Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Deepak Roshan, J., modified the sentence of the trial court to the extent in lieu of compensation which should be paid to the victim-wife.

In the pertinent case, the petitioner moved to this Court against the judgment passed by the Additional Sessions Judge-I, whereby the appeal preferred by the petitioners was dismissed and the judgment of conviction and order of sentence whereby the petitioners were found guilty for offence punishable under Section 498-A of Penal Code, 1860 and they were convicted and sentenced to undergo RI for 18 months and fine of Rs 1000 each has been affirmed.

The counsel for the petitioners, J.P. Pandey, submitted that there are contradictions in prosecution witnesses and the allegations made in the FIR does not corroborate with the evidence of the informant hence, the petitioners deserve to be acquitted. Further, the petitioners have remained in custody for about one month as such some leniency may be granted by this Court.

The Court held that it cannot interfere with the findings of the courts below due to the limited scope of the revisional jurisdiction, therefore, the conviction against the petitioners are confirmed. With respect to the sentence, the Court observed that the incident is of the year 2004 and 15 years have elapsed and the petitioners have suffered the rigors of litigation for the last 15 years and also remained in custody for 36 days. The court was of the view that it may not be proper for this Court to send the accused persons back to prison and found that it is expedient in the interest of justice that the sentence should be modified in lieu of compensation which should be paid to the victim-wife. Hence, the Court modified the impugned order to the extent that the petitioners are sentenced to undergo for the period already undergone subject to the payment of fine of Rs 5000 each failing which they shall serve the rest of the sentence as directed by the trial court. [Santosh Mandal v. State of Jharkhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 1453, decided on 18-10-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Vibhu Bhakru, J. dismissed a criminal appeal filed against the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for offences punishable under Sections 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Penal Code.

H.S. Sharma, Advocate for the appellant, submitted that the appellant could not be held guilty under Section 498-A as the trial court had found that there was no material to establish that the accused or his family members had demanded any dowry. Per contra, Amit Gupta, APP, supported the order of the trial court.

The High Court noted that though the allegations of demand of dowry against the appellant were not proved, the allegations that the appellant used to beat the deceased (his wife) were well substantiated by the evidence on record. It was noted further that a note written in the handwriting of the deceased was the principal piece of evidence on which the appellant’s conviction was based. A plain reading of the note indicated that the appellant was not happy with the deceased giving birth to a female child, and she feared for her and her daughter’s life.

Admittedly, the appellant was habitual of consuming ganja that led to quarrels between him and the deceased. It was also evident that the appellant used to beat the deceased. The High Court observed: “The contention that the appellant could not be convicted under Section 498-(a) IPC as the trial court had not accepted the allegation of demand of dowry, is unsustainable. Clause (a) of Section 498-A IPC refers to offensive conduct of nature so as to drive a woman to commit suicide. It is not necessary that such offensive conduct is in connection with the demanded dowry. The note was written by the deceased clearly indicates that the conduct of the appellant had led her to fear for her life and that of her girl child. She had eventually taken her own life.”

Further, it was held that the contention that the appellant could not be held guilty under Section 306 IPC was also unmerited. Reference was made to Section 113-A (presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman) of the Evidence Act. The Court observed: “There is a statutory presumption that if an accused is found guilty of the offence of cruelty under Section 498-A IPC and the wife of the appellant has committed suicide within seven years of her marriage, it would be presumed that the appellant was guilty of abetting the commission of suicide. The presumption is a rebuttable presumption and it was open for the appellant to lead evidence to rebut the same. However, the appellant has failed to do so. The appellant led no evidence to dispel the said presumption.”

In such view of the matter, the appeal was dismissed. [Rohit Gupta v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 10670, decided on 21-10-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: S.S. Shinde, J. dismissed a petition while reiterating the decisions of the Supreme Court in the case, Nikita v. Yadwinder Singh, Criminal Appeal No. 1096 of 2019, wherein it was held that,

“At the place where the wife takes shelter after leaving or driven away from the matrimonial home on account of acts of cruelty committed by the husband or his relatives, would, dependent on the factual situation, also have jurisdiction to entertain a complaint alleging the commission of offences under Section 498-A of Indian Penal Code.”

In the present case, the petitioner and respondent married each other and Respondent 2 thereafter migrated to North Carolina, USA with the petitioner. On shifting to Carolina, in a matter of few years, Respondent 2 gave birth to a child with whom she left petitioner’s home and went to her brother’s place in Columbus. Petitioner after meeting Respondent 2 in Columbus filed a divorce and custody petition in the Supreme Court of California.

Further, it has been stated that, while the Supreme Court attempted to serve summons to Respondent 2, she deliberately evaded the service and shifted to Meerut in India. In the year 2015, Petitioner gave divorce to the Respondent 2 after which, Respondent 2 field permanent custody petition in Family Court, Bandra.

In 2016, Respondent 2 filed a Domestic Violence Case under Section 12 of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 before the Metropolitan Magistrate Court, Mulund, that passed the maintenance order and in the year 2017, Sessions Court dismissed the Criminal Appeal filed by the petitioner.

Submissions of the parties

Counsels for the Petitioner, Prashant Pandey, Vijayalaxmi Shetty, Darshit Jain, Irfan Unwala and M.A. Khan, submitted that there was more than two years delay in filing the complaint by Respondent 2 before the Magistrate’s Court. When there was a delay, on the said ground alone, the Magistrate ought to have dismissed the complaint. Further, it was submitted that Magistrate has no jurisdiction to entertain the complaint since the alleged domestic violence is not committed in India.

Counsel appearing on behalf of the Respondent 2, Shaheen, submitted that Respondent 2 is residing at Mumbai with her brother, and therefore, she has instituted proceedings before Magistrate’s Court at Mumbai.

