Quashing of 498a Vague allegation against relatives some important Judgments

The irony of 498a is that there is a tendency of the wife to rope in as many people as she can in false 498a case.

When as many relatives are involved in false 498a they forsee that it will put pressure on the husband family to surrender to wife demand by misusing the entire system.

This is un acceptable and why should husband be bound to be put under pressure to have a favorable settlement when there is genuinely no case.

Even the Hon’ble Supreme Court is aware of this issue and is regularly giving judgements in favour of husband.

In Geeta Mehrotra & Anr vs State Of U.P. & Anr on 17 October, 2012

Coming to the facts of this case, when the contents of the FIR is perused, it is apparent that there are no allegations against Kumari Geeta Mehrotra and Ramji Mehrotra except casual reference of their names who have been included in the FIR but mere casual reference of the names of the family members in a matrimonial dispute without allegation of active involvement in the matter would not justify taking cognizance against them overlooking the fact borne out of experience that there is a tendency to involve the entire family members of the household in the domestic quarrel taking place in a matrimonial dispute specially if it happens soon after the wedding.

However, we deem it appropriate to add by way of caution that we may not be misunderstood so as to infer that even if there are allegation of overt act indicating the complicity of the members of the family named in the FIR in a given case, cognizance would be unjustified but what we wish to emphasize by highlighting is that, if the FIR as it stands does not disclose specific allegation against accused more so against the co-accused specially in a matter arising out of matrimonial bickering, it would be clear abuse of the legal and judicial process to mechanically send the named accused in the FIR to undergo the trial unless of course the FIR discloses specific allegations which would persuade the court to take cognisance of the offence alleged against the relatives of the main accused who are prima facie not found to have indulged in physical and mental torture of the complainant-wife. It is the well settled principle laid down in cases too numerous to mention, that if the FIR did not disclose the commission of an offence, the court would be justified in quashing the proceedings preventing the abuse of the process of law. Simultaneously, the courts are expected to adopt a cautious approach in matters of quashing specially in cases of matrimonial dispute whether the FIR in fact discloses commission of an offence by the relatives of the principal accused or the FIR prima facie discloses a case of over-implication by involving the entire family of the accused at the instance of the complainant, who is out to settle her scores arising out of the teething problem or skirmish of domestic bickering while settling down in her new matrimonial surrounding.

In Brijesh Das Vs. State of Bihar

It would be manifest from the aforesaid judgments that the Supreme Court has repeatedly expressed its concern with regard to false implication of relatives of husband in cases under Section 498A of the IPC and other releated offences. The Supreme Court has also taken judicial notice of the fact that there is a growing tendency of even implication in cases of matrimonial dispute.

Looking to the facts of the present case, from any angle, the summoning order as far as petitioner nos.2 to 6 are concerned, on the basis of omnibus, vague and general allegation, cannot be sustained. Allowing the prosecution to continue against them would amount to an abuse of process of the court.

independent witnesses, namely, Shail Patna High Court Cr.M isc. No.57681 of 2015 dt.21-03-2018 Kumari Devi and Kameshwar Mahto have clearly stated that it is wrong to allege that relatives of the husband ever subjected the victim to cruelty for non-fulfillment of demand of dowry. They have stated that they are not aware of any such demand or torture. They have stated that the victim left the matrimonial home after living there for a few months. Though, there is specific allegation against the husband of opposite party no.2, namely, Brijesh Das @ Brijesh Kumar Das (petitioner no.1) in the statements of the witnesses recorded in course of investigation, no specific allegation has been made against the petitioner nos.2 to 6. The allegations made, if any, against the petitioner nos.2 to 6 are vague and omnibus. In order to prosecute the relatives of the husband, there has to be some specific allegation against them. A general, vague and omnibus allegation made against the relatives of the husband would not be sufficient to put them on trial in a case under Section 498A of the IPC or Sections 3 and 4 of the D.P.Act.

In the case Preeti Gupta Vs. state of Jharkhand

According to the appellants, there was no specific allegation against both the appellants in the complaint. Appellant no.1 had been permanently residing with her husband at Navasari, Surat (Gujarat) for the last more than seven years. She had never visited Mumbai during the year 2007 and never stayed with respondent no.2 or her husband. Similarly, appellant no.2, unmarried brother-in-law of the complainant has also been permanently residing at Goregaon, Maharashtra.

