Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Jaishree Thakur, J., allowed a petition filed under Section 482 CrPC and held that,

“Disgruntled wives use the provisions of Section 498- A IPC as a weapon rather than shield.”

Petitioners have been summoned to face trial under Sections 498-A, 506, 120-B Penal Code, 1860 an order declaring petitioners as proclaimed offenders.

Complainant got married to Jaswant Singh. The complaint was made against Jaswant Singh, Amarjit Kaur was alleged to be his second wife.

Soon after the marriage, accused persons had started harassing the complainant. Husband of the complainant at the instance of other accused gave the complainant beatings and stated that she would have no place in the house if the demands are not fulfilled.

Even during the birth of complainant’s child her delivery expenses were borne by her parents. Husband and petitioners herein along with mother-in-law taunted the complainant for not giving birth to a male child. 

Complainant was threatened of dire consequences on making a complaint against the husband.

Husband without taking divorce from the complainant had also solemnized a second marriage. Thus she filed a petition under Section 125 CrPC and also an application under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

Bench observed that no direct and specific allegations against the petitioners were made out with regard to beating to the complainant or demand of dowry or misappropriation of stridhan.

Petitioner 1 is the sister-in-law of the complainant, who after marriage and had been residing in her matrimonial home, there is not even a remotest possibility that husband of the complainant was used to give beatings to her at the instance of petitioner 1. Petitioner 2 was 11 years old when the complainant alleged that she was given beatings by her husband at the instance of petitioner 2. Moreover, he had left for Canada in and was residing there since then. Similarly, petitioner 3 had also left for Canada in 1996 and was residing there since then with petitioner 2. In such an eventuality, it is hard to believe that petitioners had harassed the complainant as alleged in the complaint.

Thus, in view of the above, Court stated that,

It has become a common practice to use the provisions of Section 498- A IPC as a weapon rather than shield by disgruntled wives.

Simplest way to harass is to get the relatives of the husband roped in under this provision, no matter they are bed ridden grand parents of the husband or the relatives living abroad for decades.

In the present case also, complainant failed to make out a prima facie case against the petitioners regarding allegation of inflicting physical and mental torture.

Therefore, Court opined that the present case is a sheer abuse of process of law. [Amarjit Kaur v. Jaswinder Kaur, CRM-M No. 13517 of 208, decided on 15-05-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delay in lodging a complaint cannot be used as a ritualistic formula for doubting prosecution case

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., addressed an appeal impugning an order and judgment of acquittal of the accused of offences punishable under Section 498-A (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty), Section 323 (Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 506 (Punishment for criminal intimidation), 494 (Marrying again during lifetime of husband or wife) read with Section 109 (Punishment of abetment if the act abetted is committed in consequence and where no express provision is made for its punishment) of Penal Code, 1860.

The complainant- PW-1 got married to accused 1. It has been stated that at the time of complainant’s father’s retirement he received a cheque of retirement benefits that the accused 1 got to know about and demanded PW-1 to get Rs 1 lakh from her father. It has been added that accused 1 also suspected PW-1 of immortality.

Accused 1 got married to accused 5 while he was still married to PW-1. Thus PW-1 lodged a complaint.

In the Supreme Court’s decision of Murlidhar v. State of Karnataka, (2014) 5 SCC 730, it was held that,

Unless the conclusions reached by the trial court are found to be palpably wrong or based on erroneous view of the law or if such conclusions are allowed to stand, they are likely to result in grave injustice, Appellate Court should not interfere with conclusions of the trial court.

High Court while deciding the matter, noted that there is a presumption of innocence in favour of respondent and such presumption is strengthened by the order of acquittal passed in favour of the trial court.

Further, the bench stated that, according to PW-1, accused 1 demanded Rs 1 lakh when he saw the retirement benefits cheque in the hand of her father and her father got retired on 28-02-2001. PW-1/Complainant lodged the complaint on 04-01-2002, but the delay for the same was not explained. PW-1 left her children behind when she left the accused 1’s house but she never filed for divorce, custody petition. But filed for maintenance petition on 10-03-2003 for which the delay was not explained again.

Delay in lodging the complaint cannot be used a ritualistic formula for doubting the presecution case and discarding the same solely on the ground of delay in lodging the complaint.

Delay has the effect of putting the Court in its guard to search if any explanation has been offered for the delay, and if offered, whether it is satisfactory.

Hence, the Court stated that in the present case there was not even an attempt by the prosecution to explain the delay. Court noted that, PW-1 had no problems living alone with her parents but when PW-1 heard from her father that accused 1 had married accused 5, PW-1 decided to teach accused 1 a lesson.

In view of the above, Court held that,

It is unfortunate that in a matter like this even the family members get dragged. Prosecution should refrain from dragging all family members unless there is enough specific evidence against the family members otherwise provisions of Section 498-A will, unfortunately, be misused as a weapon.

Therefore, the allegation of offence under Section 494 of IPC had not been proved and the decision of the trial court of acquittal of all the accused persons was rightly taken. [State of Maharashtra v. Ashok, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 331, decided on 26-02-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., while upholding the decision of the trial court with regard to the acquittal of the accused, held that,

“There is an acquittal and therefore, there is double presumption in favour of accused.”

The present appeal was filed impugning an order and Judgment by Vth Adhoc Sessions Judge, Pune, acquitting 6 accused of offences punishable under Sections 498A, 306, 201 read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860.

Accused were charged with offences punishable under Sections 498A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty), 302 (punishment for murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender ) read with Section 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of IPC.

Jayshree (Deceased) on visiting her parental home on several occasions had informed of the ill-treatment and harassment she was being received from her matrimonial home on account of demand of money for buying a Motorcycle.