Petitioner was constantly threatening Respondent 2 and when Respondent 2 asked the petitioner about the renewal of visa, the petitioner flatly refused for such renewal. Petitioner relied on the Supreme Court case of Nikita v. Yadwinder Singh, Criminal Appeal No. 1096 of 2019 in respect to the jurisdiction of complaint received in regard to the commission of offences under Section 498A of Penal Code, 1860.

What the High Court held?

The bench in light of the Supreme Court decision stated above and along with the observations of the Courts below held that, there is no substance in the contention of counsel for the petitioner that, Magistrate’s Court at Mumbai has no jurisdiction to entertain the complaint.

In respect to the question of limitation for filing proceedings under Section 12, the Court relied on Supreme Court decision in Krishna Bhattacharjee v. Sarathi Choudhury, (2016) 2 SCC 705, wherein it was held that,

“…regard being had to concept of “continuing offence” and demands made by the wife, application made by appellant wife under Section 12 of the 2005 Act after about 2 years of judicial separation, not barred by limitation.”

Another point that the Court noted in respect to the alleged harassment was that the Courts below made prima facie observations about the same. Since the order passed by Magistrate directed the petitioner to pay interim maintenance is an interim order and the proceedings for the same are still pending, the Court stated that it would not be appropriate to give elaborate reasons about the allegations on harassment and domestic violence.

Thus, the Court in view of the above rejected the writ petition. [Mohammad Zuber Farooqi v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 2295, decided on 25-09-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: Ahsanuddin Amanullah, J. disposed of the petition after making minor changes to the sentence on the grounds of the imprisonment already undergone by the petitioners.

The petitioners petitioned the Court under Sections 397 and 401 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, against the judgment passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Patna in Cr. Appeal No. 25 of 2013, by which the petitioners were convicted and sentenced and it was upheld when the appeal was made against the same. The petitioners along with four others was convicted under Section 498-A of the Penal Code and sentenced to simple imprisonment of one year and a fine of Rs 3,000 each and in default, they were to undergo further two months simple imprisonment. 

The counsel for the petitioners submitted that the opposite party  2 is the wife of the petitioner’s brother. It was submitted that the petitioners had no concern with the matrimonial dispute of the parties and the allegation was that after the birth of a male and female child and two years of marriage, they tortured and assaulted for the dowry of Rs 8,000 and took away her ornaments. It was submitted that such allegation, even if believed, could at best be attributed to husband, as the petitioners could not have any role or could not have benefited from any dowry or money which the wife of their brother would have fetched from the matrimonial home. It was submitted that the witnesses during the trial had made only ominous and general allegations and there was nothing specific against them.

The APP submitted that the witnesses had stated with regard to all the accused, including the petitioners, assaulting and torturing the opposite party 2 and it is quite believable that the petitioners being elder brothers of the husband of the opposite party no. 2, would definitely be a party to any torture or assault as their brother stood to gain from any dowry which is alleged to have been demanded.

The Court held that it did not find that the order of conviction requires any interference. However, with regard to the sentence, since the petitioners are elder brothers of the husband of the opposite party2 and had been in custody for more than six months and about four months respectively, the Court was inclined to modify the sentence to period undergone.

In view of the above-noted facts, the instant petition was disposed of after upholding the order of conviction but modifying the sentence to period undergone and the fine of Rs 3,000 set aside.[Deo Prasad Sao v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 1612, decided on 19-09-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Sandeep K. Shinde, J. dismissed an appeal filed by the State against the order of acquittal by the trial court in respect to the matter pertaining to Sections 498-A and 306 of Penal Code, 1860.

State preferred the present appeal under Section 378(1) of CrPC, 1973 against the order of acquittal passed by Additional Sessions Judge.

In accordance with the prosecution case, the deceased suffered suicidal death due to acute cardiorespiratory arrest caused due to 100% burns at her matrimonial house. Deceased’s brother filed the complaint against deceased’s brother-in-law (accused 1) and wife of accused 1 (accused 2) along with sister-in-law of deceased (accused 3), for ill-treating the deceased and for abetting to commit suicide.

Thus, a crime under Section 498-A and 306 read with Section 24 of the Penal Code, 1860 was registered,

Deceased suffered unnatural death within a period of 7 years from the date of her marriage. Trial Court acquitted the accused, having found the prosecution could not establish that the accused ill-treated and caused cruelty to deceased within the meaning of Explanation Clause-a to Section 498-A of the Penal Code, 1860.

Settled Law:

“Cruelty for the purpose of Section 498-A Penal Code, 1860 means any “willful conduct” which is of such a nature as is likely to drive a women to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman or harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.”

The question involved in the present case is,

“Whether prosecution has established that the “willful conduct” of the accused was of such a nature which drove Shaheeda (deceased) to commit suicide?”

On the date of the incident, a quarrel ensued between the deceased and accused 2, during the course of the same, deceased inflicted injury on the forehead of accused 2 by a stick. It is disclosed that when accused 1 had gone to the police station to report about the assault by deceased on his wife (accused 2), he was informed that the deceased had set herself on fire.

It was reported to the police that there were recurring disputes between the deceased and her in-laws on account of supply and electricity and water.

Thus upon assessing the evidence of deceased’s brother, it cannot be said that “willful conduct” of the accused amounts to cruelty and such alleged conduct drove her to commit suicide. There is no specification laid out as to what kind of ill-treatment or harassment was meted out to the deceased.

High Court on noting the facts and circumstances of the case, held that there is no evidence or rather, it is not the case of the prosecution that the deceased was physically harassed or tortured by the accused. Equally, there is no dependable evidence to hold that, accused were mentally torturing the deceased.

