Each day a fresh cause of action for woman forced out of matrimonial home: Madhya Pradesh High Court

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The Madhya Pradesh High Court recently observed that if a woman is forced to live out of her matrimonial home on account of less dowry, it would amount to a mental cruelty on a daily basis.

Justice GS Ahluwalia added that once the woman in such circumstances starts living outside, it would become a continuous offence and every day would give rise to a fresh cause of action.

“Compelling a married woman to leave her matrimonial house and to live in her parental home on account of less dowry would certainly traumatize the woman,” the single-judge said.

Justice G.S. Ahluwalia
The Court made the observations while declining to accept expiry of limitation as a ground to quash a First Information Report (FIR) registered by a woman (complainant) against her husband and in-laws. 

The complainant had, in 2021, lodged a case against her husband and in-laws, alleging that they would beat her and also insist that she bring an amount of ₹10 lakh as dowry. She alleged that she was thrown out of her matrimonial house due to the dowry demand.

The husband and other accused challenged the FIR.

The Court looked into the allegations against them in accordance with their relationship.

While the Court refused to quash the FIR against the husband and the complainant’s mother-in-law, it found allegations vague against other accused and accordingly set aside the proceedings against them.

Since the complainant had specifically alleged that she was turned out of the matrimonial house on account of less dowry, the Court considered whether the husband and relatives driving a woman out of her matrimonial house due to less dowry and compelling her live in her parental house, would amount to cruelty.

In this regard, it relied on earlier court decisions where it was held that compelling a married woman to live in her parental house amounts to cruelty.

The Court explained that while there may not be physical cruelty after separation, Section 498-A (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) of Indian Penal Code criminalises mental cruelty as well.

“If a lady has been ousted from her matrimonial house, then certainly it will have impact on her mind amounting to mental cruelty. Once staying at her parental home on account of ousting from her matrimonial house on account of less dowry is held to be a cruelty, then it would become a continuous offence and every day would give a fresh cause of action.”

Thus, the Court rejected the argument that the FIR had been registered late. It is a well established principle of law that a delay by itself is not sufficient to throw the prosecution case, it reasoned.

Advocate Vikas Mishra represented the accused.

Advocate Dilil Parihar represented the State.

Advocate Ajay Sen represented the complainant.

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