kerala high court

Kerala High Court: In a petition seeking to quash criminal proceedings under Section 498A read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC') initiated at the instance of a wife against the live-in partner of her husband, K. Babu J. held that a girlfriend/live-in partner not being a relative as per IPC Section 498A could not be prosecuted.

Factual Matrix

The accused persons in the instant matter were the de facto complainant's husband, mother-in-law, brother-in-law and live-in partner. The marriage was solemnized on 31-01-2009 as per Hindu rites and customs. After their relationship got strained, the wife lodged the First Information Statement (‘FIS') alleging that she was subjected to cruelty by her husband and his relatives, including his live-in partner. The Police accordingly registered First Information Report (‘FIR') against the petitioner and other accused, conducted investigation and submitted a final report for offences punishable under Section 498-A r/w Section 34 of IPC.

Court's Scanner on Section 498A of IPC

The Court admitted that the petitioner in the instant matter was not a relative of the accused husband, but only a woman with whom he has had romantic or sexual relationships outside the marriage. The Court scrutinized the provision under Section 498A of IPC and expressed that “The specific language of the Section and the Explanation thereof led to the conclusion that the word ‘relative’ would not include a woman with whom a man has had sexual relations outside of the marriage. By no stretch of imagination, a girlfriend or even a woman who maintains sexual relations with a man outside of marriage in an etymological sense would be a ‘relative’.”

The Court emphasized the status within the purview of word ‘relative', which may either be conferred by blood, marriage or adoption. It further clarified with regard to the instant matter that in the absence of a marriage, the question of being a relative of another did not arise. The Court relied on U. Suvetha v. State, (2009) 6 SCC 757 and Vijeta Gajra v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2010) 11 SCC 618 and expressed that “S.498A, IPC being a penal provision, would deserve strict construction, and unless a contextual meaning is required to be given to the statute, the said statute has to be construed strictly.”

Therefore, the Court clarified that there was no scope for prosecution against the petitioner under Section 498A of IPC and quashed the FIR and final report filed against her.

[Chandhini T.K. v. State of Kerala, 2023 SCC OnLine Ker 7965, Order dated 3-08-2021]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For State: Public Prosecutor M.K. Pushpalatha

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