Therefore, by relying on the Supreme Court’s decision in Pawan Kalyan v. State of Haryana, (1998) 3 SCC 309, Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2001) 9 SCC 618 and  Mohd. Hoshan v. State of A.P., (2002) 7 SCC 414, Court held that the trial court is consistent with the evidence which cannot be faulted with and hence no interference is called for. The appeal, therefore, fails and is dismissed. [State of Maharashtra v. Ibrahim Ruknuddin Bagkari, Criminal Appeal No. 1267 of 2003, decided on 11-09-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Orissa High Court: Dr A.K. Mishra J., allowed a criminal miscellaneous appeal to quash an on-going proceeding and also a cognizance order dated 07-02-2011 passed by the Learned Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate on the ground of settlement reached between the parties.

In the instant case, the petitioner, husband and the opposite party 2, the wife, had settled their marital dispute and had reached a divorce. However, the Learned Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate, on finding sufficient grounds had taken cognizance of the matter on police report under Sections 498-A (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and  406 (Punishment for criminal breach of trust) of the Penal Code, 1860. The parties thereafter reached a settlement and approached the High Court under Section 482 (Saving of inherent powers of High Court) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 to quash the criminal proceedings and the impugned order of the Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate.

The Learned Additional Government advocate representing the opposite party 1, S. Pattnaik did not dispute the fact of settlement between the parties. The Learned advocate also brought to the High Court’s notice the joint memorandum filed in the Family Court, Srikakulam, that the wife should take necessary steps to withdraw the Criminal Case in order to maintain amity.

Counsel representing the petitioner, Samir Ku. Mishra agreed to the fact of settlement between the parties.

The High Court, felt justified to quash the criminal proceeding and the impugned judgment to prevent oppression and prejudice. The Court also placed reliance on the Supreme Court decision in Parbatbhai Aahir v. State of Gujarat, (2017) 9 SCC 641, and quoted “In the exercise of the power under Section 482 and while dealing with a plea that the dispute has been settled, the High Court must have due regard to the nature and gravity of the offence.” The Supreme Court laid down that the serious offences under criminal cases shall be distinguished from criminal cases having an “overwhelming or predominant element of civil dispute” and in such cases, the High Court shall be able to exercise power under Section 482 CrPC.

Thus, in the present case the High Court reiterated the position and stated that noting the gravity of the offence having a civil element, the Court exercised its power under Section 482 CrPC.[Ashish Kumar Rout v. State of Orissa, 2019 SCC OnLine Ori 222, decided on 02-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Mukta Gupta, J. dismissed a writ petition wherein the petitioner husband sought quashing of FIR registered under Section 498-A, 406 and 34 IPC at Police Station, Paschim Vihar, Delhi.

The petitioner, who was represented by Hitender Kapur, Advocate, took three grounds seeking to quash FIR: (i) lack of territorial jurisdiction contending that no offence has taken place in Delhi and thus Police Station has no jurisdiction to investigate and the Trial Court has no jurisdiction to try the offence; (ii) that the FIR was not lodged within the period of limitation; (iii) that on the face of the FIR the allegations are not made out.

Rajesh Mahajan, ASC with Jyoti Babbar, Advocate appeared for the State, while Kamal Gupta, Advocate represented the respondent wife.

(i) Territorial Jurisdiction

The High Court followed the decision in Rupali Devi v. State of U.P., (2019) 5 SCC 384, wherein it was held that even in cases where there is no allegation of harassment or demand of dowry at the parental place of the complainant who comes to take refuge at her parental place, she can lodge an FIR in the said Police Station, which can be investigated by the officer of the said Police Station and the Trial Court having jurisdiction on the said Police Station would have jurisdiction to try the said offence.

Moreover, the case of the complainant in the FIR itself was that her costly items, jewellery, etc., were taken on the ground that they were to be kept in a locker in Delhi so that it could be safe, thus the jewellery and costly items were retained in Delhi. Marriage being performed at Delhi, the entrustment of articles also took place at Delhi. Hence in view of Section 181(4) CrPC, the Court at Delhi would have jurisdiction to try the offence. Thus, this Court finds no merit in the first argument raised.

(ii) Limitation

On facts, it was held that the complaint was filed within the period of limitation. It was also observed that it is trite law that while taking cognizance even if there is delay in matrimonial matters the Court has to see whether it is in the interest of justice to condone the delay in taking the cognizance.

(iii) Nature of allegations

It was noted that the complainant has alleged that the accused person used to taunt her for the kind of clothes given to them at the function and at the wedding and that the same was not as per their demand and status. Allegations were also made regarding entrustment if costly items including jewellery. The Court was of the view that prima facie, the allegations constituting offence punishable under Sections 498-A and 406 IPC were made out.[Ankur Narang v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8933, decided on 30-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J. dismissed a criminal revision petition filed against the order of the trial court whereby charge under Section 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) IPC was framed against the petitioner.

Petitioner was married to the deceased who committed suicide on the very next day of their first marriage anniversary. FIR under Sections 306 (abetment of suicide) and 498-A was registered against the petitioner at the behest of the mother of the deceased. An alleged suicide note was found which was verified to be written in the handwriting of the deceased. The trial court discharged the petitioner of the offence under Section 306 holding that the said suicide note exonerated him as it states that the deceased was taking the steps voluntarily. However, it was found that the allegations levelled by the mother and brothers of the deceased that the petitioner maltreated the deceased and committed physical and mental cruelty were specific and therefore framed a charge under Section 498-A against him.

Senior Advocate Harish Salve contended that as the trial court found insufficient material to proceed under Section 306, on the same analogy, there was insufficient material to even frame a charge under Section 498-A.

Relying on the Supreme Court decisions in Girdhar Shankar Tawade v. State of Maharashtra, (2002) 5 SCC 177 and Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2001) 9 SCC 618, the High Court reiterated that charges under Sections 306 and 498-A IPC are independent of each other and acquittal of one does not lead to acquittal of the other. It was observed: “Though, there may be an overlap with regard to cruelty being meted out to the deceased in both the Sections, however, the degree of cruelty to constitute abetment under Section 306 IPC would be of higher than the degree of harassment and cruelty to constitute an offence under Section 498-A IPC. It cannot be held that because petitioner has been discharged of an offence under Section 306 IPC, it would automatically lead to a discharge of the offence under Section 498-A IPC.”

