Section 498A IPC – Prosecution of Husband’s Relatives Based on General & Omnibus Allegations by Wife is Abuse of Process: Supreme Court

Team SoOLEGAL 9 Feb 2022 5:45pm

Section 498A IPC – Prosecution of Husband’s Relatives Based on General & Omnibus Allegations by Wife is Abuse of Process: Supreme Court

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court observed that prosecuting husband’s relatives on general and omnibus allegations is an abuse of the legal process.

The court also expressed concern about the increased use of provisions like Section 498A IPC as tools to settle personal scores against the husband and his relatives. The bench, which included Justices S. Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari, stated that a criminal trial that results in an acquittal leaves the accused with sever scars, and that such an exercise should be discouraged. The bench stated that general and omnibus allegations cannot exist in a situation where the complainant’s husband’s relatives are forced to go to trial.

In this case, the husband and his relatives petitioned the Patna High Court for the quashing of a FIR filed by the wife, the complainant. Following the dismissal of their petition by the High Court, the relatives (in – laws) petitioned the Supreme Court, claiming that the FIR in question was filed with a vengeful intent, merely to harass them. The ‘wife’ claimed that the allegations in the FIR are serious and that she has been repeatedly tortured physically and mentally in order to meet the dowry demand. The question was whether the allegations made against the appellant’s in – laws were in the nature of general omnibus allegations and thus liable to be quashed.

The bench made the following observation on the ‘misuse’ of Section 498A IPC at the outset:
“Incorporation of Section 498A of IPC was aimed at preventing cruelty committed upon a woman by her husband and her in – laws, by facilitating rapid state intervention. However, it is equally true, that in recent times, matrimonial litigation in the country has also increased significantly and there is a greater disaffection and friction surrounding the institution of marriage, now, more than ever. This has resulted in an increased tendency to employ provisions such as 498A IPC as instruments to settle personal scores against the husband and his relatives.”

Referring to earlier decisions such as Rajesh Shama and Ors Vs. State of U.P. (2018) 10 SCC 472, Arnesh Kumar Vs. State of Bihar and Anr (2014) 8 SCC 273, Preeti Gupta & Anr Vs. State of Jharkhand & Anr (2010) 7 SCC 667, Geeta Mehrotra & Anr Vs. State of U.P. & Anr (2012) 10 SCC 741, K. Subba Rao Vs. State of Telangana (2018) 14 SCC 452, the court stated:

“18. The above – mentioned decisions clearly demonstrate that this court has at numerous instances expressed concern over the misuse of Section 498A IPC and the increased tendency of implicating relatives of the husband in matrimonial disputes, without analyzing the long term ramifications of a trial on the complainant as well as the accused. It is further manifest from the said judgments that false implication by way of general omnibus allegations made in the course of matrimonial dispute, it left unchecked would result in misuse of the process of law. Therefore, this court by way of its judgments has warned the courts from proceeding against the relatives and in – laws of the husband when no prima facie case is made out against them.”

While reviewing the FIR, the court noted that the complainant claimed that
“all accused mentally harassed her and threatened her of terminating her pregnancy.” However, no specific allegations have been made against the accused in – laws. As a result, the court observed:

“This simply leads to a situation wherein one fails to ascertain the role played by each accused in furtherance of the offence. The allegations are therefore general and omnibus and can at best be said to have been made out on account of small skirmishes. Insofar as husband is concerned, since he has not appealed against the order of the High Court, we have not examined the veracity of allegations made against him. However, as far as the appellants are concerned, the allegations made against them being general and omnibus, do not warrant prosecution.”

As a result, while granting the appeal and rescinding the criminal proceedings against the appellants, the bench noted:
“Therefore, upon consideration of the relevant circumstances and in the absence of any specific role attributed to the accused appellants, it would be unjust if the appellants are forced to go through the tribulations of a trial, i.e., general and omnibus allegations cannot manifest in a situation where the relatives of the complainant’s husband are forced to undergo trial. It has been highlighted by this court in varied instances that a criminal trial leading to an eventual acquittal also inflicts severe scars upon the accused, and such an exercise must therefore be discouraged.”

Tagged: Supreme Court   Wife   husband   relatives   allegations   498A   dowry  
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