Depriving cancer treatment to wife for not bringing dowry amounts to cruelty: Jharkhand High Court

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The Jharkhand High Court recently ruled that failing to provide adequate medical assistance to one’s spouse so as to pressurize her for dowry would fall within the scope of cruelty as defined in Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). [Sanjay Kumar Rai & Ors v State & Ors]
Single-judge Justice Ambuj Nath upheld the conviction of the accused-husband one Sanjay Kumar Rai, finding him guilty of committing cruelty against his wife Neelam Devi who was suffering from cancer.

“Non-providing of proper medical aid to one’s wife to enforce the demand of dowry will come within the definition of cruelty as enunciated under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. Both the trial court as well as the appellate court have rightly come to the finding regarding the guilt of the petitioner Sanjay Kumar Rai @ Sanjay Kumar Roy under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code for subjecting his wife Neelam Devi to cruelty to enforce the demand of dowry,” the Court observed.

The Court was hearing three criminal revision pleas.

One plea was filed by the husband Sanjay Kumar Rai challenging his conviction under Section 498A of the IPC.

The second one was filed by the informant- wife Neelam Devi, who was later substituted by her father Ram Kripal Singh, on her death. In her plea she had challenged the acquittal order passed by the magistrate court in December 2010 in favor of opposite parties that is her in-laws, namely Sulochana Devi, Manju Devi, and Anju Devi.

The third plea was filed by the father of the informant challenging the acquittal of the victim’s brother-in-law Bhageshwar Roy.

The prosecution’s case was initiated based on a written report filed by Neelam Devi. She alleged that she had married the Sanjay Kumar Rai in June 2006 and during her husband’s absence, her in-laws used to torture her.

She further alleged that when she reported the matter to her husband, he demanded a car and subsequently, she was driven away from her matrimonial home. Thereafter, they came to her house and forced her to sign on blank papers.

She categorically stated that, she was tortured on account of dowry demand and her husband refused to get her cancer treated on the ground that her father had not given sufficient dowry for her treatment.

Upon reviewing the evidence, oral testimonies from witnesses, and the case’s facts, the Court determined that the husband had failed to provide medical assistance to the victim.

Therefore, the High Court found that both the trial court and the appellate court correctly found him guilty under Section 498A of the IPC for subjecting his wife to cruelty.

As regards the relatives of the husband, the Court noted that the victim had made broad and vague statements regarding mistreatment by the opposing parties that is, her in-laws and brother-in-law and that she had not suffered any injuries caused by them as alleged.

The prosecution did not provide any compelling evidence regarding when and how the complainant had been subjected to torture. As a result, the High Court upheld the acquittal of the in-laws.

Advocates Sanjay Kumar and Atanu Banerjee represented the petitioners.

Advocates Arup Kr Dey, Fahad Allam and Ravi Prakash represented respondents.

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