In the present case, it was found that there was sufficient material on record to give rise to grave suspicion against the petitioner for framing a charge under Section 498- IPC. Thus, finding no infirmity in the impugned order, the petition was accordingly dismissed.[Kaushal Kishore v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8713, decided on 28-05-2019]

Bail Application
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: The Bench of Chander Bhusan Barowalia, J. allowed a petition while setting aside the Judgment of conviction passed by the learned trial Court.

In the pertinent case, the appellant was convicted and sentenced for commission of offences punishable under Sections 306 and 498-A IPC. The chain of events as alleged were that after the marriage with the deceased (wife of the appellant), he started ill-treating and humiliating her on account of the reason that she has not brought sufficient dowry. It was also alleged that the appellant was not satisfied with the deceased as she could not give birth to a child. And that on account of cruelty meted out to the deceased by the appellant, ultimately, she consumed a heavy dose of Barbiturate, owing to which, she fell unconscious. The decease had epileptic and an overdose of the medicines was found in the Vicera report. Further, it was claimed that no medical assistance was provided to her. Certain documents were also presented before the Court for the same.

Although all such allegations were denied by the accused along with the other witnesses who all happened to be her friend and relatives. They also proved that they were living happily as they had even adopted a child.

The Court after analyzing the evidence found that the dates when the deceased fell unconscious had a disparity as were mentioned in a different set of documents.

It was also found in the evidence that the deceased was taking medicines regularly and after she fell unconscious, she was taken to PGI, Chandigarh, where she ultimately died. And the origin of documents was also suspicious on which the other party placed heavy reliance. The evidence also showed that the couple had adopted a daughter, who was studying in good school. The photographs placed on the file depicted that the couple was living happily. Therefore, the judgment of conviction passed by the learned trial Court was set aside and the appellant was acquitted of the charges.[Mahesh Gautam v. State of H.P., 2019 SCC OnLine HP 404, decided on 04-04-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: The Bench of Ahsanuddin Amanullah, J. quashed criminal proceedings against relatives of a man accused of torturing his wife and demanding dowry from her, holding that allegations against them were of general nature and as such, allowing proceedings against them to continue would amount to abusing the process of the Court.

The instant proceedings arose under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 seeking quashing of a complaint case whereunder cognizance was taken against petitioner/husband under Section 498-A of the Penal Code, 1860 for demanding dowry and torture. Primary argument advanced on behalf of the opposite party 2/ wife was that her husband had remarried and was staying with two other wives at Mumbai and that he was refusing to accept her and her two sons without payment of Rs. 5 lakhs for purchase of a kholi.

Learned counsel for the petitioners Mr Uday Kumar submitted that they were the husband’s brothers and his sisters-in-law, who had nothing to do with the matrimonial discord between the parties. It was submitted that they had no objection if opposite party no. 2 and her two sons reside in the matrimonial/ancestral home of the husband.

The Court took note of judgment in Preeti Gupta v. State of Jharkhand, (2010) 7 SCC 667, where it was held that allegations against husband’s relatives must be scrutinized with great care and circumspection. It was observed that allegations against petitioners were general and omnibus in nature. Admittedly, the main grievance of the wife was against the husband.

It was opined that since the petitioners had taken a categorical stand to give sufficient place/space to the opposite party  2, as per share of her husband, in the ancestral/ matrimonial home, therefore letting the criminal proceeding against them to continue would be an abuse of the process of the Court. Accordingly, the application was allowed.[Bablu Khan v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 386, decided on 27-03-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: R.K. Gauba, J., referring to the relevant authority on the subject, allowed a petition filed under Section 482 CrPC for quashing of an FIR registered under Sections 498-A and 406 read with Section 34 IPC.

The parties were married to each other. The wife had lodged the aforesaid FIR against her husband and in-laws. Investigation concluded, the police filed a charge-sheet and cognizance was taken. Subsequently, the parties reached a settlement as per which they agreed to obtain a divorce and terminate the present criminal case. Consequent to the same, the present petition was moved and the wife supported the same.

The High Court noted pertinently that the offence under Section 498-A is a non-compoundable offence. Thereafter, it cited various decisions of the Supreme Court and the observations therein which pertain to the law on the present subject.

Reliance was placed upon B.S. Joshi v. State of Haryana, (2003) 4 SCC 675 wherein it was stated, “…the ends of justice are higher than the ends of mere law…”, Gian Singh v. State of Punjab, (2012) 10 SCC 303 was also quoted wherein the Supreme Court observed, “…the power of compounding of offences given to a court under Section 320 is materially different from the quashing of criminal proceedings by the High Court in exercise of its inherent jurisdiction.” Further reliance was placed on Jitendra Raghuvanshi v. Babita Raghuvanshi, (2013) 4 SCC 58 wherein it was held, “… it is the duty of the courts to encourage genuine settlements of matrimonial disputes…”

Following the well-settled principle that continuing criminal action which arose essentially out of the matrimonial dispute and where parties decide to hurry the hatchet, will be an abuse of judicial process, the Court allowed the petition and quashed the subject FIR and proceedings arising therefrom. [Naman Jethani v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7681, Order dated 14-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sunil Gaur, J. allowed a petition for quashing an FIR filed under Sections 498-A and 406 read with Section 34 IPC and the proceedings arising therefrom.

The quashing of FIR was sought on the basis of mediated settlement reached at between the parties. The complainant was present in the Court and she was identified by the Assistant Sub-Inspector on the basis of her identity proof. She submitted that the dispute between the parties had been amicably resolved vide mediated settlement dated 20-3-2018 and the terms thereof had been fully acted upon. She affirmed the contents of her affidavit filed in support of the present petition and submitted that now no dispute with the petitioners survive and therefore, the proceedings arising out of the FIR in question may be brought to an end.