On hearing the same, Complainant (Jayshree’s father) made the in-laws of Jayshree realise that they should not ill-treat or harass Jayshree.  After a few days, on one morning Complainant received the message of Jayshree being dead.

Thereafter, Complainant alleged the accused of having ill-treated Jayshree on account of demand of money for the purchase of Motor Cycle and made her life miserable and thereafter murdered her. Base on the same, offence was lodged under Sections 498A, 302, 201 and 34 of Penal Code.

Trial Court altered the charge from Section 302 to 306 IPC on receiving an application for the same as the medical report stated that the cause of death was by hanging, i.e., suicide not murder.

After hearing the parties and on receiving the evidence pertaining to the case, Court passed the order of acquittal, which is impugned in the present appeal.

APP submitted that the accused were harassing and ill-treating the deceased by unlawfully demanding Hero Honda Motor Cycle. Jayshree on not being able to bear with the harassment on the part of the accused, therefore, abetted the commission of suicide by Jayshree. Hence all the accused have to be convicted.

Senior Advocate, Rajiv Patil while defending the impugned Judgment submitted that none of the witnesses can be taken to have proved the offence under Sections 498A or 201 or 306 of IPC.

Decision

High Court agreed with the respondent’s counsel on considering the evidence placed on record.

With regard to the evidence in regard to the allegation of demand of money for motor cycle, documents showing that the accused had bought the same before his marriage on taking a loan from the bank which was also repaid before the marriage have been placed on record.

Regarding Section 306 IPC, Court noted that no evidence had been placed on record to speak off. There was no evidence to suggest or indicate that the accused knew or had reason to believe that the deceased would commit suicide.

“Even if any acts or words uttered by the accused or their conduct are sufficient to demean or humiliate the deceased and even to drive the deceased to suicide, such acts will not amount to instigation or abetment of commission of suicide, unless it is established that the accused intended by their acts that the deceased must commit suicide. It is not enough if the acts of the accused cause persuasion in the mind of the deceased to commit suicide.”

In reference to the above, decision of Kerala High Court was cited, Cyriac v. Sub-Inspector of Police, Kaduthuruthy, 2005 SCC OnLine Ker 346, wherein it was held that,

“…it is not what the deceased ‘felt’, but what the accused ‘intended’ by her act which is more important.”

Thus, in Court’s opinion and on considering the evidence on record, prosecution failed to drive home the charge under Section 498A or Section 306 IPC.

Bench held that there is double presumption in favour of the accused,  firstly, the presumption of innocence available to the accused under the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that every person shall be presumed to be innocent unless they are proved guilty by a competent court of law. Secondly, accused having secured their acquittal, the presumption of their innocence is further reinforced, reaffirmed and strengthened by the trial court.

Hence, trial court’s decision cannot be held illegal or improper or contrary to law. [State of Maharashtra v. Vijay Maruti Bombale, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 5985, decided on 19-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of S.S. Shinde and V.G. Bisht, JJ., dismissed the criminal appeal on finding the trial court’s decision which was challenged to be in consonance with evidence on record.

A criminal appeal was filed by the deceased’s father (Informant) against the judgment and order that acquitted the respondents of the offence punishable under Sections 498-A, 304B, 302 read with 34 of Penal Code, 1860.

Deceased (Ambavva) was married to accused 2 and during the settlement of their marriage, the informant had agreed to give an amount of Rs 10,000 and one tola gold to the accused 2. As per custom, informant went to the accused persons house to take back Ambavva for a ceremony but was refused to go. After about 12 days when no message was received from Ambavva, informant again went to see her but accused persons did not allow meeting him.

Ambavva once had informed the informant that she was subjected to mental cruelty and insulting treatment by the accused persons.

One of the daughters of the informant informed that Ambavva had left the house of the accused persons without informing anybody and on that event informant along with his family went to the police station to report the same and were informed by the police that Ambavva had died.

Thereafter, informant when went to the accused persons house found in the adjoining land of their house, dead body of Ambavva floating on the well water.

In view of the above, informant lodged a complaint against the accused persons and a report was lodged by complainant offences punishable under Sections 498-A, 306 of Penal Code.

Trial Court had acquitted the respondents from all the charges and hence the present appeal was filed.

Trial Court had relied on the medical evidence and opined that in case of a homicidal death, there would have been some injuries on the persons of Ambavva, but there were none.

Conclusion

High Court on noting the facts and evidence placed by the prosecutions stated that the evidence of the witnesses suffers from non-disclosure of specific details of alleged cruelty and harassment to Ambavva at the hands of the accused.

Mere allegations of harassment and cruelty, in absence of mentioning specific-time, date and specific overact qua accused would not attract any ingredients of Section 304B of IPC. Prosecution failed to establish that there was cruelty and harassment to Ambavva by the accused.

Further, the Court stated that even to attract the ingredients of Section 498-A of IPC, prosecution must have shown specific acts of the accused suggesting cruelty and harassment.

Thus on vague and general allegations, it is not possible to base the conviction of the accused thereby reversing the well-reasoned order of acquittal passed by the trial court. [State of Maharashtra v. Basveshwar Kallapa Patne, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 219, decided on 03-02-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., dismissed an appeal filed against the order of the trial court whereby the respondent-accused were acquitted of the offences under Section 498-A (husband or relative of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and Section 306 (abetment of suicide) read with Section 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Penal Code.

The case of the prosecution was that prior to date of incident, the accused (husband and in-laws of the deceased), in furtherance of their common intention, subjected the deceased to cruelty and abetted a suicide. The accused were chargesheeted and tried for the offences under Sections 498-A and 306 read with Section 34 IPC. However, they were acquitted of all the charges by the trial court. Aggrieved thereby, the State filed the instant appeal.

