Punjab and Haryana High Court slaps ₹50k fine on wife, quashes Section 498A case against husband

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The Punjab and Haryana High Court recently imposed costs of ₹50,000 on a woman for failing to turn up before the Magistrate for recording her statement about the settlement of the matrimonial dispute with her former husband after taking ₹22 lakh in alimony from him.

Justice Sumeet Goel also quashed the First Information Report (FIR) under Sections 498A (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty), 323 (Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) and 406 (criminal breach of trust) against the woman’s former husband.

The Court said the continuation of proceedings against the man would be nothing but sheer abuse of the process of law and only harassment would be caused to him in case the proceedings are allowed to continue.

Justice Sumeet Goel
Taking a strong exception to the woman’s conduct, the Court said it was not expected to turn Nelson’s eye to the “vexatious and virulent attempts” of unscrupulous elements to misuse the process of law.

“It is pertinent to note that the conduct of respondent No.2-wife is inexplicable in terms of bona fide. Any attempt to misuse the process of law/Courts ought to be detested. The feeling of rancor or bitterness cannot be permitted to be genesis for procrastinating the culmination of legal proceedings especially when settlement/compromise has been arrived at between the rival parties. Abhorrence of such attempt(s) is pertinent. Ergo, the respondent No.2-wife deserves to be saddled with costs, which essentially ought to be in the nature of veritable real time costs,” the Court said.

The Court noted that the man under the settlement had already paid ₹22 Lakh to his former wife towards maintenance and permanent alimony and a mutual consent decree has also passed by the Family court.

Thus, it said the woman had repeated all the benefits from the compromise.

The accused (former husband) had approached the High Court in 2022 for quashing the FIR on the basis of the settlement. In March 2024, the Court had directed the parties to get their statements recorded about the compromise before the jurisdictional magistrate.

However, the Magistrate in a report to the Court said while the man had turned up for the statement, his former wife had not. The counsel representing the accused said it was an attempt to prolong the litigation to harass him.

Considering the situation in the present case, the Court further said that though Section 498A of IPC was introduced with a salutatory object of curbing the evil of dowry, the provision along with Section 406 of IPC was being heavily misapplied by women to settle scores with their husbands and their family members.

“The Courts ought to be prudent and cautious in dealing with such cases and must take into consideration all the pragmatic realities while evaluating the matrimonial discord related criminal cases. The Courts cannot be oblivious to countenancing the pragmatic and realistic necessities of time. The High Court, while exercising inherent and intrinsic powers under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. of 1973; ought to countenance the tangible and concrete realities and cannot engirth itself in an ivory tower,” the order stated.

The Court also said that in a case where the wife has reaped the benefits of compromise, nothing more was required to be done by the husband and the FIR deserves to be quashed.

However, the Court also clarified that the wife can raise a plea that a compromise was a result of coercion and substantiate it with tangible material. Merely bald assertion would not suffice, it added.

“Furthermore, before allowing the wife to raise such a plea(s), the Court may also consider directing the complainant/wife to return the financial benefit(s) received in pursuance of such compromise/settlement,” it said further.

Advocate Ojas Bansal represented the petitioner.

Assistant Advocate General Priyanka Sadar represented the State of Haryana.

Advocate Tejas Bansal represented the complainant.

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