The High Court relied on the Supreme Court decision in Parbatbhai Aahir v. State of Gujarat, (2017) 9 SCC 641 wherein the parameters for exercising inherent jurisdiction under Section 482 CrPC for quashing of FIRs/complainants were reiterated. Allowing the petition, the Court stated, “Since the subject matter of this FIR is essentially matrimonial, which now stands mutually and amicably settled between parties, therefore, continuance of proceedings arising out of the FIR in question would be an exercise in futility.” The petitioners were directed to deposit costs of Rs 25,000 with the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund. [Vipin Mittal v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7635, decided on 15-3-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J., allowed a petition filed by in-laws of the deceased (wife) against the order of the trial court in pursuance of which charges were framed against them under Sections 304-B (dowry death) and 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) IPC.

As per the prosecution, the deceased had died within seven years of her marriage. It was alleged that on the fateful, she was brought to Sanjay Gandhi Hospital where she was declared brought dead. On the MLC, the doctor opined: “alleged history of hanging and declared brought dead”. Parents of the deceased stated that she was harassed for dowry by her husband and in-laws (petitioner). A case was registered and the trial court was of the view that a prima facie case was established against the husband and the in-laws. Accordingly, the charges were framed against all the accused. Aggrieved thereby, the in-laws filed the present petition.

Anunya Mehta and Akshay Deep Singhal, Advocates for the in-laws contended that the charges against them were based on omnibus allegations and the deceased was not residing with them for last several years as she was living separately in Rohini with her husband. They prayed for discharging the in-laws.

The High Court perused both the sections. It was noted that the allegations made by parents of the deceased were all against the husband. And there were a few very general allegations against the in-laws like that of ‘continuous bickering’. There was no allegation that they ever demanded dowry. It was stated, To constitute an offence under Sections 304-B and 498-A IPC, it not mere bickering which would amount to an offence but it should be harassment of such a nature that would drive a woman to commit suicide.” The Court held that allegations against the in-laws were not such a nature so as to qualify as an offence under the said sections. In such view of the matter, the petition was allowed and the in-laws were discharged.[Satbir Dalal v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7006, dated 14-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: While wondering why the wife committed suicide, R.K. Gauba, J., acquitted the husband who was convicted under Sections 304-B and 498-A IPC.

The parties were married to each-other. On basis of the evidence available on record, it could be said that the parties seemed to be living a normal or rather a happy life. A child was born to the couple and just after a few days of celebrating the first birthday of her son, the wife was found hanging in her room in their house. The elder brother of the wife accused the appellant-husband and his family of harassing the deceased for dowry. A case was registered and the husband and his family were tried for the offences under Section 304-B and Section 498-A IPC. The trial court did not find the case against the family member of the husband to be believable and therefore acquitted them. However, the husband was found guilty by the trial court and was convicted under the sections charged with. Aggrieved thereby, the husband filed the present appeal.

The High Court perused the impugned judgment and noted that “it was unfair on the part of the trial court to evidence of the same witnesses against the appellant even while the same had been rejected qua the other accused. It was stated that “the judgment was vitiated by an inherently contradictory approach”. The Court was of the view that the case of the prosecution on a version which had come after 4 days of the suicide, was quite apparently an afterthought. It was observed, while other ingredients of the offence under Section 304-B IPC are made out (the marriage being less than seven years old and the death of the married woman being for unnatural causes), credible evidence providing link as to she being subjected to ill-treatment, leave alone connection with demand or expectation of dowry, are missing”. Holding that the prosecution failed to cover the long journey from suspicion to conclusion inherent in a criminal trial, the Court set aside the trial court’s judgment and acquitted the husband. [Kirti Abrol v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7407, dated 06-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: The application was filed before the Bench of S.C. Sharma, J. under Section 438 of Criminal Procedure Code for grant of anticipatory bail.

Applicants were apprehending their arrest for offences punishable under Section 498-A, 506 and 34 of the Penal Code registered with Police Station Pandrinath, Indore. Applicant 1 was the husband and other applicants were the father and mother-in-law of the complainant. Applicant 1 had stated that after 15-20 days of his marriage with complainant he came to Indore. Applicants were alleged for dowry demand and cruelty to complainant. Applicants contended that complainant was having an affair with someone and she was stopped from chatting with him. Even after efforts to peacefully end the marriage, a false complaint against applicants was made. Further, they submitted that they are respectable persons and they do not intend to abscond. It was brought before Court that FIR was lodged against the applicants only after a suit for divorce was filed.

High Court was of the view that bail ought to be granted to the applicants and the applicants should adhere to the conditions mentioned in Section 438(2) CrPC. [Kunal Bagdi v. State of M.P., 2019 SCC OnLine MP 215, Order dated 30-01-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: The Bench of Sunil Gaur, J. quashed an FIR filed against the petitioners for offences punishable under Sections 498-A, 406 and 34 IPC.

Petition was filed seeking quashing of the FIR on the basis of mediated settlement between the parties. Jitender Gupta and Deepak Rohilla, Advocates representing the petitioners submitted that the dispute between the parties was matrimonial in nature which was amicably resolved in terms of mediated settlement dated 15-12-2018. It was also brought to notice of the Court that the parties had been divorced by mutual consent.

The High Court relied on Gian Singh v. State of Punjab, (2012) 10 SCC 303 where the Supreme Court had recognised the need of amicable resolution of disputes in cases like the present one. Inclined to allow the petition, the High Court observed, “Since the subject matter of this FIR is essentially matrimonial, which stands mutually and amicably settled between parties, therefore, the continuance of proceedings arising out of the FIR is question would be an exercise in futility.” Taking note of the mediated settlement between the parties and the fact that they have taken divorce by mutual consent, the Court quashed the FIR and proceedings emanating therefrom. [Rohit Bhargava v. State, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 13177, Order dated 20-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Mukta Gupta, J. dismissed a criminal writ petition filed by the husband praying quashing of FIR under Section 498-A IPC and complaint under Section 12 of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (DV Act).

