12 July 2020

Petty quarrels arising in conjugal life does not amount to cruelty u/s. 498A IPC

With regard to the charge of Section 498A IPC against the appellant, the learned trial Judge did not assign any reason in his judgment as to why he found the appellant guilty of offence punishable under Section 498A IPC. It is apparent on the face of the record that the appellant as well as his in laws belonged to the poor strata of society. It was, therefore, not unlikely that there would be discord and differences in the domestic life of the appellant. Petty quarrels arising out of such discord and differences in conjugal life would not amount to cruelty within the meaning of clause (a) of Section 498A IPC unless it is proved that the cruelty meted out to the wife was a willful conduct of the appellant which was likely to affect her normal mental frame and drive her to commit suicide out of depression or to cause grave injury or danger to her life, limb or her mental or physical health. For establishing the commission of offence under clause (b) of Section 498A IPC, it has to be proved that the appellant or his relatives subjected his deceased wife to harassment with a view to coercing her or her relatives to meet his demands for dowry or such harassment was made due to the failure of her or her relatives to meet such demand. Now, we have to ascertain from the evidence recorded by the trial court as to whether prosecution has been able to bring home the charge under Section 498A IPC to the accused. [Para No.47]

Petty quarrels arising  in conjugal life does not amount to cruelty u/s. 498A IPC
  In the case of Prwitish Datta and Ors.(supra) this High Court held that every case of harassment either by the husband or his family members to the wife cannot be termed as cruelty within the meaning of Section 498A unless the conduct of the husband or his family members, as the case may be, is wilful and of such a grave nature which is likely to drive the wife to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to her life, limb or health whether mental or physical. Similarly, in Gautam Nama (supra) which has also been relied upon by learned counsel of the appellant, this High Court observed that on the basis of mere omnibus statement without specific evidence regarding the particulars of the instances of such torture or cruelty, the accused cannot be held guilty under Section 498A IPC. In the case of Dhananjoy Shil (supra) also it was held by this Court that a single incident of assault may not amount to an offence under Section 498A IPC because cruelty for the purpose of Section 498A is different from other statutory provisions and it is to be established against the appellant that he subjected his wife to cruelty continuously and persistently. It was also held that petty quarrels cannot be termed as cruelty to attract the provisions of Section 498A IPC.[Para No.48]

 In the given context, PW-1, father of the deceased, admitted in cross examination that at the time of marriage, his appellant son-in-law did not make any demand of dowry. It has also surfaced on record that neither the deceased nor her parents made any complaint to any authority about the torture allegedly committed to her by her husband for non fulfilment of his demand for dowry. Smt. Supriya Nath, PW-9, who is the mother of the deceased, asserted in her examination in chief that her deceased daughter once met Smt. Bipula Nath [PW-5], a local panchayet member and complained to her about the torture of her husband for dowry. But Smt. Bipula Nath [PW-5] denied this fact and stated in her cross examination that she never received any complaint from any corner against the appellant. The PW, however, told the court at the trial that quarrels took place between the appellant and his wife prior to the death of the wife. PW-1, father of the deceased deposed that he borrowed rupees 20,000/- from his brother-in-law and paid it to the appellant. His wife PW- 9, also supported his evidence and told that her husband borrowed rupees 20,000/- from her brother Himangshu and paid the money to her appellant son-in-law which is also supported by PW-12, sister of the deceased. But Himangshu is not examined to prove the fact that he actually paid the money to meet the demand of the appellant. In fact, except the omnibus statement of the parents [PW-1 and PW-9] and the sister [PW-12] of the deceased that she was subjected to torture by her husband for non fulfillment of his demand of dowry, no other cogent and specific evidence has been adduced in support of the charge. There is no specific evidence as to how and when the appellant tortured or harassed his wife (the deceased) for dowry. Evidently, the appellant and his wife had love affairs which matured into their marriage. Some of the neighbours of the appellant also gave evidence at the trail. Among them PW-3, Malati Nath asserted in her examination in chief that on some past occasions she heard hue and cry from the house of the appellant where the appellant used to reside with his wife (deceased). In her cross examination, she said that she was not sure as to who raised such hue and cry. PW-5, Smt. Bipula Nath, also supported such evidence saying that she heard the appellant and his wife quarrelling with each other on some occasions prior to her death. None of them heard about any kind of torture committed by the appellant on his wife for dowry. From the evidence discussed herein above it is established that the couple did not have a congenial conjugal life and there were intermittent skirmishes between them which is not enough for his conviction under Section 498A, IPC. [Para No.49]

 In view of the evidence discussed herein above and the law enunciated in the decisions cited above, we are of the view that the prosecution could not establish the charge of cruelty as enumerated under Section 498A IPC against the appellant and therefore, the judgment and order of conviction and sentence of the appellant under Section 498A IPC needs to be set aside by us. [Para No.50]

Tripura High Court

Paritosh Nath@ Babu
The State Of Tripura

Decided on 07/072020

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