Admittedly, appellant no.1 is a permanent resident of Navasari, Surat, Gujarat and has been living with her husband for more than seven years. Similarly, appellant no.2 is a permanent resident of Goregaon, Maharasthra. They have never visited the place where the alleged incident had taken place. They had never lived with respondent no.2 and her husband. Their implication in the complaint is meant to harass and humiliate the husband’s relatives. This seems to be the only basis to file this complaint against the appellants. Permitting the complainant to pursue this complaint would be an abuse of the process of law.

28. It is a matter of common knowledge that unfortunately matrimonial litigation is rapidly increasing in our country. All the courts in our country including this court are flooded with matrimonial cases. This clearly demonstrates discontent and unrest in the family life of a large number of people of the society.

29. The courts are receiving a large number of cases emanating from section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code which reads as under:-

“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.”

30. It is a matter of common experience that most of these complaints under section 498-A IPC are filed in the heat of the moment over trivial issues without proper deliberations. We come across a large number of such complaints which are not even bona fide and are filed with oblique motive. At the same time, rapid increase in the number of genuine cases of dowry harassment are also a matter of serious concern.

31. The learned members of the Bar have enormous social responsibility and obligation to ensure that the social fiber of family life is not ruined or demolished. They must ensure that exaggerated versions of small incidents should not be reflected in the criminal complaints. Majority of the complaints are filed either on their advice or with their concurrence. The learned members of the Bar who belong to a noble profession must maintain its noble traditions and should treat every complaint under section 498-A as a basic human problem and must make serious endeavour to help the parties in arriving at an amicable resolution of that human problem. They must discharge their duties to the best of their abilities to ensure that social fiber, peace and tranquility of the society remains intact. The members of the Bar should also ensure that one complaint should not lead to multiple cases.

32. Unfortunately, at the time of filing of the complaint the implications and consequences are not properly visualized by the complainant that such complaint can lead to insurmountable harassment, agony and pain to the complainant, accused and his close relations.

33. The ultimate object of justice is to find out the truth and punish the guilty and protect the innocent. To find out the truth is a herculean task in majority of these complaints. The tendency of implicating husband and all his immediate relations is also not uncommon. At times, even after the conclusion of criminal trial, it is difficult to ascertain the real truth. The courts have to be extremely careful and cautious in dealing with these complaints and must take pragmatic realities into consideration while dealing with matrimonial cases. The allegations of harassment of husband’s close relations who had been living in different cities and never visited or rarely visited the place where the complainant resided would have an entirely different complexion. The allegations of the complaint are required to be scrutinized with great care and circumspection. Experience reveals that long and protracted criminal trials lead to rancour, acrimony and bitterness in the relationship amongst the parties. It is also a matter of common knowledge that in cases filed by the complainant if the husband or the husband’s relations had to remain in jail even for a few days, it would ruin the chances of amicable settlement altogether. The process of suffering is extremely long and painful.

34. Before parting with this case, we would like to observe that a serious relook of the entire provision is warranted by the legislation. It is also a matter of common knowledge that exaggerated versions of the incident are reflected in a large number of complaints. The tendency of over implication is also reflected in a very large number of cases.

35. The criminal trials lead to immense sufferings for all concerned. Even ultimate acquittal in the trial may also not be able to wipe out the deep scars of suffering of ignominy. Unfortunately a large number of these complaints have not only flooded the courts but also have led to enormous social unrest affecting peace, harmony and happiness of the society. It is high time that the legislature must take into consideration the pragmatic realities and make suitable changes in the existing law. It is imperative for the legislature to take into consideration the informed public opinion and the pragmatic realities in consideration and make necessary changes in the relevant provisions of law. We direct the Registry to send a copy of this judgment to the Law Commission and to the Union Law Secretary, Government of India who may place it before the Hon’ble Minister for Law & Justice to take appropriate steps in the larger interest of the society.

. When the facts and circumstances of the case  are considered in the background of legal principles set out in preceding paragraphs, then it would be unfair to compel the appellants to undergo the rigmarole of a criminal trial. In the interest of justice, we deem it appropriate to quash the complaint against the appellants. As a result, the impugned judgment of the High Court is set aside. Consequently, this appeal is allowed.

Adv Nitish Banka

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