Regarding the offence under Section 498-A, the High Court observed: “Law on what would amount to an offence under Section 498-A, has been well discussed in catena of judgments. It is settled law that under Section 498-A IPC, every cruelty is not an offence. The cruelty must be of such a degree as contemplated by this Section, i.e. it must be willful conduct of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb, and health of the woman.” It was noted by the Court that the allegations made against the accused regarding demand of money, ill-treatment due to inability to cook, cruelty due to not conceiving, were general allegations and no details were mentioned. In such circumstances, it was held that the allegations under Section 498-A were not proved.

Coming to the offence under Section 306, the High Court noted that this was a case of abetment by instigation. It was observed: “In order to constitute ‘abetment by instigation’ there must be a direct incitement to do the culpable act.” After referring to a catena of decisions on the subject and considering the facts of the instant case, the Court stated: “It is nobody’s case that the accused intended Aarifa to commit suicide. A fatal impulse or an ill-fated thought of the deceased, however unfortunate and touchy it may be, cannot fray the fabric of the provision contained in Section 306 IPC. In short, it is not what the deceased ‘felt’, but what the accused ‘intended’ by their act which is more important in this context.”

In light of what has been mentioned above, the High Court concluded that the opinion of the trial court could not be held to be illegal or improper or contrary to law. The order of acquittal, in Court’s view, required no interference. [State of Maharashtra v. Nabab Mohammad Shaikh, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 290, decided on 04-02-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: A Full Bench of Prashant Kumar Mishra, Rajendra Chandra Singh Samant and Gautam Chourdiya, JJ., has held that the prospective accused is neither necessary nor a proper party in a writ petition seeking direction for registration of FIR and investigation into a cognizable offence. The Court was answering the question formulated by the Single Judge.

The daughter of the petitioner was married to one Mithilesh Kumar. The petitioner alleged that on account of ill-treatment and demand of dowry, his daughter committed suicide by hanging. He filed an application before the police against Mithilesh and his family members. Since no action was taken by the police, the petitioner filed the writ petition seeking a direction to the police authorities to register FIR and arrest Mithilesh and his family members for committing offences punishable under Sections 498-A and 304-B IPC. The Single Judge before whom the petition was placed, referred the following question for an effective pronouncement by the Full Bench:

“Whether in a writ petition preferred under Article 226, 227 of the Constitution of India seeking direction for registration of FIR and investigation against the accused persons alleged to have committed the cognizable offence(s), the said accused persons are necessary or proper party and they are required to be noticed and heard before issuing any such writ/direction, if any?”

Relying on a catena of decisions including Lalita Kumari v. State of U.P., (2014) 2 SCC 1Union of India v. WN Chadha, 1993 Supp (4) SCC 260Anju Chaudhary v. State of U.P., (2013) 6 SCC 384; etc., the High Court observed: “In the above view of the matter, it is an absolutely settled legal position that a prospective accused has no right of hearing before registration of FIR and investigation by the police officer or before the Court including the writ court, therefore, in a writ petition seeking direction for registration of FIR and investigation into a cognizable offence, the prospective accused is neither necessary nor a proper party.”

The Full Bench answered the reference accordingly and directed the matter to be placed before the appropriate Bench for further proceedings. [Dhananjay Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2020 SCC OnLine Chh 4, decided on 30-01-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of P.N. Deshmukh and Pushpa V. Ganediwala, JJ., allowed a criminal appeal filed against the order of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for committing the offence of murder punishable under Section 302 IPC and for the offence of cruelty to women punishable under Section 498-A IPC. 

The appellant was convicted for the murder of his wife. It was alleged by the prosecution that the appellant used to ill-treat and harass the deceased after consuming liquor. The deceased died as a result of a hundred percent burn injuries. The conviction of the appellant was based on the dying declaration of the deceased recorded in the hospital. Aggrieved by his conviction, the appellant filed the instant appeal. 

The High Court considered the submissions made by R.M. Daga, Advocate appearing for the appellant, and S.P. Deshpande, Additional Public Prosecutor representing the State. 

Perusing the order of the trial court, the high court noted that the order convicting the appellant was based only on the dying declaration of the deceased. Considering the post mortem report, the Court found that the deceased died of hundred percent burn injuries.  In such circumstances, the Court was of the opinion that a bare perusal of the dying declaration would reveal the deceased’s thumb impression thereon with clear ridges, which creates a doubt in the case of the prosecution. 

Moreover, no medical officer was examined by the prosecution to bring on record the fact of the physical and mental state of the deceased before and after recording the statement, nor there is anything on record to establish that in spite of any attempts made by the prosecution, no presence of concerned medical officer could be obtained. Reliance was placed on the decision of the Supreme Court in State of H.P. v. Jai Lal, (1999) 7 SCC 280. wherein it was held that the report of an expert witness cannot be accepted as it is unless the expert witness has been examined and in the absence of examination of the medical expert, the certificate given by him cannot be read into evidence. It was also held that medical witness is an expert witness and his evidence stands on a different pedestal than an ordinary witness.    

In such view of the matter, the High Court allowed the appeal and set aside the order of the trial court conviction the appellant. [Pravin v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 95,  decided on 07-01-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: K.K. Sonawane, J., allowed an appeal filed against the order of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for committing the offence of cruelty to women punishable under Section 498-A IPC and for abetment of suicide punishable under Section 306 IPC. 

The appellant was the sister-in-law of the deceased. The prosecution case was that the deceased was tortured by her for the demand of dowry. One fateful day, the deceased was rushed to the Government Hospital with severe burn injuries. The deceased ultimately succumbed to her injuries. It was alleged that the deceased was abused and beaten up by the appellant for not fulfilling the dowry demand. It was alleged further that on the day of the incident, the appellant had poured kerosene on the deceased and set her ablaze. 

