Cannot prosecute husband’s girlfriend for cruelty under Section 498A IPC: Kerala High Court

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The Kerala High Court recently held that a husband’s girlfriend or a woman who maintains a sexual relationship with him outside marriage, cannot be prosecuted under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Section 498A penalises cruelty inflicted on a woman by her husband or relatives of the husband.

Justice K Babu noted that the language used in the legislation makes it clear that the word ‘relative’ would not include a woman with whom a man has had sexual relations outside of the marriage.

“By no stretch of imagination, a girlfriend or even a woman who maintains sexual relations with a man outside of marriage in an etymological sense would be a ‘relative’. The word ‘relative’ brings within its purview a status. Such status must be conferred either by blood or marriage, or adoption. If no marriage has taken place, the question of one being relative of another would not arise,” the Court said in its order.

It was also emphasised that being a penal provision, Section 498A deserves strict construction unless a contextual meaning is required to be given to the statute.

The order was passed on a petition moved by a woman who was charged under Section 498A read with Section 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the IPC.

She sought an order from the Court quashing the proceedings pending against her before a magistrate court.

The case against her came to be registered upon a complaint filed by her live-in partner’s wife. Her partner and his wife had a strained marriage and the wife’s complaint accused him, his mother, his brother, and the petitioner of subjecting her to cruelty.

The petitioner argued that her relationship with her partner does not make her his relative as contemplated under Section 498A.

The Court concurred with the argument and proceeded to quash the proceedings against her.

“These being the facts, I am of the opinion that there will not be a question of prosecution against the petitioner under Section 498-A of IPC. The FIR and the Final Report as against the petitioner shall stand quashed”, the order stated.

The petitioner was represented by advocate R Premchand.

Public Prosecutor MK Pushpalatha appeared for the State.

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