Karnataka High Court: While deliberating over the instant petition challenging the registration of a crime punishable under Sections 498-A, 307 and 506 of Penal Code, 1860 and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, against the husband after he sent a notice to his wife for dissolution of marriage, the Bench of M. Nagaprasanna, J.*, dismissed the petition stating that quashment of proceedings against the husband at a stage when investigations are ongoing, would not arise on the ground that the complaint is registered immediately after receipt of the legal notice of dissolution of marriage sent by the husband.
The Court further stated that decision of the co-ordinate Bench of the High Court in Naresh Gundyal v. State, 2023 SCC OnLine Kar 20, wherein it was held that criminal case filed by a wife against her husband and in-laws with regards to cruelty and dowry harassment, loses its importance when such complaints are made after receiving a divorce notice from the husband, defeats the very object of Section 498-A Penal Code, 1860 or complaints made under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
Background: The husband and wife got married on 19-04-2021. It was averred in the petition that on several allegations the wife left the matrimonial house on 14-08-2022 and later the husband on 13-10-2022 sent a legal notice upon thewife wherein he projected himself to be suffering from mental trauma at the hands of the wife and sought resolution of matrimonial dispute amicably and dissolution of marriage by mutual consent within 15 days. In the legal notice the husband additionally “called upon his wife to desist from filing a false claim and initiating malicious proceedings against the husband or the family members”.
The wife then registered a complaint before the Police on 01-12-2012. The complaint narrated several instances of torture by the husband against the wife, both mental and physical. It is this complaint that compelled the husband to knock the doors of the Court.
Contentions: Counsels of the husband contended that the wife has registered the crime as a counterblast to the legal notice sent by the husband and that there are no ingredients that would become offences under Section 498A of the IPC.
Citing the decision of the High Court’s co-ordinate Bench dated 18-04-2023 in Naresh Gundyal v. State (supra), the counsels submitted that the FIR should be quashed on the sole ground that the crime was registered after receipt of a notice seeking dissolution of marriage.
Per contra, the High Court Government Pleader submitted that investigation has just commenced in the registered crimes and there are grave allegations against the husband for offences punishable under Section 498A and 307 IPC and, therefore, the proceedings should be permitted to continue.
Court’s Assessment: Perusing the facts, contentions and ruling of the co-ordinate Bench in a case similar to this, the Court stated the following-
It was noted that the complaint is being currently investigated by the Police. Upon perusing the papers of investigation and statements available therein, the Court found that there are prima facie clear indications vis-a-vis the ingredients of the offences so alleged. The Court pointed out that the complaint clearly makes out ingredients of the offence under Section 307 of the Penal Code, 1860 which deals with attempt to murder. It was alleged in the complaint that the husband tried to strangulate the wife and gave her blows on the back. The Court stated that if these ingredients are to be ignored and brushed aside merely because the complaint is registered immediately after receipt of the notice of divorce or amicable settlement for dissolution of marriage, it would lead to a disastrous effect.
The Court pointed out that if the allegations of torture are made over a period of time, or even in the immediate past of the complaint and “the husband issuing a notice for divorce simultaneously or immediately before the complaint, will not and can by no stretch of imagination result in the complaint rendering itself insignificant”. The Court stated if the complaint does not even make out ingredients of the offence so alleged, then that would be a different case altogether.
The Court observed that there are indeed cases where members of the family are dragged by the wife while registering the complaint invoking Section 498A. the offences are justified in some cases and in some cases, offences are in abuse of the process of law. Therefore, it is to be considered on a case-to-case basis.
Taking note of the co-ordinate Bench’s decision in Naresh Gundyal v. State (supra), the Court stated that there cannot be a declaration of law that once the divorce notice is sent by the husband, the complaint registered by the wife thereafter loses its significance. “If this contention is accepted, it would have a chilling effect on all the complaints”. The Court further pointed out that is position in Naresh Gundyal as contended by the husband, is accepted, then it would act against the interests of women and the object for which Section 498-A was added. “The declaration of law made by the co-ordinate Bench can at best be held to be applicable and restrictable, to the facts obtaining in the said case”.
[Pramod RS v. State of Karnataka, 2023 SCC OnLine Kar 26, decided on 02-06-2023]
*Order by Justice M. Nagaprasanna
Advocates who appeared in this case :
S. Yashaswini, Advocate for the petitioner/husband;
Mahesh Shetty, HCGP for R-1.