Notably, in her initial statements, including the one given to the Special Executive Magistrate, the deceased stated that she sustained the burns accidentally due to a sudden blaze of the stove. However, later, the deceased changed her statement and said that the appellant poured kerosene on her and put her on fire. 

At the commencement of the trial, the trial court framed charges against the appellant for the offence of cruelty to women punishable under Section 498-A and for the offence of murder punishable under Section 302 IPC. In the alternative, the charge was also framed for the commission of the offence of abetment of suicide punishable under Section 306 and for the offence of dowry death punishable under Section 304-B IPC. At the conclusion of the trial, the appellant was acquitted of the offences punishable under Sections 302 and 304-B. However, the trial court convicted her for the offence punishable under Section 498-A and Section 306. 

The High Court gave anxious consideration to the arguments advanced by P.F. Patni, Advocate representing the appellant, and A.A. Jagatkar, APP appearing for the State. 

Delving into the oral and circumstantial evidence adduced on record and the factual score of the matter, the Court found it painful to subscribe to the findings of conviction of the appellant recorded by the trial court. The Court noted that there were no allegations on behalf of the prosecution that owing to maltreatment/cruelty, the deceased committed suicide. In contrast, the prosecution came forward with specific allegations that the death of the deceased was homicidal and the appellant was responsible for her death. In the alternative, the prosecution alleged that it was an offense of dowry death punishable under Section 304-B IPC. But, the trial Court acquitted the appellant on both these counts and proceeded to convict her under Sections 306 and 498-A IPC. 

Albeit, the trial Court held the appellant guilty for the offence punishable under Section 306 on the allegation that the deceased committed suicide by pouring kerosene and set herself ablaze. The trial court drew the adverse inference of self-immolation of deceased on the basis of attending circumstances found prevailing over on the scene of occurrence. 

The High Court was of the opinion that the observations of the trial court for the conclusion of suicidal death appear to be rest on a figment of imagination, surmises and conjuncture. It was noted that the trial court on its own proceeded to substitute a new story of suicidal death, totally different from one propounded on behalf of the prosecution in this matter. 

Placing reliance on Bhagirath v. State of M.P., (1976) 1 SCC 20 and Sohrab v. State of M.P., (1972) 3 SCC 751, the Court observed: “It is to be born in mind that law does not permit such endeavour on the part of learned trial Court to reconstruct a new theory of its own from the residual part of evidence of prosecution and convict the accused on that basis.”

In such circumstances, the opinion of the Court was that it would be fallacious to fasten the guilt on the accused for offence under Section 306 IPC under the pretext of the suicidal death of the deceased. Resultantly, the conviction of the appellant for the offence punishable under Section 306 was set aside and quashed.

Also, considering the entire record, the High Court held that the conclusion drawn by the trial court about the cruelty meted out to the deceased were erroneous, imperfect and perverse. Therefore, the appellant’s conviction under Section 498-A IPC was also set aside. [Rekha v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 7218, decided on 19-11-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J., set aside the order of the trial court challenged by the appellant, whereby the appellant was convicted for the offences punishable under Section 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and Section 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Penal Code.

The wife of the appellant had committed suicide and left behind a suicide note stating that the appellant had an affair with some other lady and that he had beaten her on the day when she committed suicide. The appellant was tried and convicted by the trial court as mentioned above. Aggrieved thereby, he filed the instant appeal.

Firstly, regarding conviction under Section 498-A IPC, the High Court noted that the facts alleged in the suicide note were not proved by the prosecution. None of the prosecution witnesses supported the allegation and the appellant was having an affair with some other lady outside his marriage. Also, the parents and relatives of the deceased denied having made a statement about any demand or harassment for dowry. Furthermore, the post mortem report of the deceased showed that there was one mark of a slap, which did not prove the allegation in her suicide note that the appellant has beaten her a lot that day.

Observing that the prosecution was unable to prove that there was any harassment of the deceased, it was held that the trial court erred in convicting the appellant under Section 498-A Accordingly, the High Court set aside appellant’s conviction under Section 498-A.

Now, considering the conviction for abetment of suicide under Section 306, the High Court noted that the trial court further held that since the appellant has committed the offence under Section 498-A, he can also be convicted for the offence punishable under Section 306 IPC.

The Court relied on the decision of the Supreme Court in Gurjit Singh v. State of Punjab, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1516, wherein it was held that merely because an accused is found guilty of an offence punishable under Section 498-S of the IPC and the death has occurred within a period of seven years of the marriage the accused cannot be automatically held guilty for the offence punishable under Section 306 of the IPC by employing the presumption under Section 113-A of the Evidence Act. Unless the prosecution established that some act or illegal omission by the accused has driven the deceased to commit suicide, the conviction under Section 306 would not be tenable.

Noting that there was no evidence in that the appellant treated the deceased with cruelty immediately prior to committing suicide, the Court held that the order of the trial court convicting the appellant of the offences under Sections 498-A and 306 IPC was liable to be set aside. The appellant was acquitted of all the charges. [Kunwar Pal v. State, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 8, decided on 07-01-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: N. Anil Kumar, J. allowed this application for anticipatory bail under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

The applicant of this bail is the accused in Crime No. 2227 of 2019 of the Sasthamkotta Police Station in Kollam District. The applicant was accused of committing offences punishable under Section 498-A of the Penal Code.

The contentions made by the counsel for the complainant, C.N. Prabhakaran, are that the wife of the accused is the de facto complainant. The de facto complainant got married to the accused on 5-11-2018. After that the wife lived at the matrimonial home of the accused of 3 months where she alleged was treated with cruelty and was mistreated. The wife filed a petition before District Police Chief, Kollam against the accused of the same reasons.

