“Tolerance Foundation Of Sound Marriage”: Supreme Court In Dowry Case

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The Supreme Court on Friday said tolerance and respect are the foundation of a sound marriage and petty quibbles should not be blown out of proportion.
The court’s observations came while quashing a dowry-harassment case filed by a woman against her husband.

“The foundation of a sound marriage is tolerance, adjustment and respecting one another. Tolerance to each other’s fault to a certain bearable extent has to be inherent in every marriage. Petty quibbles, trifling differences are mundane matters and should not be exaggerated and blown out of proportion to destroy what is said to have been made in heaven,” the court said.

Its observation came in a judgment that set aside a Punjab and Haryana High Court order, which dismissed a husband’s plea seeking the quashing of a criminal case lodged against him.

The court said that many times, the parents and close relatives of a married woman make a mountain out of a molehill and instead of salvaging the situation and saving the marriage, their action brings about complete destruction of the marital bonds on trivial issues.

A bench of Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra said the first thing that comes to the mind of the woman, her parents and relatives is the police, as if that is the panacea of all evil.

No sooner the matter reaches the police, even if there are fair chances of reconciliation between the spouses, they would get destroyed, the bench said.

“The court must appreciate that all quarrels must be weighed from that point of view in determining what constitutes cruelty in each particular case, always keeping in view the physical and mental conditions of the parties, their character and social status. A very technical and hyper-sensitive approach would prove to be disastrous for the very institution of marriage,” the bench said.

The court said the main sufferers in matrimonial disputes are children.

“The spouses fight with such venom in their heart that they do not think even for a second that if the marriage would come to an end, what will be the effect on their children. Divorce plays a very dubious role so far as the upbringing of the children is concerned,” the bench said.

“The only reason why we are saying so is that instead of handling the whole issue delicately, the initiation of criminal proceedings would bring about nothing but hatred for each other. There may be cases of genuine ill-treatment and harassment by the husband and his family members towards the wife. The degree of such ill-treatment or harassment may vary,” it added.

Observing that the police machinery should be resorted to as a measure of last resort in matrimonial disputes, the court said the it cannot be utilised for holding the husband at ransom so that he could be squeezed by the wife at the instigation of her parents or relatives or friends.

“In all cases, where the wife complains of harassment or ill-treatment, section 498A of the IPC cannot be applied mechanically. No FIR is complete without sections 506(2) and 323 of the IPC. Every matrimonial conduct, which may cause annoyance to the other, may not amount to cruelty. Mere trivial irritations, quarrels between spouses, which happen in day-to-day married life, may also not amount to cruelty,” it said.

According to the FIR lodged by his wife, the man and his family members allegedly demanded dowry and caused mental and physical trauma to her.

The FIR said the woman’s family had spent a large sum at the time of her wedding and also handed over her “streedhan” to the husband and his family.

However, shortly after the wedding, the husband and his family allegedly started harassing her on the false pretext that she had failed to discharge her duties as a wife and daughter-in-law and pressuring her for more dowry.

The bench said a plain reading of the FIR and the chargesheet indicates that the allegations levelled by the woman are quite vague, general and sweeping, specifying no instances of criminal conduct.

“It is also pertinent to note that in the FIR, no specific date or time of the alleged offence or offences has been disclosed. Even the police thought fit to drop the proceedings against the other members of the appellant’s (husband) family. Thus, we are of the view that the FIR lodged by the respondent no. 2 (woman) was nothing but a counterblast to the divorce petition and also, the domestic violence case,” the bench said.

“For the foregoing reasons, we have reached the conclusion that if the criminal proceedings are allowed to continue against the appellant, the same will be nothing short of an abuse of the process of law and travesty of justice,” it added.

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