiculing). Such harassment will be covered under Domestic Violence Act

Protection under Section 498A is available to every married woman, irrespective of age, religion, region, etc.

An unmarried woman or a woman in a live-in relationship is not protected under cruelty. However, she will be protected under the Domestic Violence Act


The married woman suffering from cruelty, or any other person on her behalf, who is related to her through blood, marriage, or adoption.

You can file a complaint against cruelty against the husband or any relative of the husband who commits acts of cruelty.

You should ideally file a complaint as soon as possible after the incident. This will ensure that evidence remains intact and the police can take swift action.

Yes, you can. However, usually a police complaint is filed when something triggers- for example, an incident of cruelty has recently happened. Then along with the triggering incident, you can also file a complaint for the past incidents. If there’s no triggering incident, but you wish to complain, you can also directly file a court case. See Taking Action Against Violence at Home.


Anyone who commits cruelty can be punished with a maximum of 3 years imprisonment and a fine.

Cruelty is a cognizable , non-bailable , and non-compoundable offence.

This means that:

  1. For a complaint under cruelty, the police can arrest the accused without warrant. However, due to rampant misuse of this provision, the police are usually cautious before making any arrests. They may conduct a preliminary inquiry. They will arrest only if they feel that the situation is very serious and arrest is the only option.
  2. A person arrested under cruelty will have to appear in court and get bail from the judge.
  3. A complaint under cruelty cannot be taken back or compromised. This is because the law views cruelty as a serious offence and does not want accused to go scot-free by getting into a compromise with the complainant.

To see how you can prove cruelty, refer to the section on how to prove Domestic Violence and Dowry


Please note: This information has been made available to you for your benefit on an ‘as is’ basis, and is only for your information. It does not constitute legal advice and cannot substitute professional legal advice. Our disclaimer policy can be viewed here ( disclaimer policy)

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