The grounds for seeking quashing of the FIR and the complaint was that they were registered to wreak vengeance and were beyond the period of limitation as the parties separated in 2014. It is pertinent to note that the wife had filed a complaint before CAW Cell in 2015 where a settlement was arrived at between the parties at pre-litigation mediation. However, it was not fully acted upon and even after an application the earlier complaint could not be revived. Thus, the filed fresh complaint in 2018.

The High Court was of the view that the FIR was within the period of limitation. Relying on Vanka Radhamanohari v. Vanka Venkata Reddy, (1993) 3 SCC 4 and Asha Ahuja v. Rajesh Ahuja, 2003 SCC OnLine Del 316, the Court held that Section 468 CrPC which deals with “bar to taking cognizance after lapse of period of limitation” is to be read with Section 473 which provides for “extension of period of limitation in certain cases”. Further relying on Arun Vyas v. Anita Vyas, (1999) 4 SCC 690, it was held that is a continuing offence and each occasion of “cruelty” is a new starting point of limitation. As far as a complaint under Section 12 DV Act is concerned, it was noted that it related to the grant of maintenance for the wife and minor child. It was held that “not providing maintenance is a continuous cause of action and even if for three years the wife did not claim maintenance for herself or for the child, the same would not debar her from seeking maintenance under Section 12 DV Act and the complaint thereon cannot be dismissed being barred by limitation”. In such view of the matter, the petition was dismissed. [Anthony Jose v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2018 SCC OnLine Del 12956, decided on 05-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench comprising of P.N. Deshmukh and Swapna Joshi, JJ. partly allowed an application filed under Section 482 CrPC to quash and set aside FIR registered against the applications under Section 498-A read with Section 34 IPC.

Eleven applications, in this case, included the husband, father-in-law and other relatives of the husband of the non-applicant wife. She had alleged that she was harassed by the applicants in as much as she was abused by them. Specific allegations were levelled against the husband, father-in-law and two others that she was repeatedly asked by her husband to establish physical relations with the other three. The applicants contended that no offence was made out against them even if the allegations in FIR were accepted at face value.

On a bare perusal of FIR, the High Court noted that the wife had made serious allegations against her husband, father-in-law and two others. However, the FIR did not reveal any specific allegation against other relatives particularly her mother-in-law and sisters-in-law. Relying on the case of State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal, 1992 Supp (1) SCC 335, the Court held that continuation of proceedings against applicants except for the husband, father-in-law and two others would be an abuse of process of law. Therefore, the FIR in regard to such other relatives was directed to be quashed. [Chandrahas Jagatnarayan Choube v. State of Maharashtra,2018 SCC OnLine Bom 5574, decided on 30-11-2018]

Law made Easy

[Disclaimer: This note is for general information only. It is NOT to be substituted for legal advice or taken as legal advice. The publishers of the blog shall not be liable for any act or omission based on this note]

Introduction

Section 498-A was introduced in the year 1983 to protect married women from being subjected to cruelty by the husband or his relatives. A punishment extending to 3 years and fine has been prescribed. The expression “cruelty” has been defined in wide terms so as to include inflicting physical or mental harm to the body or health of the woman and indulging in acts of harassment with a view to coerce her or her relations to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security. Harassment for dowry falls within the sweep of latter limb of the section. Creating a situation driving the woman to commit suicide is also one of the ingredients of “cruelty”.

Penal Code, 1860

Section 498-A: Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty — Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

Explanation. — For the purposes of this section, “cruelty” means—

(a) any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or

(b) harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.

Evidence Act, 1872

Section 113-A: Presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman — When the question is whether the commission of suicide by a woman had been abetted by her husband or any relative of her husband and it is shown that she had committed suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage and that her husband or such relative of her husband had subjected her to cruelty, the court may presume, having regard to all the other circumstances of the case, that such suicide had been abetted by her husband or by such relative of her husband.

Explanation. — For the purposes of this section, “cruelty” shall have the same meaning as in Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).

Classification of offence

The offence under Section 498-A IPC is cognizable (a case in which a police officer may arrest the accused without an arrest warrant) if the information relating to the commission of the offence is given to an officer-in-charge of a police station by the person aggrieved by the offence or by any person related to her by blood, marriage or adoption or if there is no such relative, by any public servant belonging to such class or category as may be notified by the State Government in this behalf. Also, it is a non-bailable offence.

Object and caution

Section 498-A IPC was introduced with the avowed object to combat the menace of dowry deaths and harassment to a woman at the hands of her husband or his relatives. Nevertheless, the provision should not be used as a device to achieve oblique motives, Onkar Nath Mishra v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2008) 2 SCC 561.

Who may file a complaint?

The complaint under Section 498-A may be filed by the women aggrieved by the offence or by any person related to her by blood, marriage or adoption. And if there is no such relative, then by any public servant as may be notified by the State Government in this behalf.

Complaint under Section 498-A — Period of Limitation

As per Section 468 CrPC, a complaint alleging commission of an offence under Section 498-A can be filed within 3 years of the alleged incident. However, Section 473 CrPC enables the Court to take cognizance of an offence after the period of limitation if it is satisfied that it is necessary so to do in the interest of justice.

The essence of the offence in Section 498-A is cruelty. It is a continuing offence and on each occasion on which the woman was subjected to cruelty, she would have a new starting point of limitation, Arun Vyas v. Anita Vyas, (1999) 4 SCC 690.

When can the Court take cognizance?

