On 15th May2020, Justice Jaishree Thakur’s Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the case of Amarjit Kaur & ors. Vs. Jaswinder Kaur & ors,quashed the criminal complaint filed by the respondent, Jaswinder Kaur, against her in-laws under Section 406, 498-A & 506 of The Indian Penal Code, 1860and expressed concern on misuse of dowry provisions by ‘disgruntled wives’.
Jaswinder Kaur, the respondent, had complained against her husband, his second wife, her father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law and sister-in-law. In her complaint, she mentioned that she was married to Jaswant Singh on 5th August 1989, and further alleged that a sum of ₹4 Lakhs was spent on the wedding apart from which she had also given dowry articles, gold ornaments and other luxurious items to Jaswant Singh’s family. Soon after the marriage, she claimed, her husband started harassing and beating her at the instance of the accused, for not bringing in enough dowry and fulfilling their demand for Rs. 50,000, a Maruti 800 car and a gold ornament. When she gave birth to a girl child, the expenses of the delivery had to be borne by her own parents and the accused allegedly raised a demand of Rs. 5 Lakhs and taunted her for not giving birth to a male child.
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The complaint also mentioned of an incident taking place on 24th January 2008, when the complainant was turned out of her matrimonial home with her daughter by her husband, at the instance of his family members, her gold ornaments and other articles were taken by her mother-in-law and she was threatened of dire consequences if she made a complaint. When the complainant came to know that her husband had solemnized a second marriage without taking divorce from her, she filed a petition under Section 125 Cr.P.C. and an application under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
The case went before the Judicial Magistrate Ist Class, Jalandhar, who on appreciation of the material placed before it, 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 while discharging the other accused persons including the petitioners. The aforementioned order was challenged by the complainant before the Additional Sessions Judge, Jalandhar, who noting that there were specific allegations against the petitioners, set aside the order passed by the Judicial Magistrate Ist Class, Jalandhar and directed the court re-considering the evidence and pass appropriate summoning order. On reconsideration of the evidence before it, the trial Court passed an order summoning the petitioners to face trial under Sections 498-A, 506 and 120-B IPC. Pursuant to this order, notice was issued to the petitioners and upon their absence, they were declared as proclaimed offenders. Aggrieved by this, the petitioners moved to the High Court, seeking to quash the criminal complaint and the summoning order.
On a perusal of the complaint, the court observed that there were no specific allegations of violence against the complainant, demand of dowry and misappropriation of shtridhan against the petitioners, except for the casual reference of their names amongst the people at whose instance her husband had given beatings to her. In addition to this, the court also noted that the complainant had failed to produce any evidence showing that she was physically abused by the petitioners.
The High Court on finding that the Petitioner No.1, sister-in-law of the complainant, was residing in her matrimonial home since then her marriage and that Petitioner No.2 was 11 years of age when the complainant alleged that she was given beatings by her husband at his instance and moreover was residing in Canada with petitioner No.3, aged 74 years, since 1996, held that “In such an eventuality, it is hard to believe that petitioners had harassed the complainant as alleged in the complaint.”
Section 120-B, The Indian Penal Code, 1860
120-B. Punishment of criminal conspiracy. –
- Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards, shall, where no express provision is made in this Code for the punishment of such a conspiracy, be punished in the same manner as if he had abetted such offence.
- Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy other than a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable as aforesaid shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding six months, or with fine or with both.
Section 406, The Indian Penal Code, 1860
- Punishment for criminal breach of trust. –
Whoever commits criminal breach of trust shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
Section 494, The Indian Penal Code, 1860
- Marrying again during life-time of husband or wife. –
Whoever, having a husband or wife living, marries in any case in which such marriage is void by reason of its taking place during the life of such husband or wife, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Exception.- This section does not extend to any person whose marriage with such husband or wife has been declared void by a Court of competent jurisdiction, nor to any person who contracts a marriage during the life of a former husband or wife, if such husband or wife, at the time of the subsequent marriage, shall have been continually absent from such person for the space of seven years, and shall not have been heard of by such person as being alive within that time provided the person contracting such subsequent marriage shall, before such marriage takes place, inform the person with whom such marriage is contracted of the real state of facts so far as the same are within his or her knowledge.
Section 498-A, The Indian Penal Code, 1860
498-A. Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty. –
Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
Explanation. -For the purposes of this section, “cruelty means”-
- any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman 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 or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.
Section 506, The Indian Penal Code, 1860
- Punishment for criminal intimidation. –
Whoever commits the offence of criminal intimidation shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both;
If threat be to cause death or grievous hurt, etc. And if the threat be to cause death or grievous hurt, or to cause the destruction of any property by fire, or to cause an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, or to impute unchastely to a woman, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both.
Over the years criminal law has undergone a drastic transformation. The balance of law has always been tipping from increased protection for women, generating the fear of misuse of law, to increased protection for the accused, making it difficult for victims to get justice. Introduction of legislations such as The Dowry Protection Act, 1961, Section 498A and 406 IPC and The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 have greatly improved the condition of women. On the other hand, judgements of the Supreme Court like Rajesh Sharma & Ors. vs. State of Uttar Pradesh have diluted the law and provided protection to family members who are accused in pursuance of personal vendettas.
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Nowadays, however, the cure is getting worse than the disease. Laws are being misused by urban women for ulterior motives, thus becoming a sword rather than a shield for disgruntled wives. It is in these cases that the Court has to take an active role and become the protector of the innocent. In the present case, the Court held 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. The simplest way to harass is to get the relatives of the husband roped in under this provision, no matter they are bed ridden grandparents of the husband or the relatives living abroad for decades.”Doing so, the Court not only protected the innocent relatives from getting roped in such proceedings, but also set an example for all women who intend on misusing the law for their personal advantage.
The Hon’ble High Court while relying on the judgment of Hon’ble Supreme Court in Geeta Mehrotra Vs. State of U.P., where the court quashed the FIR registered against the unmarried sister of the husband on the ground that prima facie case was not attracted against her in the absence of specific allegations, ruled that the present case was a sheer abuse of process of law. Thus, the court in exercise of its jurisdiction under Section 482 Cr.P.C. quashed the complaint and all the subsequent proceedings against the petitioners.
For case specific advice, please contact Punjab Haryana High Court Best/Expert Lawyers Advocates for Dowry/Divorce Cases in Chandigarh Panchkula Mohali Zirakpur Baltana Derabassi Kharar.
This post is written by Soumya Nayyar
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