The Supreme Court has quashed Section 498A IPC case (cruelty) filed by a woman against her mother-in-law and brothers-in-law on the ground that her allegations are farfetched and improbable.

The Court was deciding a batch of two criminal appeals challenging the judgment of the Madhya Pradesh High Court whereby it refused to quash the proceedings against them under Section 482 of the CrPC.

The three-Judge Bench comprising Justice Aniruddha Bose, Justice Sanjay Kumar, and Justice S.V.N. Bhatti held, “Given the totality of the facts and circumstances, we are of the considered opinion that Bhawna’s allegations against the appellants, such as they are, are wholly insufficient and, prima facie, do not make out a case against them. Further, they are so farfetched and improbable that no prudent person can conclude that there are sufficient grounds to proceed against them. In effect, the case on hand falls squarely in categories (1) and (5) set out in Bhajan Lal (supra). Permitting the criminal process to go on against the appellants in such a situation would, therefore, result in clear and patent injustice.”

The Bench said that it was a fit case for the High Court to exercise its inherent power under Section 482 Cr.PC. to quash the FIR and the consequential proceedings against the appellants.

Advocate Dinesh Chandra Pandey represented the appellants while Advocate Pashupathi Nath Razdan represented the respondent.

In this case, the woman had lodged the FIR against her mother-in-law and two brothers-in-law and one of them was a judicial officer. Her husband secured a decree of divorce in 2019 dissolving their marriage as a result of which she preferred a First Appeal and the same was pending consideration before the High Court. She had visited her in-laws in Madhya Pradesh on 3 or 4 occasions only and parted ways with her matrimonial home and started living with her parents.

The said woman had earlier made a written complaint in 2013 levelling several allegations against her husband and in-laws. Thereafter, an FIR was registered against all four of them under Section 498A IPC and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. The appellants moved the High Court praying for quashing of the FIR but their petitions were dismissed. Hence, the appellants were before the Apex Court.

The Supreme Court in view of the facts and circumstances of the case noted, “Instances of a husband’s family members filing a petition to quash criminal proceedings launched against them by his wife in the midst of matrimonial disputes are neither a rarity nor of recent origin. Precedents aplenty abound on this score. … Surprisingly, Bhawna alleges that at the time of his own marriage, Abhishek demanded that Bhawna and her parents should provide him with a car and .2 lakhs in cash. Why he would make such a ₹ demand for dowry, even if he was inclined to commit such an illegality, from his sister-in-law at the time of his own marriage is rather incongruous and difficult to comprehend.”

The Court said that the fact that the woman confessed to making a vicious complaint to the High Court clearly shows that her motives were not clean insofar as her brother-in-law is concerned, and she clearly wanted to wreak vengeance against her in-law.

“The allegation levelled by Bhawna against her mother-in-law, Kusum Lata, with regard to how she taunted her when she wore a maxi is wholly insufficient to constitute cruelty in terms of Section 498A IPC. … Most damaging to Bhawna’s case is the fact that she did nothing whatsoever after leaving her matrimonial home in February, 2009, and filed a complaint in the year 2013 alleging dowry harassment, just before her husband instituted divorce proceedings”, observed the Court.

Accordingly, the Apex Court allowed the appeals and quashed the case against the appellants.

Cause Title- Abhishek v. State of Madhya Pradesh (Neutral Citation: 2023 INSC 779)

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