punjab and haryana high court

Punjab and Haryana High Court: In a petition filed under Section 438 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (‘CrPC’) seeking anticipatory bail for offences under Sections 406 and 498-A of Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’), Sumeet Goel, J. laid principles for Section 498A anticipatory bail in case of non-recovery of dowry articles and allowed grant of anticipatory bail for the husband.

Factual Background

The First Information Report (‘FIR’) was registered on 4-11-2023 on the wife’s statement that her marriage was solemnized on 25-05-2022. It was alleged that the husband and his family were never satisfied with the amount of dowry given at the time of marriage, and she was maltreated, harassed and taunted by her in-laws immediately after her marriage, for bringing less dowry. She was also subjected to physical cruelty. After intervention of various respectable persons and the panchayat, the matter was compromised and the complainant was rehabilitated, but the behaviour of her husband and in-laws did not change.

It was alleged that the husband was a habitual drunkard who often used to beat his wife and her in-laws used to quarrel with her for not bringing sufficient dowry. Events of husband leaving his wife at matrimonial home and not taking her back were pointed out, followed by demand of Rs 5 lakhs, after which, she was never taken back and was residing at her parental house since October 2022.

The husband was granted interim anticipatory bail on 2-12-2023, and no amicable settlement arrived between the parties before the Mediation and Conciliation Centre and the matter was brought before the Court. It was submitted on behalf of the State that the husband was not required for custodial interrogation, and that the entire dowry articles/stridhan were not recovered.

The Court stated that the primary issue for determination in the instant matter was whether the plea for anticipatory bail could be declined for non-recovery of dowry articles/stridhan alleged to be in the possession of the husband. The Court perused Section 406 of IPC along with the provision and statement of objects and reasons for Section 498-A of IPC.

Legal Analysis

The Court referred to Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar, (2014) 8 SCC 273, Dilpreet Singh vs. State of Punjab, Neutral Citation No.PHHC007557 regarding bail in like matters, and Bimla Tiwari v. State of Bihar, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 51 and Ramesh Kumar v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2023) 7 SCC 461 for grant of bail in criminal matters.

The Court noted that Section 498-A IPC was introduced for curbing the evil of dowry and regarded the Supreme Court’s Arnesh Kumar (supra) as the celebrated judgment for extensively dealing with the issue of “deliberate and rampant misuse of provisions of Section 498-A of IPC as a tool of harassment by a disgruntled wife. The Courts are flooded with cases where it is found that the complainant-wife has misused the provision of Section 498-A of IPC to settle score(s) with her husband and his family members, but at the same time it cannot be ignored that in very many cases such allegations of dowry harassment made by the wife turn out to be true.”

The Court further pointed towards the lack of a family level/Social Forum for redressal of grievances of a wife arising out of matrimonial acrimony, and somewhat regarded the same as a reason for disgruntled wife launching criminal proceedings under IPC Section 498A for settlement of the matrimonial discord in one way or the other, being left with no other alternative redressal forum. It further mentioned the Courts’ duty while adjudicating upon anticipatory bail pleas in dowry harassment cases to balance out the issue of personal liberty vis à vis wife’s grievance in the background of needs of a society governed by law.

The Court expressed that mostly in cases of anticipatory bail in like matters, the main contention revolves around recovery of dowry articles/stridhan, and such contentions cannot be evaluated on a weighing scale, and the Court cannot ordinarily enter the realm of recovery while considering plea for anticipatory bail and found it more appropriate to be dealt with by the Trial Court at the appropriate stage.

The Court contrasted domestic/matrimonial issues with typical criminal cases, and stridhan as against typical money dispute. It expressed that “a Court is required to consider the aspect of balancing equities as well while dealing with a plea for grant of anticipatory bail for an offence under Section 498-A IPC despite the fact that such a case falls within the purview of IPC. In this background, the defiant or obstinate conduct of an accused, in not extending cooperation towards recovery of Istri-dhan/dowry articles, may even entail rejection of a plea by such an accused for grant of anticipatory bail, if the facts of such case so warrant.”

The Court laid the following principles:

  1. Non-recovery of dowry articles/stridhan cannot ordinarily be a ground for declining a plea for anticipatory bail to the husband or his relatives;

  2. The accused’s conduct is a relevant factor for considering such a plea. Such conduct would also include cooperation extended by the accused for recovery of dowry articles/stridhan, as ascertainable from the facts and circumstances of a given case;

  3. In exceptional cases, if the peculiar and/or accentuating facts/circumstances of the case so warrant, a Court would be well within its discretion to pass a direction to the petitioner/accused to deposit in Court or remit to the complainant-wife an appropriate amount towards the Istri-dhan/dowry articles. It is neither possible nor desirable to enumerate a set of guidelines in this regard and a Court would have to exercise its judicial discretion based on facts and circumstances of the case.

Factual Analysis

The Court took note of the husband’s submissions that the dispute primarily resulted n account of health issues being suffered by him, and a petition under Section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 seeking decree of divorce, and that the instant FIR was a counter-blast. It further highlighted about parties’ failure to amicably settle the dispute through the Mediation and Conciliation Centre. The Court highlighted that none of the Counsel for State or complainant mentioned any misuse of concession of interim bail by threatening/intimidating witnesses or influencing the investigation, etc.


The Court was of the view that the interim order deserved to be made absolute for grant of anticipatory bail for the husband. It further clarified that the instant order should not be read as an indefinite protection from arrest for the husband, and also confined to the FIR.

[Varun Sharma v. State of Punjab, 2024 SCC OnLine P&H 455, Order dated 12-02-2024]

Judgment by: Justice Sumeet Goel

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Petitioner: Advocate Kanhiya Soni, Assistant Advocate General Hemant Aggarwal

For Respondent: Advocate Harmanpreet Kaur, Advocate Naresh Paul

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