The contentions made by the counsel for the petitioner, M.R. Jayalatha, are that the accused filed O.P. No. 982 of 2019 before the Family Court and alleged that the wife has stolen the gold ornaments which were entrusted with her by the applicant’s family after the marriage.

After hearing both the sides, the Court held that both the parties are in a matrimonial dispute and the Original Petition is already pending in the Family Court. The Court held that because the matter is matrimonial, the petitioner can be granted the bail-in case he gets arrested. Though the Court laid down certain conditions-

  1. the petitioner will be granted the bail-in case of arrest, but he will have to execute a personal bond of Rs 50,000 along with bonds of two solvent sureties amounting to the satisfaction of the arresting officer
  2. the petitioner will have to make himself present before the Investigating Officer, as when directed
  3. the petitioner will not intimidate or influence the prosecution witness
  4. in case of non-compliance with the order of this Court, the Court having jurisdiction over the case can cancel his bail. [Sunil Kumar v. State of Kerala, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 6060, decided on 27-12-2019]
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., dismissed an appeal filed against the order of the trial court whereby it had acquitted of the offences punishable under Sections 498-A, 306, 201 read with Section 34 Penal Code, 1860.

The accused were the in-laws of the deceased. The complainant (father of the deceased)and harassed her due to the non-fulfilment of their demand. Further, it was alleged that subsequent to the harassment, the accused persons murder the deceased. However, during the trial, the charge of murder against the accused persons was altered to that of the abetment of suicide. At the conclusion of the trial, the trial court acquitted all the accused. Aggrieved thereby, the State approached the High Court in the instant appeal.

The High Court considered the findings of the trial court and held that the offence under Section 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) was not established as the demand of money, such as alleged by the complainant, could not be proved by the prosecution.

Coming to the charge under Section 306 (abetment of suicide), the High Court, relying on Sanju v. State of M.P., (2002) 5 SCC 371, explained: “Here is the case of abetment by instigation. The word ‘instigate’ means to goad or urge or forward or to provoke, incite, or encourage to do an untoward act which that person would have otherwise not done. It is also well settled that in order to amount to abetment, there must be mens rea. Without knowledge or intention, there can be no abetment and the knowledge and intention must relate to the act said to be abetted, i.e., suicide, in this case. In order to constitute ‘abetment by instigation’, there must be a direct incitement to do the culpable act. The word ‘instigate’ denotes incitement or urging to do some drastic or unadvisable action or to stimulate or incite. Presence of mens rea, therefore, is the necessary concomitant of instigation.”

It was noted that in the instant case, “There is no evidence to suggest or indicate that the accused knew or had reason to believe that deceased would commit suicide. Even if any acts or words uttered by the accused or their conduct are sufficient to demean or humiliate the deceased and even to drive the deceased to suicide, such acts will not amount to instigation or abetment of commission of suicide, unless it is established that the accused intended by their acts that the deceased must commit suicide. It is not enough if the acts of the accused cause persuasion in the mind of the deceased to commit suicide.”

The offence under Section 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender) was also held to be not proved. Therefore, the order of the trial court was upheld and the instant appeal was dismissed. [State of Maharashtra v. Vijay Maruti Bombale, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 5985, decided on 19-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Deepak Roshan, J., modified the sentence of the trial court to the extent in lieu of compensation which should be paid to the victim-wife.

In the pertinent case, the petitioner moved to this Court against the judgment passed by the Additional Sessions Judge-I, whereby the appeal preferred by the petitioners was dismissed and the judgment of conviction and order of sentence whereby the petitioners were found guilty for offence punishable under Section 498-A of Penal Code, 1860 and they were convicted and sentenced to undergo RI for 18 months and fine of Rs 1000 each has been affirmed.

The counsel for the petitioners, J.P. Pandey, submitted that there are contradictions in prosecution witnesses and the allegations made in the FIR does not corroborate with the evidence of the informant hence, the petitioners deserve to be acquitted. Further, the petitioners have remained in custody for about one month as such some leniency may be granted by this Court.

The Court held that it cannot interfere with the findings of the courts below due to the limited scope of the revisional jurisdiction, therefore, the conviction against the petitioners are confirmed. With respect to the sentence, the Court observed that the incident is of the year 2004 and 15 years have elapsed and the petitioners have suffered the rigors of litigation for the last 15 years and also remained in custody for 36 days. The court was of the view that it may not be proper for this Court to send the accused persons back to prison and found that it is expedient in the interest of justice that the sentence should be modified in lieu of compensation which should be paid to the victim-wife. Hence, the Court modified the impugned order to the extent that the petitioners are sentenced to undergo for the period already undergone subject to the payment of fine of Rs 5000 each failing which they shall serve the rest of the sentence as directed by the trial court. [Santosh Mandal v. State of Jharkhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 1453, decided on 18-10-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Vibhu Bhakru, J. dismissed a criminal appeal filed against the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for offences punishable under Sections 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Penal Code.

H.S. Sharma, Advocate for the appellant, submitted that the appellant could not be held guilty under Section 498-A as the trial court had found that there was no material to establish that the accused or his family members had demanded any dowry. Per contra, Amit Gupta, APP, supported the order of the trial court.

The High Court noted that though the allegations of demand of dowry against the appellant were not proved, the allegations that the appellant used to beat the deceased (his wife) were well substantiated by the evidence on record. It was noted further that a note written in the handwriting of the deceased was the principal piece of evidence on which the appellant’s conviction was based. A plain reading of the note indicated that the appellant was not happy with the deceased giving birth to a female child, and she feared for her and her daughter’s life.

