Mere suspicion of extra-marital relationship, per se, would not come within the ambit of ‘cruelty’ under Section 498-A IPC

Supreme Court: Stating that extra-marital relationship, per se, or as such would not come within the ambit of Section 498-A IPC, the Court held that it would be an illegal or immoral act, but other ingredients are to be brought home so that it would constitute a criminal offence. It was further said that solely because the husband is involved in an extra-marital relationship and there is some suspicion in the mind of wife that cannot be regarded as mental cruelty which would attract mental cruelty for satisfying the ingredients of Section 306 IPC.

In the present case, the deceased had committed suicide due to the alleged extra-marital affair of her husband with a girl named Deepa, who later committed suicide not being able to digest the humiliation. The Couet said that the present case had the potentiality to shock a sensitive mind and a sincere heart, for the materials brought on record show how “suspicion” can corrode the rational perception of value of life and cloud the thought of a wife to such an extent, that would persuade her to commit suicide which entail more deaths, that is, of the alleged paramour, her mother and brother who being not able to emotionally cope up with the social humiliation, extinguish their life-spark.

Explaining the concept of ‘cruelty’, the Court said that coercive harassment can have the attributes of cruelty that would meet the criterion as conceived of under Section 498-A of the IPC. Thus, the emphasis is on any wilful conduct which is of such a nature that is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide.

The bench of Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy, JJ said that in such a situation, it is extremely difficult to hold that the prosecution has established the charge under Section 498A IPC and the fact that the said cruelty induced the wife to commit suicide. The Court said that the wife was guided by the rumour that aggravated her suspicion which has no boundary but such an event will not constitute the offence or establish the guilt of the accused-appellant under Section 306 of the IPC. It was held that if the husband gets involved in an extra-marital affair that may not in all circumstances invite conviction under Section 306 of the IPC but definitely that can be a ground for divorce or other reliefs in a matrimonial dispute under other enactments [K.V. Prakash Babu v. State of Karnataka, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1363,  decided on 22.11.2016]

 

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