Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Amitav K. Gupta, J. disposed of the writ petition holding that for the purpose of Section 498-A Penal Code, 1860 the strict proof of legal marriage is not required in such circumstances wherein the pleadings and evidence are enough to prove the same.

The facts of the instant case are that the petitioner was found sleeping with the husband of the informant at her husband’s house. It is alleged that the petitioner is the second wife. That on the said allegation cognizance has been taken for the offence under Section 498-A IPC against the petitioner.

The counsel for the petitioner relied on the decision of the Supreme Court in U. Suvetha v. State, (2009) 6 SCC 757 and contented that it has been observed by the Supreme Court that the relative of the husband will not include the girlfriend or concubine for attracting the offence under Section 498-A IPC. It was further argued that the informant has stated that the petitioner is the second wife but there is no proof regarding the solemnization of marriage. Hence, even if the allegation is presumed to be true then at best the petitioner can be termed as a mistress or a girlfriend but cannot be categorized as a wife as there is no legal proof for the same.

The counsel for the State has submitted that factum of marriage can only be established when the evidence is led and that in the decision relied above, it has been held by the Supreme Court that proof of a legal marriage in the rigid sense as required under civil law is unnecessary for establishing an offence under Section 498-A IPC.

The Court perused the facts and without getting into the merits of the case held that the trial court had examined six witnesses out of nine charge-sheeted witnesses and the court below has taken steps for securing the attendance of the rest of the witnesses. In the decision relied on by the counsel for the petitioner the Supreme Court has held that if from the pleadings and evidence the court finds that the woman concerned is regarded as wife and not as a mere mistress, she can be considered to be a wife and consequently as the relative of the husband for the purpose of Section 498-A IPC and strict proof of a legal marriage as required under civil law is unnecessary. [Rupa Devi v. State of Jharkhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 1200, decided on 28-08-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

“There is pain in being a woman, yes but there is pride in it too.”

-Marry Pauline Lowry

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Pradeep Nandrajog, C.J. and Bharati Dangre, J., while addressing a criminal appeal explained the agony that was suffered by the deceased – Vaishali in the present case by mentioning the quote above and further stated that,

“Vaishali suffered the pain but did not survive to experience the pride of being a woman – a creator, born to create and before this, she exited the world by extinguishing the flame of her life.”

In the present case, young girl Vaishali ended her life by consuming Dunet methanol in the form of an insecticide and succumbed to the same. PW-1 (deceased’s father) lodged a complaint on the very same day that Vaishali ended her life. PW-1 alleged that his daughter had complained about cruel treatment inflicted on her by her mother-in-law, sister-in-law and her husband (Dinesh).

Further it has been stated that, she was subjected to harassment by her mother-in-law on account of the fact that she intended to marry her son to a girl from her parental side and in turn wanted her daughter Rupali to be married into her maternal family but on account of the marriage of the deceased with her son Dinesh, the relationship contemplated was not fructified. Mother-in-law had also raised a demand of Rs 2 lakhs and on account of such demand deceased was subjected to cruelty both physical and mental.

Reference was made to the incident where Vaishali (deceased) was admitted to a hospital and was found in an unconscious condition. Husband of the deceased stated that Vaishali had consumed insecticide on having a verbal altercation with the mother in law. Therefore based on the above stated, FIR under Sections 498-A, 304-B and 306, Penal Code, 1860 was registered.

Matter was committed to Additional Sessions Judge, Pune who framed the charges against the accused persons under Section 498-A read with Section 34 IPC and he also framed a charge under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC, in the alternative, a charge under Section 306 and 304-B IPC.

Conclusion

High Court, with the assistance of Counsel for the accused Sanjiv Kadam and learned APP, perused the evidence adduced before the Sessions Court.

Within a period of 6 months of her marriage, deceased committed suicide. Harassment was in the form of taunts and her unacceptability in the house. It also speaks of the deceased being ridiculed by the mother-in-law and her behaviour was reiterated by other members of the family including the husband of the deceased.

“Deceased who was unhappy on account of the harassment could see no hope and she took the desperate step to escape the unbearable suffering and pain which she was subjected to in an attempt not to put an end to her life but to end the traumatic ordeal which she had to undergo within a short span of her marriage life.”

Court added that, Section 498-A came to be inserted to suitably deal not only with the cases of dowry death but also cases of cruelty to a married woman by her in-laws. Raison d’etre of Section 498-A being to prevent the torture being inflicted on a married woman by her husband or his relations and it is not restricted to only in relation to the demands of dowry but it also intended to deal with cruelty inflicted upon a woman in the form of a willful conduct which drives a woman to commit suicide.

Therefore, on perusal of the judgment of the Trial Court, it is noted that the Sessions Judge grossly erred in not considering the evidence brought on record against the deceased’s husband (Dinesh) who was also party to the ill-treatment inflicted to the deceased.

Prosecution witnesses of the deceased have, in unequivocal terms, deposed that Vaishali categorically stated that she was subjected to harassment at the hands of her husband, who also joined in the choir,

“Husband, the only son to whom Vaishali was married played a positive role in the harassment of Vaishali which drove her to commit suicide and this wilful conduct of the husband has escaped the attention of learned Sessions Judge, who has acquitted him of the offence punishable under Section 498-A IPC.”

Object of introducing stringent provision in the IPC in the form of Section 498-A being to deal with such willful conduct, which led to the death of Vaishali, according to the Court should not escape the clutches of law and such conduct as also the persons who inflict such conduct actuating a young married women to end her life, needs to be penalised particularly when the evidence brought on record establishing such a conduct.

In view of the above, the conviction and sentence of the mother-in-law of the deceased is upheld and a notice is issued to Dinesh (husband of the deceased) who was erroneously acquitted by the trial court of the offence punishable under Section 498-A by affording him an opportunity of hearing.[Mandakini Balasaheb Kalbhor v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 1774, decided on 04-09-2019]