The Bombay High Court at Nagpur Bench recently held that a distant relative would not be out of the scope of Section 498-A of IPC, they would be included in the term 'relative' as it would depend upon the nature of the status of persons who are related by blood, marriage or adoption.

The Bench of Justice Sunil B. Shukre and Justice M.W. Chandwani observed that “These allegations in the FIR some of which can be found in the statements of the witnesses show that these applicants, prima facie, subjected non-applicant no. 2 to humiliation, harassment and cruelty of such a nature as is contemplated under Section 498-A of the IPC and therefore, we are of the view that there is prima facie case made out against each of the applicants, inspite of their sometimes residing away from the place where non-applicant no. 2 resided.”

The Bench expressed that the nature of mental cruelty was such that it was not necessary that it must take place in the physical presence of persons and that it could be handed out even from a distant place and observed that “One cannot forget the fact that cruelty as envisaged under Section 498-A of the IPC is not only physical, it also takes within its fold several other forms of cruelty, including mental cruelty. The mental cruelty is an abstract concept and it is a matter of experience for a person who is subjected to cruelty.”

In this case, application was preferred under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, by distant relatives of husband of the complainant/non-applicant no.2 seeking quashing of Criminal proceedings registered under Sections 498-A, 323, 524 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code and under section 3 and 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act.

Advocate D. V. Mahajan appeared for the applicants and APP S. M. Ghodeswar appeared for the non-applicant.

The Court observed that though the applicants resided at some different places than the marital residence of the non-applicant no. 2, but there were several occasions, when all these applicants had gathered together in the house and even had the opportunities to talk personally or on telephone and had subjected non-applicant no. 2 to humiliation, harassment and cruelty.

Referring to the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of U. Suvetha Vs. State by Inspector of Police [(2009) 6 SCC 757], the Court rejected the argument that a distant relative would be out of scope of Section 498-A of IPC and observed that the meaning of term “relative” would depend upon the nature of status of persons which would be of those persons who were related by blood, marriage or by adoption and such relatives even if they resided in different places they would be covered under the scope of Section 498 IPC.

The Court also considered the significance of FIR in a criminal case and said that “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. If the FIR does not contain allegations of cruelty, no criminal case can be built against the persons shown as accused in the FIR. But, when foundation is strong, it would give rise to a strong criminal case.”

The Court, noted the allegations made against each of the applicants in the FIR and the statements of witnesses, said that there was sufficient material which indicated that mental cruelty was handed out by each applicant to non –applicant no. 2 and offence of cruelty was constituted. Therefore, inherent power of the High Court under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. to quash the FIR must not be exercised.

Consequently, a cost of Rs. 10,000/- was imposed on the applicants for abusing the process of law by filing the application inspite of the fact that they were aware of the allegations made against them.

Accordingly, the application was dismissed.

Cause Title- Sunita Kumari v. State of Maharashtra

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