In a fresh order dismissing the Section 498A charges, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has expressed its concern against misuse of Section 498A IPC by ‘disgruntled wives’.
While quashing a case filed by a woman against her in-laws, Justice Jaishree Thakur observed:
It has become a common practice to use the provisions of Section 498- A IPC as a weapon rather than shield by disgruntled wives. The 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.
The couple was married in 1989. After more than two decades of the marriage, in 2012, the woman filed a petition under Section 125 Cr.P.C. and also an application under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. The Judicial Magistrate 1st Class, Jalandhar on appreciation of material placed before it, vide order dated 25.03.2013 summoned the husband to face trial under Sections 406, 498-A, 506 and 494 IPC and the mother-in-law under Sections 406, 498-A and 506 IPC.
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Husband’s father, brother and sisters too were charged under 498A and the accused in-laws of the complainant had approached the High Court seeking to quash the criminal case registered against them. On a perusal of the complaint, the court observed that it does not disclose specific allegations against the petitioners except casual reference of their names that the husband of the complainant gave her beatings at the instance of petitioners.
The court then quashed the complaint on the ground that prima facie case was not attracted against the in-laws in the absence of specific allegations.
Justice Thakur examined the material on record and said it would be in the interest of justice to see at the first instance whether any offence is made out against the petitioners as per allegations levelled against them in the complaint or not? Because if the complaint fails, as a necessary corollary, all subsequent proceedings arising therefrom would automatically go. The allegations levelled against the petitioners in paras No.3, 5 and 6 of the complaint are reproduced as under:-
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3. That on showing the incapability to arrange for Maruti 800 car and more dowry articles, in the month of March 1990, the accused No.1 at the instance of respondents No.3 to 6 started giving merciless beatings to the complainant…….
5. That it is also not out of place to mention here that the accused No.1, 3 to 6 used to taunt the complainant for not giving birth to a male child……..
6. That on 24.1.2008 the accused No.1 at the instance of accused No.3 to 6 started beating the complainant and further turned out the complainant from her matrimonial house in bare three clothes. All the dowry articles and stridhan belonging to the complainant is in custody of accused No.1, 3 to 6 and are using the same for their personal gain since then the complainant is living at the mercy of her brothers and widow mother.
The court also observed how:
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- Sister-in-law of the complainant, who got married on 04.02.1989 had been residing in her matrimonial home since then and therefore, there was not even a remotest possibility that husband of the complainant was beating her at the instance of his sister
- Husband’s brother was born on 12.07.1979 and was 11 years of age in March, 1990 when the complainant alleged that she was given beatings by her husband at his instance. Moreover, he had left for Canada in March, 1996 and is residing there since then
- Similarly, the father, (74) had left for Canada in 1996 and is residing there since then with the husband’s brother
In such an eventuality, it is hard to believe that petitioners had harassed the complainant as alleged in the complaint.
Conclusion By High Court
The court reiterated how Section 498A was being grossly misused to settle scores. Justice Thakur said,
The complainant has failed to make out a prima facie case against the petitioners regarding allegation of inflicting physical and mental torture to the complainant or demanding dowry from her. The complaint does not disclose specific allegation against the petitioners except casual reference of their names that husband of the complainant gave her beatings at the instance of petitioners.
Quashing the criminal charges, the court said,
In view of the aforementioned facts and circumstances, this court is of the opinion that the case in hand is a sheer abuse of process of law and therefore, is a fit case to exercise the jurisdiction of this Court under Section 482 Cr.P.C.
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