498A; Relatives of the husband should not be made to suffer the ignominy of a criminal trial in the absence of specific and credible allegations; Madhya Pradesh HC [Read Judgment]
“the averments against the accused other than her husband and father-in-law were omnibus in nature and no specific role in this regard has been ascribed to any of them nor time and date of the assault has been given”.
Quashing a crime registered under section 498-A read with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code and section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, Justice C.V. Sirpurkar of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, Jabalpur bench has held in a recent judgment that if there are no specific and credible allegations against the relatives of the husband with necessary particulars, they should not be made to suffer the ignominy of a criminal trial.
Referring to a catena of decisions on the point, the Madhya Pradesh High Court observed that the Supreme Court has expressed its concern with regard to false implication of husband and his relatives in the cases under section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code by disgruntled wives and that the tendency of falsely implicating even those relatives of husband, who lived separately and in different cities is also growing.
The above ruling came when the Court was considering a petition filed under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C., by the accused in Crime No.32/2015 registered by P.S. City Kotwali, Chhindwara, under section 498-A read with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code and section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
The de-facto complainant Harshna Paigwar filed a written report with the police to the effect that she was married to the 1st accused/1st applicant Shrikant Paigwar/Tamrakar by Hindu Rites in a Group Marriage Ceremony under the Chief Minister's Scheme at Chhindwara, on 06-06-2014. Applicants/accused Sudama Prasad Tamrakar was the father of the 1st accused/1st applicant, Amarlal Tamrakar was his father's brother-in- law, Uma Tamrakar was his father's sister, Anoop Tamrakar his brother-in-law, Eshwari Tamrakar his sister, Sachin Chandravanshi his brother-in-law and Jaishri Chandravanshi the sister of applicant No.1 Shrikant Tamrakar. Applicant No.9 Krishna Tamrakar was not related to applicant No.1 Shrikant Tamrakar.
When the complainant went to her matrimonial home at Chhindwara, from her maternal home at Chichli, Gadarwara, her two sisters-in-law Eshwari and Jaishri and their husbands Anoop and Sachin as also her father-in- law's sister Uma and her husband Amarlal Tamrakar as well as Krishna Tamrakar started saying that her mother had given nothing in dowry. She ought to have given at least Rs.5,00,000/-. Krishna Tamrakar said that at Chhindwara people evem spent 10,00,000/- in marriages. The aforesaid relatives of her husband started taunting and mentally harassing her. Sudama, her father-in-law also mentally harassed her for dowry. Her husband Shrikant called his friends, to consume liquor in her matrimonial home. Shrikant told the complainant to do everything she does with him, with his friends as well. Her husband and father-in-law pressurized her to ask her mother on telephone to give a shop in dowry. Her husband and her father-in-law also forcibly administered intoxicating tablets and on one occasion, an injection to her. Once her husband and father-in-law tried to pour kerosene on her; whereon she ran away to her neighbours' place and called her mother on telephone. Thereafter her mother came and took her to her maternal home. Her husband and father- in-law say that they would take her to her maternal home only after her mother would make arrangement for more dowry. The FIR was lodged on 14-01-2015. After investigation, charge-sheet was filed in the Court on 26-09-2015.
The accused sought quashing of the FIR and the proceedings arising therefrom on the following grounds: that the complainant lived at her matrimonial home with the 1st applicant Shrikant only after a brief period of 10-12 days. Thereafter, her mother took her to her matrimonial home leveling false allegations against applicant Shrikant and other family members. Since, the complainant refused to live with applicant No.1 Shrikant, he served a notice dated 25-08-2014 upon her through his advocate by registered post but the complainant did not pay any heed to the aforesaid notice. Consequently applicant No.1 Shrikant Tamrakar filed an application under section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act in the Court of Principal Judge, Family Court, Chhindwara on 18-11-2014, for restitution of conjugal rights which has been registered as Hindu Marriage Petition No.418/2014. As a counter blast to the said application, the complainant filed present first information report on 15-01-2015, wherein false allegations have been leveled not only against applicant Shrikant and father Sudama Prasad but also against Krishna Tamrakar, who is not related to applicant Shrikant as also other relatives, who lived in other towns separate from applicant Shrikant on omnibus allegations.
There was no appearance for the complainant despite due service of notice on her.
The Court, on a perusal of the case diary and after considering the arguments advanced on both sides came to the conclusion that the accused were entitled to succeed.
The High Court held that though the charge sheet had been filed in the case, it had the power under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to quash proceedings after filing of the charge sheet or even after framing of charge. The single judge adverted to the decision of the Apex Court in the case of Satish Mehra Vs. State (NCT of Delhi) and another, AIR 2013 SC 506 wherein the Supreme Court had held that the power to interdict a proceeding either at the threshold or at an intermediate stage of the trial is inherent in a High Court on the broad principle that in case the allegations made in the FIR or the criminal complaint, as the case may be, prima facie do not disclose a triable offence, there can be no reason as to why the accused should be made to suffer the agony of legal proceeding. “Thus, such power would be available for exercise not only at the threshold of a criminal proceeding but also at a relatively advanced stage thereof, namely, after framing of charge against the accused.”