Admittedly, the appellant was habitual of consuming ganja that led to quarrels between him and the deceased. It was also evident that the appellant used to beat the deceased. The High Court observed: “The contention that the appellant could not be convicted under Section 498-(a) IPC as the trial court had not accepted the allegation of demand of dowry, is unsustainable. Clause (a) of Section 498-A IPC refers to offensive conduct of nature so as to drive a woman to commit suicide. It is not necessary that such offensive conduct is in connection with the demanded dowry. The note was written by the deceased clearly indicates that the conduct of the appellant had led her to fear for her life and that of her girl child. She had eventually taken her own life.”

Further, it was held that the contention that the appellant could not be held guilty under Section 306 IPC was also unmerited. Reference was made to Section 113-A (presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman) of the Evidence Act. The Court observed: “There is a statutory presumption that if an accused is found guilty of the offence of cruelty under Section 498-A IPC and the wife of the appellant has committed suicide within seven years of her marriage, it would be presumed that the appellant was guilty of abetting the commission of suicide. The presumption is a rebuttable presumption and it was open for the appellant to lead evidence to rebut the same. However, the appellant has failed to do so. The appellant led no evidence to dispel the said presumption.”

In such view of the matter, the appeal was dismissed. [Rohit Gupta v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 10670, decided on 21-10-2018]

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Bombay High Court: S.S. Shinde, J. dismissed a petition while reiterating the decisions of the Supreme Court in the case, Nikita v. Yadwinder Singh, Criminal Appeal No. 1096 of 2019, wherein it was held that,

“At the place where the wife takes shelter after leaving or driven away from the matrimonial home on account of acts of cruelty committed by the husband or his relatives, would, dependent on the factual situation, also have jurisdiction to entertain a complaint alleging the commission of offences under Section 498-A of Indian Penal Code.”

In the present case, the petitioner and respondent married each other and Respondent 2 thereafter migrated to North Carolina, USA with the petitioner. On shifting to Carolina, in a matter of few years, Respondent 2 gave birth to a child with whom she left petitioner’s home and went to her brother’s place in Columbus. Petitioner after meeting Respondent 2 in Columbus filed a divorce and custody petition in the Supreme Court of California.

Further, it has been stated that, while the Supreme Court attempted to serve summons to Respondent 2, she deliberately evaded the service and shifted to Meerut in India. In the year 2015, Petitioner gave divorce to the Respondent 2 after which, Respondent 2 field permanent custody petition in Family Court, Bandra.

In 2016, Respondent 2 filed a Domestic Violence Case under Section 12 of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 before the Metropolitan Magistrate Court, Mulund, that passed the maintenance order and in the year 2017, Sessions Court dismissed the Criminal Appeal filed by the petitioner.

Submissions of the parties

Counsels for the Petitioner, Prashant Pandey, Vijayalaxmi Shetty, Darshit Jain, Irfan Unwala and M.A. Khan, submitted that there was more than two years delay in filing the complaint by Respondent 2 before the Magistrate’s Court. When there was a delay, on the said ground alone, the Magistrate ought to have dismissed the complaint. Further, it was submitted that Magistrate has no jurisdiction to entertain the complaint since the alleged domestic violence is not committed in India.

Counsel appearing on behalf of the Respondent 2, Shaheen, submitted that Respondent 2 is residing at Mumbai with her brother, and therefore, she has instituted proceedings before Magistrate’s Court at Mumbai.

Petitioner was constantly threatening Respondent 2 and when Respondent 2 asked the petitioner about the renewal of visa, the petitioner flatly refused for such renewal. Petitioner relied on the Supreme Court case of Nikita v. Yadwinder Singh, Criminal Appeal No. 1096 of 2019 in respect to the jurisdiction of complaint received in regard to the commission of offences under Section 498A of Penal Code, 1860.

What the High Court held?

The bench in light of the Supreme Court decision stated above and along with the observations of the Courts below held that, there is no substance in the contention of counsel for the petitioner that, Magistrate’s Court at Mumbai has no jurisdiction to entertain the complaint.

In respect to the question of limitation for filing proceedings under Section 12, the Court relied on Supreme Court decision in Krishna Bhattacharjee v. Sarathi Choudhury, (2016) 2 SCC 705, wherein it was held that,

“…regard being had to concept of “continuing offence” and demands made by the wife, application made by appellant wife under Section 12 of the 2005 Act after about 2 years of judicial separation, not barred by limitation.”

Another point that the Court noted in respect to the alleged harassment was that the Courts below made prima facie observations about the same. Since the order passed by Magistrate directed the petitioner to pay interim maintenance is an interim order and the proceedings for the same are still pending, the Court stated that it would not be appropriate to give elaborate reasons about the allegations on harassment and domestic violence.

Thus, the Court in view of the above rejected the writ petition. [Mohammad Zuber Farooqi v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 2295, decided on 25-09-2019]

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Patna High Court: Ahsanuddin Amanullah, J. disposed of the petition after making minor changes to the sentence on the grounds of the imprisonment already undergone by the petitioners.

The petitioners petitioned the Court under Sections 397 and 401 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, against the judgment passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Patna in Cr. Appeal No. 25 of 2013, by which the petitioners were convicted and sentenced and it was upheld when the appeal was made against the same. The petitioners along with four others was convicted under Section 498-A of the Penal Code and sentenced to simple imprisonment of one year and a fine of Rs 3,000 each and in default, they were to undergo further two months simple imprisonment. 

The counsel for the petitioners submitted that the opposite party  2 is the wife of the petitioner’s brother. It was submitted that the petitioners had no concern with the matrimonial dispute of the parties and the allegation was that after the birth of a male and female child and two years of marriage, they tortured and assaulted for the dowry of Rs 8,000 and took away her ornaments. It was submitted that such allegation, even if believed, could at best be attributed to husband, as the petitioners could not have any role or could not have benefited from any dowry or money which the wife of their brother would have fetched from the matrimonial home. It was submitted that the witnesses during the trial had made only ominous and general allegations and there was nothing specific against them.