No Court shall take cognizance of an offence punishable under Section 498-A except upon a police report of facts which constitute such offence or upon a complaint made by the person aggrieved by the offence or by her father, mother, brother, sister or by her father’s or mother’s brother or sister. The Court can also take cognizance if the complaint is made by any other person related to her by blood, marriage or adoption with Court’s permission.

Section 198-A CrPC

Ingredients

For commission of an offence under Section 498-A, following necessary ingredients require to be satisfied: (a) The woman must be married; (b) She must be subjected to cruelty or harassment; and (c) Such cruelty or harassment must have been shown either by husband of the woman or by the relative of her husband, U. Suvetha v. State, (2009) 6 SCC 757.

Husband — Who is

The expression “husband” covers a person who enters into a marital relationship and under the colour of such proclaimed or feigned status of husband subjects the woman concerned to cruelty in the manner provided under Section 498-A, whatever be the legitimacy of the marriage itself for the limited purpose of Section 498-A. The absence of a definition of “husband” to specifically include such persons who contract marriages ostensibly and cohabit with such woman, in the purported exercise of their role and status as “husband” is no ground to exclude them from the purview of 498-A IPC, Reema Aggarwal v. Anupam, (2004) 3 SCC 199.

Woman — Second wife

A Two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court has held that even a second wife can file a complaint under Section 498-A. In this connection, following words of Arijit Pasayat, J. (talking in terms of Sections 498-A and 304-B IPC and Section 113-B Evidence Act, 1872) assumes importance:

“… The legislature has taken care of children born from invalid marriages. Section 16 of the Marriage Act deals with legitimacy of children of void and voidable marriages. Can it be said that the legislature which was conscious of the social stigma attached to children of void and voidable marriages closed its eyes to the plight of a woman who unknowingly or unconscious of the legal consequences entered into the marital relationship? If such restricted meaning is given, it would not further the legislative intent. …” (para 18, Reema Aggarwal v. Anupam, (2004) 3 SCC 199)

The abovesaid para was quoted with approval in A. Subash Babu v. State of A.P., (2011) 7 SCC 616 wherein the Supreme Court held that Section 498-A is attracted even in the case of allegation of cruelty to second wife.

Woman in a live-in relationship — Whether can file complaint under Section 498-A IPC

Kerala High Court, after considering various decisions of the Supreme Court has held that for an offence under Section 498-A to be committed, the parties must have undergone some sort of ceremonies with the object of getting married. In that case, the parties did not perform any ceremony and just started living together. It was held that a woman in a live-in relationship was not entitled to file a complaint under the section, Unnikrishnan v. State of Kerala,2017 SCC OnLine Ker 12064.

Cruelty and Harassment

Every harassment does not amount to “cruelty” within the meaning of Section 498-A. For the purpose of Section 498-A, harassment simpliciter is not “cruelty” and it is only when harassment is committed for the purpose of coercing a woman or any other person related to her to meet an unlawful demand for property, etc. that it amounts to “cruelty” punishable under Section 498-A IPC, State of A.P. v. M. Madhusudhan Rao, (2008) 15 SCC 582.

Cruelty can either be mental or physical. It is difficult to straitjacket the term cruelty by means of a definition because cruelty is a relative term. What constitutes cruelty for one person may not constitute cruelty for another person, G.V. Siddaramesh v. State of Karnataka, (2010) 3 SCC 152.

The concept of cruelty and its effect varies from individual to individual, also depending upon the social and economic status to which such person belongs, Gananath Pattnaik v. State of Orissa, (2002) 2 SCC 619.

Relative of husband — Who is

In order to be covered under Section 498-A IPC one has to be a “relative” of the husband by blood, marriage or adoption, Vijeta Gajra v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2010) 11 SCC 618. 

A girlfriend or a concubine being not connected by blood or marriage is not a “relative” of the husband as per Section 498-A, U. Suvetha v. State, (2009) 6 SCC 757.

 Section 498-A — Proof of

Proof of the wilful conduct actuating the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health, whether mental or physical, is the sine qua non for entering a finding of cruelty against the accused person, Gurcharan Singh v. State of Punjab, (2017) 1 SCC 433.

In a criminal trial, the charges made against the accused must be proved beyond all reasonable doubts. This requirement does not stand altered in case of Section 498-A IPC. Before recording a finding of guilt, the Court must satisfy itself that the deceased was not hypersensitive, State of W.B. v. Orilal Jaiswal, (1994) 1 SCC 73.

Section 498-A and “Dowry Demand”

Dowry demand is included in the “unlawful demand” as contemplated under Explanation (b) of Section 498-A; however, it need not be the only demand. The Supreme Court in Modinsab Kasimsab Kanchagar v. State of Karnataka, (2013) 4 SCC 551, held that a demand of Rs 10,000 towards repayment of a society loan, though not a dowry demand, was an unlawful demand sufficient to attract Section 498-A.    

Past events of cruelty included

Section 498-A includes in its amplitude past events of cruelty, Kaliyaperumal v. State of T.N., (2004) 9 SCC 157.

Section 498-A and presumption under Evidence Act

Section 113-A, Evidence Act mandates that when a woman commits suicide within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that her husband or any relative of her husband had subjected her to cruelty as per the terms defined in Section 498-A IPC, the court may presume that such suicide has been abetted by the husband or the relative, Pinakin Mahipatray Rawal v. State of Gujarat, (2013) 10 SCC 48.

Non-compoundable offence — Quashing of proceedings — Reduction of sentence

Section 498-A IPC is non-compoundable. Non-compoundable offences are those where the court cannot record the compromise between the parties and drop charges against the accused.

However, if there is a genuine compromise between husband and wife, criminal complaints arising out of matrimonial discord can be quashed by the High Court under Section 482 CrPC (inherent powers), even if the offences alleged therein are non-compoundable, because such offences are personal in nature and do not have repercussions on the society unlike heinous offences like murder, rape, etc.

