Calcutta High Court: A single-judge bench comprising of Subhendu Samanta, J., allowed the criminal revision petitions filed by the petitioner and quashed the criminal proceedings against him, as the allegations were not sufficiently substantiated and were deemed to be frivolous and a misuse of the law. The Court held that “it necessary to invoke the inherent power of this court to quash the proceedings otherwise the continuation of the criminal proceedings would be tantamount to the abuse of process of court.”
In the instant matter, the petitioner and the opposite party 2, got married on 27-10-2016, under the Special Marriage Act, 1954. The opposite party 2 lodged a written complaint on 13-10-2017 in Baguihati Police Station, alleging physical and mental torture by her husband (the petitioner) since their marriage. She also claimed that on the same day, the petitioner physically assaulted and attempted to kill her.Based on her complaint, a case was registered against the petitioner under Sections 498-A and 307 of the Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). During the investigation, a settlement talk took place between the parties, and the opposite party 2 moved back to her matrimonial home on 26-10-2017.
On 14-12-2017, the opposite party 2 filed another written complaint alleging further physical and mental torture by the petitioner and his parents during her stay at her matrimonial home and a new case was registered against the petitioner and his parents under Sections 498-A, 506(ii), and 406 of the IPC.
The petitioner and his parents preferred an application under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC) before this Court to quash both criminal proceedings, stating that the allegations were baseless and malicious.
Whether the criminal proceedings against the petitioner should be quashed due to lack of sufficient evidence and alleged misuse of the law?
The petitioner contended that the opposition party 2’s complaints were frivolous, concocted, and meant to harass the petitioner. It was argued that no evidence of assault or torture existed, and opposite party 2 had never intended to stay with her in-laws and had a separate residence provided by her husband.
The State contended that investigations were completed, charge sheets were filed, and sufficient materials were present to justify the charges. It was further contended that the proceedings should not be quashed at this stage.
The petitioner countered by asserting that the proceedings were harassing and malicious. It was pointed out that a matrimonial suit was also initiated by the opposite party 2, which was decreed in her favor, and argued that the sole intention was to harass the petitioner.
The Court noted that the first complaint did not mention allegations against the in-laws, but the second complaint did and both cases pertained to separate incidents. The Court observed that the allegations of physical and mental torture in the complaints were general and omnibus in nature, lacking specific evidence to support the charges. The Court further noted that the couple was residing separately, and the allegations lacked direct evidence. It observed that the statements of available witnesses and the medical evidence did not sufficiently substantiate the allegations of cruelty and torture.
The Court found that the ingredients of the offence under section 498-A of the IPC were not adequately met, and the allegations did not justify continuation of the criminal proceedings. The Court referred to various decisions, including the principle that the inherent power of the High Court could be invoked to prevent abuse of process or to secure justice.
The Court stated that Section 498-A of the IPC was enacted by the legislature to “strike out the dowry meance from the society. But it is observed in several cases that by misusing of said provision new legal terrorism is unleashed.”
The Court held that allegations in the complaints did not prima facie constitute offenses or make out a case against the accused and invoked its inherent power under Section 482 of the CrPC and quashed both criminal proceedings against the petitioner.
The Court further held that the proceedings were instituted to fulfil personal grudges and were an abuse of the process of the court.
“…the instant criminal proceedings initiated by the de-facto complainant against the husband and in-laws does not disclose prima facie offence against them as alleged. The proceeding are instituted only to fulfil personal grudge.”
The Court, after considering the allegations, evidence, and legal precedents, quashed the criminal proceedings against the petitioner due to lack of substantial evidence, abuse of process, and the presence of a personal grudge. The Court exercised its inherent power under section 482 of the CrPC to prevent an unjust continuation of the proceedings. The Court disposed of the revision applications and vacated any previous stay orders.
[Swapan Kumar Das v. State of W.B., 2023 SCC OnLine Cal 2427, order dated 21-08-2023]
*Judgment by Justice Subhendu Samanta
Advocates who appeared in this case:
Mr. Ayan Bhattacharjee, Sr. Adv., Mr. Sharequl Haque, Mr. Debarka Guha, Counsel for the Petitioner
Mr. Saswata Gopal Mukherjee, Mr. Imran Ali, Ms. Debjani Sahu, Counsel for the Respondent/State