The Gujarat High Court recently quashed a First Information Report (FIR) lodged against an 86-year-old woman for cruelty under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), while noting the rampant misuse of the provision to harass family members. [Jyantilal Vadilal Shah & Anr v. State]
Justice Sandeep N Bhatt noted that the FIR will cause great hardship to the octagenarian and no fruitful purpose would be served if further proceedings are allowed to continue.
Courts must ensure that criminal prosecution is not used as an instrument of harassment or for seeking private vendetta or with ulterior motive to pressurize accused or to settle scores, the single-judge observed while quashing the FIR.
“At this stage, a mention is required to be made that the current scenario in the society is that Sections of 498A are being rampantly misused by the complainants and in such cases, all the family members are roped in the complaint only with a view to harass the family members and the Hon’ble Apex Court has taken cognizance of such incidents in number of judgments,” the Court remarked.
An FIR was registered in 2016 against the elderly woman and her son on a complaint by the latter’s wife that they were making dowry demands and harassing her. The situation worsened owing to allegations of the son’s involvement in an extra-marital relationship, resulting in the complainant choosing to separate from her in-laws.
The complainant-wife stated that her husband physically assaulted her when she confronted him about the alleged affair. Subsequently, she filed an FIR against her husband, her in-laws and the woman involved in the alleged illicit relationship.
The applicants moved court in 2017 for quashing of the FIR. Before the High Court, counsel for the elderly woman argued that there were no substantial allegations directly implicating her client in the FIR and that most of the allegations were directed towards other individuals.
It was also argued that considering the applicant’s age at the time of filing the application, she would face unwarranted harassment if the criminal proceedings were to continue.
The Bench observed that the applicant, being the mother-in-law of the complainant, was wrongly implicated and that only general allegations were made against her.
“Even looking at the age factor and the fact that general allegations are leveled in the FIR only to make sure that she is roped in the FIR, continuing these proceedings will amount to abuse of process of law and no fruitful purpose will be served in continuing the same,” the Court held.
Advocate Yogini H Upadhyay represented the applicant.
Advocate Mohini H Dave appeared for the complainant.
Advocate Soaham Joshi represented the State.