Distant relatives fall within the scope of Section 498A IPC: Bombay High Court

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The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court recently refused to quash a first information report (FIR) against distant relatives of a complainant’s husband in a case of cruelty against wife under the Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). [Sunita Kumari and Ors vs State of Maharashtra and Anr.]
A bench of Justices Sunil B Shukre and MW Chandwani cited the Supreme Court’s decision in U. Suvetha Vs. State by Inspector of Police to emphasize that that the word “relative” brings within its purview, a status which is conferred either by blood, marriage or adoption.

“Therefore, the argument that a distant relative would be out of scope of Section 498-A of IPC cannot be accepted and it is rejected,” the Court said.

Advocate DV Mahajan for the accused-relatives argued that specific allegations were not made against them and that they did not live with the applicants.

He further argued that the applicants, being distant relatives were not ‘relatives’ as defined under Section 498A.

According to Assistant Public Prosecutor SM Ghodeswar, the FIR and the witness statements had sufficient material to frame charges and initiate trial against the applicants as there were specific allegations against them prima facie amounting to cruelty as defined under IPC.

The Court noted that according to the FIR and witness statements, the applicants, despite living separately from the complainant, had visited her house on several occasions where they could have interacted with her and subjected her to harassment, humiliation and cruelty.

Therefore, the Court held that a prima facie case was made out against the applicants even though they did not reside with the complainant.

It explained that cruelty envisaged under Section 498A includes mental cruelty, which can happen from a distant place as well as in the present case.

It further observed that one of the applicants, stated to be working in the police according to the FIR, even forced the complainant to put up with her husband’s obnoxious behaviour by threatening to scuttle any criminal proceeding she initiates.

“If such is the nature of the allegation, which is quite serious, it is all the more reason for this Court to direct that all these applicants are put on trial, apart from the fact that there is already sufficient material available against each of them for framing of charge in terms of Section 240 of the Cr.P.C,” the Court said.

The Court found no merit in the application and rather found that the applicants has abused the process of law as they were aware of the allegations against them and that they require a consideration on merits.

Thus, it determined that serious costs be imposed on the applicants and directed them to deposit ₹10,000 as costs with the High Court Bar Association of Nagpur for development of its library.

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