Ordinary tantrums and discord or differences in domestic life does not amount to cruelty as envisaged under Section 498-A  IPC

Bombay High Court: While allowing the application for suspension of sentence of the applicant/accused under Sections 498-A and 306 read with Section 34 of the IPC, the Bench of A.M Badar, J., observed that, matrimonial cruelty is included from the definition of legal cruelty as envisaged in Section 498-A of IPC. It was further observed by the Bench that, ordinary tantrums and discord or differences in domestic life does not amount to cruelty.

In the present case, the applicant/accused married his deceased wife in 2009; however in 2014 she committed suicide by hanging herself. It was alleged by the parents of the deceased wife that the applicant/accused subjected her to cruelty, thereby abetting her to commit suicide, thus resulting in the conviction and sentencing of the applicant/accused under Sections 498-A, 107, 306 and 34 of the IPC and Section 113-A of the Evidence Act. The counsel for the applicant contended that the evidence of the alleged cruelty committed by the applicant/accused is insufficient to prove his guilt.

Perusing the facts and contentions of the case at hand, the Court delved in the interpretation of ‘cruelty’ as envisaged under Section 498-A IPC. The Court observed that a dispute between the applicant and the deceased started over a ‘kaccha chapati’ (improperly cooked bread) and other trivial matters, and the deceased took an extreme step of calling her parents and brothers. It was also observed that the deceased wife was apparently berated for her ‘bad cooking’. Upon examining the aforementioned facts, the Court stated that deceased wife’s reaction was nothing more than a hyper-sensitivity of a wife.

Examining Section 498-A  IPC, the Court observed that, “cruelty implies harsh and harmful conduct with certain intensity and persistence. It covers acts causing both physical and mental agony and torture or tyranny and harm as well as unending accusations and recrimination reflecting bitterness putting the victim thereof to intense miscarries.” Therefore for a conviction under Section 498-A, it must be shown that the conduct of the accused has stirred such strong feelings in the mind of a married woman, that she feels that dying is the only option left with her to escape the torture. Thus in the opinion of the Court, the parents of the deceased wife have spoken more about the matrimonial cruelty committed upon their daughter, than the legal cruelty, moreover the incidents mentioned by her parents which ultimately led to the suicide of wife, were more of an ordinary petulance and discord in matrimonial life. Thus the Court deemed it fit to allow the application and suspend the sentence of the applicant/accused. [Neeraj Subhash Mehta v. State of Maharashtra, 2017 SCC OnLine Bom 62, decided on 13.01.2017]

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