The Bombay High Court at Nagpur while dismissing an application filed by the relatives of a man seeking quashing of criminal proceedings against them instituted by his wife held that mental cruelty can happen even by virtue of a separate residence.

The Court said that it is not necessary that mental cruelty must take place in the physical presence of persons.

A Division Bench of Justice Sunil B. Shukre and Justice M.W. Chandwani observed, “The mental cruelty is an abstract concept and it is a matter of experience for a person who is subjected to cruelty. Many a times certain taunts are made against another person but it all depends upon the manner in which the person takes those remarks or responds to them. … Such being the nature of mental cruelty, it is not necessary that it must take place in the physical presence of persons and that it can be handed out even from a distant place. Therefore, this is not a case where the applicants, by virtue of their separate residence, could be presumed to not have treated non-applicant no. 2 in a cruel manner.”

The Bench further disagreed with the contention of the applicants that no case under Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code can be made out.

Advocate D.V. Mahajan appeared on behalf of the applicants (petitioners) while APP S.M. Ghodeswar appeared for the State and non-applicant (respondents).

In this case, a complaint was lodged by a woman against the applicants that they demanded dowry and committed cruelty to her. They were, therefore, booked under Sections 498-A, 323, and 524 of the IPC and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

The counsel for the applicants submitted before the Court that no specific allegations were made against any of these applicants and that none of the applicants resided together with the non-applicant and her husband. On the contrary, the counsel for the respondents contended that there was sufficient evidence for a prima facie case against the applicants.

The High Court after hearing the contentions of both counsel said, “As regards the contention that no significance could be attached to the allegations made in the FIR, we beg to differ with learned counsel for the applicants. The FIR is something which sets the criminal law in motion and though usually not a substantive piece of evidence by itself, it nevertheless forms a foundation of a criminal case. No strong edifice of a criminal case can be built unless its foundation is sound.”

The Court further noted that if the FIR does not contain allegations of cruelty, and no criminal case can be built against the persons shown as accused in the FIR but the foundation is strong, it would give rise to a strong criminal case, which is what seems to be the case in a prima facie way.

“For the purpose of this application filed under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C., we have to go by the principles laid down in the case of State of Haryana Vs. Bhajan Lal and others [1992 AIR SC 604], which require that nature of allegations must be examined by taking them at their face value and when so taken, if they are found to be constituting an offence, inherent power of the High Court under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. to quash the FIR must not be exercised. We have already found the allegations against the applicant to be so”, the Court asserted.

It was also said by the Court that the applicants have abused the process of law by filing the application in spite of the fact that they were aware of the allegations made against them and which were of a nature that require their consideration on merits.

The Court, therefore, imposed a cost of Rs. 10,000/- on the applicants.

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the application.

Cause Title- Sunita Kumari & Ors. v. State of Maharashtra & Anr.

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