Wife of the Complainant’s brother not a ‘relative of the husband’ under S. 498-A IPC

Andhra Pradesh High Court: While interpreting the definition of ‘Husband’s relatives under Section 498A Penal Code, 1860, the Bench comprising of U. Durga Prasad Rao, J. held that the definition could not be stretched to include the wife of one’s elder brother.

In the present petition, the Complainant and her husband went to live at the home of the Complainant’s eldest brother in London, who lived with his wife. It was alleged that the complainant’s husband and her sister-in-law entered into an illicit relationship, and that after the Complainant observed them in a compromising position, following which the sister-in-law started spreading rumours that husband of the Complainant did not like the Complainant and that she was unsuited to him.

The Court cited U. Suvetha v. State by Inspector of Police, (2009) 6 SCC 757 whereby it was held that the girlfriend or concubine of the husband could not be held to be the relative of the husband and Vijeta Gujra v. State of N.C.T. Of Delhi, (2010) 11 SCC 618, which quashed proceedings against a foster sister having an illicit relation with the husband, to highlight the Supreme Court’s view that the term ‘relative of the husband’ meant related by blood, marriage or adoption. The Court stated that penal provisions required strict construction, and in the absence of definition of phrases by statute, they are to be understood in the natural, ordinary or popular sense. The Court, hence, quashed the proceedings against the sister-in-law of the Complainant as she was not a relative by blood, marriage or adoption to the husband but to the Complainant, and additionally because no allegations touching other provisions or of cruelty as defined by Section 498 A were made against her. [Shaik Riayazun Bee v. State of Andhra Pradesh,2016 SCC OnLine Hyd 130, decided on 01-06-2016]

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