The Calcutta High Court recently quashed a woman’s criminal proceedings under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against her husband and his relatives, alleging that she was subjected to physical and mental torture and was driven out of the matrimonial home, on the grounds that an earlier proceeding initiated by her on the basis of nearly identical allegations against the same accused persons had ended in acquittal and she had filed no appeal.
Justice Mukherjee was hearing an application under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, seeking quashing of the proceeding dated December 19, 2019 under section 498A of IPC presently pending before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Jalpaiguri.
A single judge bench of Justice Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee noted, “The Supreme Court and High Courts in numerous instances expressed concern over the misuse of section 498A IPC and the increased tendency of implicating husband and relatives of the husband in matrimonial disputes. Upon perusal of the contents of both the First Information Report (FIR) it reveals that the allegations are the same, which is omnibus in nature.”
In the present case, on February 14, 2016, the woman had filed a complaint stating that after her marriage, her mother-in-law began torturing her physically and mentally. Thereafter she returned to her father’s home. Her in-laws allegedly compelled her to work at their hotel, subjecting her to physical and mental torture. It was also claimed that her spouse physically abused her and drove her out of the marital home in January 2011.
On the basis of the complaint, a case was filed against the current petitioners under Section 498A of the IPC. However, the Trial Court acquitted all of the accused in a decision dated August 17, 2019.
After four months, she again filed an FIR under Section 498A of the IPC against the petitioners, alleging the same physical and mental torture on the demand for dowry. Hence the petitioners filed an application under Section 482 of the CrPC seeking a stay of proceedings under Section 498A of the IPC.
The Counsel appearing for petitioner stated that the alleged incident of physical and mental torture occurred in January, 2011 and de facto complainant lodged FIR on 09.12.2019. He relied on the case of Lalita Kumari vs. State of Uttar Pradesh and others and said that registration of FIR and initiation of the proceeding without inquiry is in violation of law. Further, the Counsel also submitted that defacto complainant created concocted story after acquittal of the present petitioners from the earlier case with intent to harass the whole family of the petitioners.
The Counsel representing the state submits that it is true that an earlier proceeding initiated by the present de facto complainant against the petitioners has ended in acquittal and no appeal has been preferred against the said acquittal order. However, he left the matter to the discretion of the court.
The court stated that simply mentioning the section and language of those sections is insufficient to file a proper complaint, and that in all such matters, what is required to be brought to the court’s attention is the particulars of the offence committed by each of the accused persons, as well as the role played by each of them in committing that offence.
“The court proceeding ought not to be permitted to degenerate into a weapon of harassment or prosecution,” the court added.
Further, the court also added, “When the present complaint is taken from that view point the complaint appears to be sadly vague as it does not show as to which petitioner has committed what offence and what is the exact role played by the petitioners in the alleged commission of the offence.”
Accordingly, the court quashed the criminal proceeding dated December 19, 2019 under section 498A of the IPC.