The APP submitted that the witnesses had stated with regard to all the accused, including the petitioners, assaulting and torturing the opposite party 2 and it is quite believable that the petitioners being elder brothers of the husband of the opposite party no. 2, would definitely be a party to any torture or assault as their brother stood to gain from any dowry which is alleged to have been demanded.

The Court held that it did not find that the order of conviction requires any interference. However, with regard to the sentence, since the petitioners are elder brothers of the husband of the opposite party2 and had been in custody for more than six months and about four months respectively, the Court was inclined to modify the sentence to period undergone.

In view of the above-noted facts, the instant petition was disposed of after upholding the order of conviction but modifying the sentence to period undergone and the fine of Rs 3,000 set aside.[Deo Prasad Sao v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 1612, decided on 19-09-2019]

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Bombay High Court: Sandeep K. Shinde, J. dismissed an appeal filed by the State against the order of acquittal by the trial court in respect to the matter pertaining to Sections 498-A and 306 of Penal Code, 1860.

State preferred the present appeal under Section 378(1) of CrPC, 1973 against the order of acquittal passed by Additional Sessions Judge.

In accordance with the prosecution case, the deceased suffered suicidal death due to acute cardiorespiratory arrest caused due to 100% burns at her matrimonial house. Deceased’s brother filed the complaint against deceased’s brother-in-law (accused 1) and wife of accused 1 (accused 2) along with sister-in-law of deceased (accused 3), for ill-treating the deceased and for abetting to commit suicide.

Thus, a crime under Section 498-A and 306 read with Section 24 of the Penal Code, 1860 was registered,

Deceased suffered unnatural death within a period of 7 years from the date of her marriage. Trial Court acquitted the accused, having found the prosecution could not establish that the accused ill-treated and caused cruelty to deceased within the meaning of Explanation Clause-a to Section 498-A of the Penal Code, 1860.

Settled Law:

“Cruelty for the purpose of Section 498-A Penal Code, 1860 means any “willful conduct” which is of such a nature as is likely to drive a women to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman or harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.”

The question involved in the present case is,

“Whether prosecution has established that the “willful conduct” of the accused was of such a nature which drove Shaheeda (deceased) to commit suicide?”

On the date of the incident, a quarrel ensued between the deceased and accused 2, during the course of the same, deceased inflicted injury on the forehead of accused 2 by a stick. It is disclosed that when accused 1 had gone to the police station to report about the assault by deceased on his wife (accused 2), he was informed that the deceased had set herself on fire.

It was reported to the police that there were recurring disputes between the deceased and her in-laws on account of supply and electricity and water.

Thus upon assessing the evidence of deceased’s brother, it cannot be said that “willful conduct” of the accused amounts to cruelty and such alleged conduct drove her to commit suicide. There is no specification laid out as to what kind of ill-treatment or harassment was meted out to the deceased.

High Court on noting the facts and circumstances of the case, held that there is no evidence or rather, it is not the case of the prosecution that the deceased was physically harassed or tortured by the accused. Equally, there is no dependable evidence to hold that, accused were mentally torturing the deceased.

Therefore, by relying on the Supreme Court’s decision in Pawan Kalyan v. State of Haryana, (1998) 3 SCC 309, Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2001) 9 SCC 618 and  Mohd. Hoshan v. State of A.P., (2002) 7 SCC 414, Court held that the trial court is consistent with the evidence which cannot be faulted with and hence no interference is called for. The appeal, therefore, fails and is dismissed. [State of Maharashtra v. Ibrahim Ruknuddin Bagkari, Criminal Appeal No. 1267 of 2003, decided on 11-09-2019]

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Orissa High Court: Dr A.K. Mishra J., allowed a criminal miscellaneous appeal to quash an on-going proceeding and also a cognizance order dated 07-02-2011 passed by the Learned Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate on the ground of settlement reached between the parties.

In the instant case, the petitioner, husband and the opposite party 2, the wife, had settled their marital dispute and had reached a divorce. However, the Learned Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate, on finding sufficient grounds had taken cognizance of the matter on police report under Sections 498-A (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and  406 (Punishment for criminal breach of trust) of the Penal Code, 1860. The parties thereafter reached a settlement and approached the High Court under Section 482 (Saving of inherent powers of High Court) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 to quash the criminal proceedings and the impugned order of the Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate.

The Learned Additional Government advocate representing the opposite party 1, S. Pattnaik did not dispute the fact of settlement between the parties. The Learned advocate also brought to the High Court’s notice the joint memorandum filed in the Family Court, Srikakulam, that the wife should take necessary steps to withdraw the Criminal Case in order to maintain amity.

Counsel representing the petitioner, Samir Ku. Mishra agreed to the fact of settlement between the parties.

The High Court, felt justified to quash the criminal proceeding and the impugned judgment to prevent oppression and prejudice. The Court also placed reliance on the Supreme Court decision in Parbatbhai Aahir v. State of Gujarat, (2017) 9 SCC 641, and quoted “In the exercise of the power under Section 482 and while dealing with a plea that the dispute has been settled, the High Court must have due regard to the nature and gravity of the offence.” The Supreme Court laid down that the serious offences under criminal cases shall be distinguished from criminal cases having an “overwhelming or predominant element of civil dispute” and in such cases, the High Court shall be able to exercise power under Section 482 CrPC.

Thus, in the present case the High Court reiterated the position and stated that noting the gravity of the offence having a civil element, the Court exercised its power under Section 482 CrPC.[Ashish Kumar Rout v. State of Orissa, 2019 SCC OnLine Ori 222, decided on 02-07-2019]

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Delhi High Court: Mukta Gupta, J. dismissed a writ petition wherein the petitioner husband sought quashing of FIR registered under Section 498-A, 406 and 34 IPC at Police Station, Paschim Vihar, Delhi.

