Jharkhand High Court: Anubha Rawat Choudhary, J., inter alia, reversed the conviction of the second wife (of the husband of the complainant-first wife) for abetting the offence under Section 494 IPC.

Criminal Appeal was preferred against the Judgment of conviction and order of sentence passed by the Judicial Magistrate, 1st Class.

Prosecution case was based on a complaint petition wherein it was alleged inter alia that the marriage of the complainant was solemnized with the petitioner and after the marriage, she went to her matrimonial house. Complainant’s mother-in-law and her husband were not happy with the articles demanded due to which they tortured the complainant physically and mentally adding to this, she was also not provided with food.

Petitioner solemnized second marriage with Deoki Devi, thereafter also the complainant stayed at the matrimonial house and gave birth to a son. Complainant’s son was snatched away from her along with all her ornaments and thrown out of the house. Complainant came to her parental house after which the Chief Judicial Magistrate took cognizance.

Prima Facie case under Section 498-A Penal Code, 1860 was made out against the petitioners and further prima facie case under Section 494 of IPC against Mohan Mahto (Complainant’s Husband) was made out.

Court’s Analysis

Bench found that the Lower Appellate Court wrongly recorded that the trial court had convicted Mohan Mahto, Chundri Devi and Deoki Devi for offence under Section 498 A and 323 IPC. Trial Court’s judgment reflected that the learned trial court had convicted Mohan Mahto and Chundri Devi under Section 498A and 323 IPC but Deoki Devi was not convicted under Section 498A of IPC.

Bench noted that there has been consistent evidence on record against the present petitioners who happen to be the husband, and in-laws of the complainant and petitioner Deoki Devi who is the second wife of the petitioner Mohan Mahto regarding physical and mental torture along with demand of dowry, she was thrown out of her matrimonial house with her only son.

Court in view of the above-stated facts and circumstances stated that the family members of the complainant from the side of the in-laws of the complainant have been rightly convicted by the trial court under Section 498A/323 IPC. Petitioner – Deoki Devi has rightly not been convicted under Section 323 IPC only as she was the second wife of the petitioner.

Since the petitioner solemnized to second marriage during the lifetime of his first wife, the complainant, his conviction under Section 494 IPC was upheld.

So far as the conviction of Deoki Devi was concerned under Section 494/109 IPC, Court found that the Complainant Witnesses did not speak a word regarding her role in abetting the offence of second marriage. Though allegations in abetment of second marriage were made against the mother-in-law, father-in-law as well as the father and brother of Deoki Devi, but nothing was said about the role of Deoki Devi nor has imparted any knowledge on the part of Deoki Devi prior to her marriage with Mohan Mahto, that Mohan Mahto was already married.

Court held that the essential ingredient to instigate the petitioner-Mohan Mahto to solemnize second marriage with petitioner -Deoki Devi on her part is wholly lacking in the records of the case. Thus, the finding of the trial court, upheld by the appellate court, holding that Deoki Devi knowingly married the accused Mohan Mahto who was already married, and consequent conviction of petitioner -Deoki Devi for abetment of offence under Section 494 IPC committed by Mohan Mahto, is ex facie perverse, based on no evidence against Deoki Devi.

Further, the Bench found that the Complaint case was filed in the year 2009 and the petitioners namely, Deoki Devi and Chundri Devi have faced the rigours of the trial for 11 years and they have no criminal antecedents and both are females having children

Considering the aforesaid facts and circumstances of the case, this Court is of the view that the ends of justice would be served, if the sentences of the petitioner — Chundri Devi is modified to the period already undergone by her. [Chundri Devi v. State of Jharkhand,  2021 SCC OnLine Jhar 20, decided on 04-01-2021]

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