Not marrying after proposal is not cheating unless there was intention to cheat: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court recently quashed a cheating case under Section 417 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against a man (petitioner/ appellant) who had not gone through with a marriage despite being in talks with the girl’s family about marrying her [Raju Krishna Shedbalkar vs State of Karnataka and anr].

A bench of Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and Prasanna B Varale noted that there can be multiple reasons for a marriage proposal not materialising but that cannot attract the offence of cheating unless there is evidence to prove that there was an intention to cheat from the beginning.

“There can be multiple reasons for initiating a marriage proposal and then the proposal not reaching the desired end. It may in a given case involve cheating; it is possible theoretically yet in order to prove an offence of cheating in such cases prosecution must have reliable and trustworthy evidence in order to first prosecute such a case. There is no such evidence before the prosecution and therefore no offence under Section 417 is also made out,” the Court held.

Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia and Justice Prasanna B Varale
The Court was hearing an appeal filed by the petitioner against a July 2021 order of the Karnataka High Court which had quashed the case against other family members of the petitioner but declined to quash the case against him.

The case stemmed from a complaint lodged by the woman alleged to have been cheated by the petitioner by not going through with the marriage.

As per the complaint, she was working as a lecturer when her family was searching for a suitable bridegroom and zeroed in on the petitioner as a prospective match.

The two then started talking to each other over the phone and the woman’s father also gave ₹75,000 in advance to a marriage hall.

However, the marriage did not materialise after she learnt from a newspaper report that the petitioner had married someone else.

She then lodged a complaint against six persons including the petitioner and a first information report (FIR) was registered against them under Section 406 (criminal breach of trust), 417 (cheating) and 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) of the Indian Penal Code.

The accused persons then moved the High Court under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for quashing the case.

The High Court quashed the FIR with respect to offences under Sections 406 and 420 against all the accused. As regards Section 417, the High Court concluded that the same was made out against the petitioner though not against other accused persons.

The petitioner then moved the Supreme Court for relief.

The Court, after examining the relevant provision and the case laws, said that in order to attract the offence of cheating, there should be an intention to deceive or cheat right from the beginning.

“Time and again, this Court has reiterated that in order to make out an offence under cheating the intention to cheat or deceive should be right from the beginning. By no stretch of imagination, this is even reflected from the complaint made by the informant,” the Court found.

In this case, the complaint itself did not reflect that the man had such an intention.

It, therefore, quashed the criminal case against the petitioner.

Advocates Sharanagouda Patil, Shivprasad Shantanagouda, Shupreeta Sharanagouda, Supreeta Patil and Jyotish Pandey of S-legal Associates appeared for the accused.

Advocates VN Raghupathy, Manendra Pal Gupta, M Bangaraswamy, Premnath Mishra and Dhanesh Ieshdhan appeared for the Karnataka government.

Advocates Rana Ranjit Singh, Vivek Kumar Singh, Ravish Singh, Akanksha Singh, Sweta Singh, Abhilash Tripayhy and Avijeet Kumar appeared for the complainant.

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