The Madhya Pradesh High Court also referred to the decisions of the Supreme Court in the case of Harshendra Kumar D. Vs. Rebatilata Koley AIR 2011 SC 1090 wherein it has been held that uncontroverted documents or material of unimpeachable or sterling character may be considered while exercising jurisdiction under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The High Court said that the same view has been taken by the Supreme Court in the following cases : State of Orissa vs. Devendra Nath Padhi, 2005(1) SCC 568, Rukmani vs. Vijaya, AIR 2009 SC 1013 and Rajiv Thapar vs. Madan Lal Kapoor, AIR 2013 SC (supp.) 1056.
Reverting back to the facts and circumstances of the case, the single judge found that there is nothing on record to suggest that applicant Krishna Tamrakar (accused No.7) is, in any manner related to husband Shrikant Paigwar. Thus, the observation alleged to have been made by him that some people at Chhindwara spent even Rs.10,00,000/- in marriage, is inconsequential and does not make him liable to be implicated in a case under section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code.
Discussing the role of the other accused persons, the single judge found that apart from Shrikant and Sudama no one else has ever resided with the complainant in the same house at Chhindwara.
The High Court perused the statement of the complainant as given to the police and found that the averments against the accused other than her husband and father-in-law were omnibus in nature and no specific role in this regard has been ascribed to any of them nor time and date of the assault has been given. The single judge said: “In the first information report, which was recorded on the basis of a written report, specific allegations have been made against husband Shrikant and his father Sudama Prasad regarding harassment and cruelty for dowry; however, the allegations against the remaining applicants are omnibus in nature and no time and date of the incidents have been given. Moreover, in her statement recorded under section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure on 25-01-2015, complainant Harshna has simply stated at the end, probably by way of after-thought that other accused persons had said that more money ought to have been given in the marriage and applicants could deserved a better girl. In the end, a general statement was made that all persons had beaten her for dowry. However, no specific role in this regard has been ascribed to any of them nor time and date of the assault has been given. In any case, complainant is said to have stayed in her matrimonial home for not more than 10 or 12 days.”
The High Court then referred to and relied on the decisions of the Supreme Court reported in Arnesh Kumar Vs. State of Bihar, 2014 (8) SCC 273, Preeti Gupta v. State of Jharkhand , AIR 2010 SC 3363, Neelu Chopra & anr. v. Bharti, AIR 2009 SC(Supp) 2950 and Kans Raj vs. State of Punjab, AIR 2000 SC 2324 and proceeded to hold at para 15 as follows:
“It may be seen from the aforesaid judgments that the Supreme Court has expressed its concerned with regard to false implication of husband and his relatives in the cases under section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code by disgruntled wives. It has also been held that the tendency of falsely implicating even those relatives of husband, who lived separately and in different cities is also growing. It has been held that if there are no specific and credible allegations against, with necessary particulars against the relatives of the husband, they should not be made to suffer the ignominy of a criminal trial.”
In Kans Raj vs. State of Punjab, AIR 2000 SC 2324 a three judge bench of Supreme Court observed that:
"For the fault of the husband, the in-laws or the other relations cannot, in all cases, be held to be involved in the demand of dowry. In cases where such accusation are made, the overt acts attributed to persons other than husband are required to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. By mere conjectures and implications such relations cannot be held guilty for the offence relating to dowry deaths. A tendency has, however, developed for roping in all relations of the in- laws of the deceased wives in the matters of dowry deaths which, if not discouraged, is likely to affect the case of the prosecution even against the real culprits. In their over enthusiasm and anxiety to seek conviction for maximum people, the parents of the deceased have been found to be making efforts for involving other relations which ultimately weaken the case of the prosecution even against the real accused as appears to have happened in the instant case."
In the case of Arnesh Kumar Vs. State of Bihar, 2014 (8) SCC 273, the Supreme Court had held:
"4. There is a phenomenal increase in matrimonial disputes in recent years. The institution of marriage is greatly revered in this country. Section 498-A IPC was introduced with avowed object to combat the menace of harassment to a woman at the hands of her husband and his relatives. The fact that Section 498-A IPC is a cognizable and non-bailable offence has lent it a dubious place of pride amongst the provisions that are used as weapons rather than shield by disgruntled wives. The simplest way to harass is to get the husband and his relatives arrested under this provision. In a quite number of cases, bedridden grandfathers and grandmothers of the husbands, their sisters living abroad for decades are arrested.”
Applying the law to the facts of the case, the Madhya Pradesh High Court held that since there were specific allegations against husband Shrikant and his father Sudama Prasad who lived together in the matrimonial home of the complainant along with her, the power under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure could not be used to stifle their prosecution, but that so far as remaining applicants/accused persons are concerned, none of them lived together with the husband and father-in-law in the matrimonial home of the complainant. The Court further held: “Moreover, there are no specific and credible allegations with necessary particulars, against them. Only omnibus allegations shorn of even basic details, have been leveled; therefore, in the opinion of this Court, they should not be made to undergo the rigmarole of a criminal trial. Allowing trial to proceed against the aforesaid relatives would be travesty of justice and abuse of process of law.”
Accordingly the Madhya Pradesh High Court in exercise of its extra-ordinary reserved under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure quashed the first information report registered by P.S. City Kotwali, Chhindwara, in Crime No.32/2015 under section 498-A read with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code and section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act and the criminal proceedings arising therefrom pending in the Court of Judicial Magistrate First Class, Chhindwara, against the relatives of the husband.
The prayer of Shrikant and his father Sudama Prasad to have the case quashed as against them was however declined and the High Court permitted the trial to continue against them in accordance with the law.
Read the Judgment here.