7 Aug 2023 10:23 AM GMT
The Calcutta High Court recently allowed the appeal preferred by a husband against trial court order convicting him for alleged offences of mental and physical cruelty allegedly inflicted upon his spouse/ complainant.A Single-bench of Justice Shampa (Dutt) Paul held:Though this witness has stated that she was assaulted by the appellant and his family members and suffered bleeding injuries,...
The Calcutta High Court recently allowed the appeal preferred by a husband against trial court order convicting him for alleged offences of mental and physical cruelty allegedly inflicted upon his spouse/ complainant.
A Single-bench of Justice Shampa (Dutt) Paul held:
Though this witness has stated that she was assaulted by the appellant and his family members and suffered bleeding injuries, there are no medical papers nor any injury report on record. The question of mental cruelty has to be considered in the light of the norms of marital ties of the particular society to which the parties belong, their social values, status, and the environment in which they live. The conduct of the concerned party should be grave and substantial and it must be much more serious than the ordinary wear and tear of daily life. Mental cruelty is a state of mind - The feeling of deep anguish, disappointment, or frustration in one spouse caused by the conduct of the other over a long period of time may lead to mental cruelty. And such feeling and intensity are felt differently by each person. Some are stronger in mind than others. In the present case there is absolutely no evidence/proof on record of any physical cruelty.
Appellant Hira Bittar was convicted under Section 498A IPC and sentenced to one year imprisonment and fine.
State counsel argued that the complainant had filed a police complaint, alleging that after a few years of marriage, her in-laws and husband would “mentally and physically torture her” due to shortfall in dowry brought by her from her paternal home.
It was further argued that upon not fulfilling her husband’s demand to bring Rs 10,000 from her mother, “the degree of torture increased and they conspired to kill her.”
As per the prosecution, one night when the complainant was in her room with her children, she caught a discussion between her mother-in-law, sister-in-law and husband on planning to “kill her by pouring kerosene oil on her body and burning her.”
It was submitted that when the complainant stepped outside her room, she was assaulted by her husband who allegedly tried to kill her by strangulation. The appellant shaken by these experiences returned to her mother’s house with her children, and alleged that her husband brought home and married one Pinki Dhara in the meantime.
On the contrary, it was submitted by the appellant that the witnesses examined during the trial had deposed in an “exaggerated manner” and that the allegation that the complainant left her marital home due to a demand of Rs 10,000 had not been brought on record during trial to prove the extent of cruelty suffered by the complainant.
It was also argued that inconsistencies had arisen between the prosecution case and complainant's statements during the stage of evidence before the trial court, as the complainant had submitted that when her husband had brought home a second-wife, she had stayed along with them for a few days before returning to her mother’s house, in contradiction to the prosecution’s case that the victim was tortured for a dowry of Rs 10,000 and returned to her mother’s place prior to her husband marrying for the second time.
It was also argued that there was an unexplained delay between the alleged offence and filing of a police complaint, as the victim alleged attempt to murder as a reason for leaving her marital home on 27.04.2004, but only made a police complaint regarding the same on 10.08.2004.
Finally, it was argued by the appellant that the mother of the complainant, when examined during the trial had submitted that the complainant had been living peacefully in her marital home, and that disputes and torture on the complainant had only begun when the appellant re-married one Pinki Dhara, which led to the complainant leaving the marital home, in stark contrast to the claims of repeated torture being suffered by the complainant at the hands of the appellant.
Upon perusing the evidence, the Court looked upon the circumstances of the marriage of the appellant to the complainant. It was noted that both parties had been married for 12 years and had two children.
Court further observed that the instant dispute only started after the second marriage of Hira Bittar to Pinki Dhara, and that though, there were several statements from witnesses pertaining to the mental and physical torture suffered by the complainant at the behest of the appellant, there was no medical evidence or injury report regarding the same, and that the complainant had voluntarily left the matrimonial home, subsequently withdrawing complaints regarding her husband’s second marriage, which had been filed by her.
In analysing the finding of the Trial court, the Bench observed that though the trial court conclusively held that the offence under Section 498A IPC had been proved against the appellant, both the complainant as well as her mother, during evidence, had not conclusively stated that there had been any violence prior to the appellant's second marriage. It said:
All the statements regarding torture on oath relates to the period after the appellant allegedly married for the second time. It is also on record that the victim was taken 7 back to her matrimonial home after the appellant's alleged second marriage. But she returned to her mother after two months of alleged torture. The trial court held that the appellant has evasively stated during his examination under Section 313 Cr.P.C. that as he did not agree to divorce the victim, she falsely lodged this complaint.
On the aspect of mental cruelty, the Bench examined Section 13(i)(a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, and held that for mental cruelty to be proved, the “agony, or suffering of such a magnitude that it severs the bond between the wife and husband and as a result of which it becomes impossible for the party who has suffered to live with the other party.”
In setting aside the conviction of the appellant and finding him not guilty of mental or physical torture under Section 498A IPC, the Bench held:
The question of mental cruelty has to be considered in the light of the norms of marital ties of the particular society to which the parties belong, their social values, status, and the environment in which they live. The conduct of the concerned party should be grave and substantial and it must be much more serious than the ordinary wear and tear of daily life. Mental cruelty can vary depending upon, the respective matrimonial cases. So it is impossible to have a uniform standard to decide ‘mental cruelty’ in different cases as facts and circumstances are not same.
From the evidence on record, there is nothing to show that there was:- (a) Any wilful conduct on the part of the appellant 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. Parties were married for 12 years and have two children. (b) There is also no evidence to substantiate the charge of demand of dowry. Thus, the findings of the trial court being not in accordance with law…is set aside.
Case: Hira Bittar v The State of West Bengal
Coram: Justice Shampa (Dutt) Paul
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Cal) 214
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