In case a conviction have been recorded and sentence is awarded under Section 498-A, and if the Court feels that the parties have a real desire to bury the hatchet, in the interest of peace, it can reduce sentence of the accused to period of sentence already undergone, Manohar Singh v. State of M.P., (2014) 13 SCC 75

Section 498-A and Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

Even before a criminal court where a case under Section 498-A is pending, if allegation is found genuine, it is always open to the appellant to ask for reliefs under Sections 18 to 22 of the Domestic Violence Act and interim relief under Section 23 of the said Act, Juveria Abdul Majid Patni v. Atif Iqbal Mansoori, (2014) 10 SCC 736.

(Domestic Violence Act, 2005 provide for a remedy under the civil law which is intended to protect the women from being victims of domestic violence occurring within the family and to prevent the occurrence of domestic violence in the society. It makes provision for a protection order under Section 18, residence order under Section 19, monetary relief under Section 20, custody order under Section 21, compensation under Section 22 and interim relief under Section 23)

Misuse of the provision and its Constitutionality

Many instances have come to light where the complaints are not bona fide and have been filed with oblique motive. In such cases acquittal of the accused does not in all cases wipe out the ignominy suffered during and prior to trial. Sometimes adverse media coverage adds to the misery. By misuse of the provision a new legal terrorism can be unleashed. The provision is intended to be used as a shield and not as an assassin’s weapon. However, a mere possibility of abuse of a legal provision does not invalidate it. Section 498-A is constitutional, Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India, (2005) 6 SCC 281.

Directions of the Supreme Court

Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar, (2014) 8 SCC 273

In an endeavour to ensure that police officers do not arrest the accused unnecessarily and Magistrate do not authorise detention casually and mechanically in cases under Section 498-A IPC, the Court gave certain directions (however, the directions apply also to other cases where offence is punishable with imprisonment of not more than seven years) which include:

(a) Police officers not to automatically arrest the accused when a case under 498-A IPC is registered. They should satisfy themselves about the necessity of arrest under parameters flowing from Section 41 CrPC (the judgment lays down the parameters).

(b) Police officers shall fill the checklist (containing specified sub-clauses under Section 41(1)(b)(ii) CrPC) and furnish the reasons and material necessitating the arrest.

(c) The Magistrate will authorise detention only after recording its satisfaction on the report furnished by the police officers.

(d) If the police officers fail to comply with the directions, they will be liable for departmental action as well as punishment for contempt of Court.

(e) Failure of the Judicial Magistrate to comply with the directions will render him liable for departmental action by the appropriate High Court.

Rajesh Sharma v. State of U.P., 2017 SCC OnLine SC 821

In this case, too, the Supreme Court gave directions to prevent misuse of Section 498-A IPC which were further modified in Social Action Forum for Manav Adhikar v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1501. These directions include:

(a) Complaints under Section 498-A and other connected offences may be investigated only by a designated Investigating Officer of the area.

(b) If a settlement is reached between the parties, it is open to them to approach the High Court under Section 482 seeking quashing of proceedings or any other order.

(c) If a bail application is filed with at least one day’s notice to the Public Prosecutor/complainant, the same may be decided as far as possible on the same day. Recovery of disputed dowry items may not, by itself, be a ground for denial of bail if maintenance or other rights of wife/minor children can otherwise be protected.

(d) In respect of persons ordinarily residing out of India impounding of passports or issuance of Red Corner Notice should not be a routine.

(e) These directions will not apply in case of tangible physical injuries or death.

Further Suggested Reading

  1. Surendra Malik and Sudeep Malik – Supreme Court on Penal Code Collection [Buy Here]
  2. Surendra Malik and Sudeep Malik – Supreme Court on Marriage & Divorce, Cruelty/Dowry Death, Custody, Adoption & Maintenance (In 2 Volumes) [Buy Here]
  3. Mamta Roy – Law relating to Women & Children [Buy Here]

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† Assistant Editor (Legal), EBC Publishing Pvt. Ltd.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu & Kashmir High Court: A Single Judge bench comprising of Sanjay Kumar Gupta, J. dismissed the petitions filed by the accused petitioner and his brother under Section 561-A CrPC, seeking quashing of charges filed against them under Sections 304-B and 498-A of the RPC.

The accused petitioner Rohit Singh married one Radha Sharma, according to Hindu rites and ceremonies on 07-03-2014. Within one year of their marriage, there arose matrimonial disputes which resulted in Radha (hereinafter referred to as the “deceased”) committing suicide by hanging herself at her in-laws’ house on 18-03-2016. Proceedings were initiated and after investigation, chargesheet was filed under Sections 304-B, 306 and 498 of RPC. The basis for filing of the aforesaid petitions was that pursuant to a deed of disinheritance executed by the accused’s father, the accused petitioner and the deceased had been living separately from her in-laws and therefore, there was no proximity between the demand of dowry and cause of death of the deceased.

The Court observed that the death in case at hand had taken place “otherwise than under normal circumstances” within two years of the deceased’s marriage at her in-laws’ house. There was evidence that the accused were demanding dowry in the form of plot and other articles from the deceased; her dead body was found hanging at her in-laws’ house; there were witness accounts seeing the accused entering and leaving the house where dead body was found; post-mortem report of deceased suggested death by asphyxia due to hanging, and ligature mark was found around her neck.

The High Court, relying on Umesh Kumar v State of Andhra Pradesh, (2013) 10 SCC 591, held that while framing of charges, the Court has to evaluate as to whether on the basis of materials and documents on record, there is a prima facie case to proceed against the accused. At this stage, the Court is not required to appreciate whether the material produced is sufficient or not for convicting the accused.

In view of the incriminating circumstances, the Court refused to quash the charges against accused. [Rohit Singh v State of Jammu & Kashmir, CRMC No. 607 of 2017, dated 14-09-2018]