karnataka high court

Karnataka High Court: While deciding the instant matter filed by the accused (‘husband’) being aggrieved by the conviction under Section 498-A of Penal Code, the Bench of S. Rachaiah, J.*, pointed out that the complaint against the husband was filed by his second wife whereas “woman” in Section 498-A, Penal Code, 1860 means and includes a legally wedded wife. Therefore, complaint filed by the second wife against the husband and her in-laws cannot be maintainable. The Court further relied on Supreme Court precedents on the point which had clearly indicated that if the marriage between the husband and wife ended as null and void, the offence under Section 498-A of Penal Code, 1860 cannot be sustained.

The complainant in this case is the second wife of the accused. Initially till five years, both the accused and the complainant were living cordially and also had a son. After she gave birth to the child, the complainant developed some health issues. She suffered paralysis and became incapacitated. It was alleged that the petitioner, due to the said health issues of the complainant, started harassing her and it is stated that, she was being subjected to cruelty and mental torture. It was further alleged that she was being abused in a filthy language and she was thrown out of the matrimonial home. Unable to tolerate the cruelty and harassment of the petitioner, the complainant has lodged a complaint before the jurisdictional police.

The police registered a case and submitted the charge sheet. The Trial Court after appreciating the oral and documentary evidence on record, convicted the husband for the offence punishable under Section 498-A of IPC. The petitioner preferred an appeal before the Appellate Court; however, the Appellate Court confirmed the judgment of conviction.

Counsel for the accused submitted that, the complainant being second wife, the courts below should not have convicted the accused for the offence under 498-A of IPC since the basic ingredients of the said provision are not attracted.

Taking into note the afore-stated contention, the Court perused Section 498-A, Penal Code, 1860 and pointed out that the husband or relative of a woman subjecting her to cruelty, shall be punished with imprisonment. It is needless to say that “woman” in the said definition means and includes, legally wedded wife and it is an admitted fact that, the complainant was the second wife of the accused.

The prosecution has to establish that, the marriage of the complainant is legal, or she is the legally wedded wife of the accused. Unless it is established that she is the legally wedded wife of the petitioner, the Courts below ought to have acted upon the evidence of complainant that she was the second wife. Once complainant is considered as second wife of the accused, obviously, the complaint filed for the offence under Section 498-A, IPC ought not to have been entertained. The High Court pointed out that Courts below committed error in applying the principles and also the law on this aspect.

[Kantharaju v. State of Karnataka, 2023 SCC OnLine Kar 43, decided on 17-07-2023]

*Order by Justice S. Rachaiah

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For petitioner- Chetan Desai, Adv.;

For respondent- Rahul Rai K., HCGP.

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