The petitioner, who was represented by Hitender Kapur, Advocate, took three grounds seeking to quash FIR: (i) lack of territorial jurisdiction contending that no offence has taken place in Delhi and thus Police Station has no jurisdiction to investigate and the Trial Court has no jurisdiction to try the offence; (ii) that the FIR was not lodged within the period of limitation; (iii) that on the face of the FIR the allegations are not made out.

Rajesh Mahajan, ASC with Jyoti Babbar, Advocate appeared for the State, while Kamal Gupta, Advocate represented the respondent wife.

(i) Territorial Jurisdiction

The High Court followed the decision in Rupali Devi v. State of U.P., (2019) 5 SCC 384, wherein it was held that even in cases where there is no allegation of harassment or demand of dowry at the parental place of the complainant who comes to take refuge at her parental place, she can lodge an FIR in the said Police Station, which can be investigated by the officer of the said Police Station and the Trial Court having jurisdiction on the said Police Station would have jurisdiction to try the said offence.

Moreover, the case of the complainant in the FIR itself was that her costly items, jewellery, etc., were taken on the ground that they were to be kept in a locker in Delhi so that it could be safe, thus the jewellery and costly items were retained in Delhi. Marriage being performed at Delhi, the entrustment of articles also took place at Delhi. Hence in view of Section 181(4) CrPC, the Court at Delhi would have jurisdiction to try the offence. Thus, this Court finds no merit in the first argument raised.

(ii) Limitation

On facts, it was held that the complaint was filed within the period of limitation. It was also observed that it is trite law that while taking cognizance even if there is delay in matrimonial matters the Court has to see whether it is in the interest of justice to condone the delay in taking the cognizance.

(iii) Nature of allegations

It was noted that the complainant has alleged that the accused person used to taunt her for the kind of clothes given to them at the function and at the wedding and that the same was not as per their demand and status. Allegations were also made regarding entrustment if costly items including jewellery. The Court was of the view that prima facie, the allegations constituting offence punishable under Sections 498-A and 406 IPC were made out.[Ankur Narang v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8933, decided on 30-04-2019]

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Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J. dismissed a criminal revision petition filed against the order of the trial court whereby charge under Section 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) IPC was framed against the petitioner.

Petitioner was married to the deceased who committed suicide on the very next day of their first marriage anniversary. FIR under Sections 306 (abetment of suicide) and 498-A was registered against the petitioner at the behest of the mother of the deceased. An alleged suicide note was found which was verified to be written in the handwriting of the deceased. The trial court discharged the petitioner of the offence under Section 306 holding that the said suicide note exonerated him as it states that the deceased was taking the steps voluntarily. However, it was found that the allegations levelled by the mother and brothers of the deceased that the petitioner maltreated the deceased and committed physical and mental cruelty were specific and therefore framed a charge under Section 498-A against him.

Senior Advocate Harish Salve contended that as the trial court found insufficient material to proceed under Section 306, on the same analogy, there was insufficient material to even frame a charge under Section 498-A.

Relying on the Supreme Court decisions in Girdhar Shankar Tawade v. State of Maharashtra, (2002) 5 SCC 177 and Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2001) 9 SCC 618, the High Court reiterated that charges under Sections 306 and 498-A IPC are independent of each other and acquittal of one does not lead to acquittal of the other. It was observed: “Though, there may be an overlap with regard to cruelty being meted out to the deceased in both the Sections, however, the degree of cruelty to constitute abetment under Section 306 IPC would be of higher than the degree of harassment and cruelty to constitute an offence under Section 498-A IPC. It cannot be held that because petitioner has been discharged of an offence under Section 306 IPC, it would automatically lead to a discharge of the offence under Section 498-A IPC.”

In the present case, it was found that there was sufficient material on record to give rise to grave suspicion against the petitioner for framing a charge under Section 498- IPC. Thus, finding no infirmity in the impugned order, the petition was accordingly dismissed.[Kaushal Kishore v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8713, decided on 28-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: The Bench of Chander Bhusan Barowalia, J. allowed a petition while setting aside the Judgment of conviction passed by the learned trial Court.

In the pertinent case, the appellant was convicted and sentenced for commission of offences punishable under Sections 306 and 498-A IPC. The chain of events as alleged were that after the marriage with the deceased (wife of the appellant), he started ill-treating and humiliating her on account of the reason that she has not brought sufficient dowry. It was also alleged that the appellant was not satisfied with the deceased as she could not give birth to a child. And that on account of cruelty meted out to the deceased by the appellant, ultimately, she consumed a heavy dose of Barbiturate, owing to which, she fell unconscious. The decease had epileptic and an overdose of the medicines was found in the Vicera report. Further, it was claimed that no medical assistance was provided to her. Certain documents were also presented before the Court for the same.

Although all such allegations were denied by the accused along with the other witnesses who all happened to be her friend and relatives. They also proved that they were living happily as they had even adopted a child.

The Court after analyzing the evidence found that the dates when the deceased fell unconscious had a disparity as were mentioned in a different set of documents.

It was also found in the evidence that the deceased was taking medicines regularly and after she fell unconscious, she was taken to PGI, Chandigarh, where she ultimately died. And the origin of documents was also suspicious on which the other party placed heavy reliance. The evidence also showed that the couple had adopted a daughter, who was studying in good school. The photographs placed on the file depicted that the couple was living happily. Therefore, the judgment of conviction passed by the learned trial Court was set aside and the appellant was acquitted of the charges.[Mahesh Gautam v. State of H.P., 2019 SCC OnLine HP 404, decided on 04-04-2019]