Advising woman to avoid vindictive retaliation by husband that taking custody of jewellery for safety, not cruelty under 498A IPC

Advising woman to avoid vindictive retaliation by husband that taking custody of jewellery for safety, not cruelty under 498A IPC

Deepak Sharma Vs State of Haryana and Others

Supreme Court

12/01/2022

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 83 OF 2022

About/from the judgment:

The Supreme Court recently held that giving advice to a wife to adjust in order to avoid retaliation from her husband does not constitute cruelty within the meaning of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.

A Court held,

"Failure to control an adult brother, living independently, or giving advice to the complainant to adjust to avoid vindictive retaliation from the Accused No. 1 cannot constitute cruelty on the part of the Appellant within the meaning of Section 498A of the IPC."

The Court also held that taking custody of jewellery for safety does not amount to cruelty under the provision.

The Court was hearing a petition filed by a man who was prevented from leaving the country after he was arrayed as an accused in a case filed by his sister-in-law, arising out of a matrimonial dispute. The trial court as well as the Punjab & Haryana High Court had refused him permission to go to the United States, where he was employed, prompting him to approach the apex court.

At the outset, the Bench noted in its order,

"The short question in this appeal is, whether the Appellant can be denied his fundamental right of personal liberty to travel abroad, subject to possession of a valid passport, visa and other requisite travel documents, only because he is arrayed as accused in a complaint filed by his brother’s wife against his brother being the husband of the complainant and his parents, particularly mother and that too when the allegations in the complaint do not disclose any criminal offence on the part of the Appellant. The answer to the aforesaid question has to be in the negative."

The complainant had filed a case against her husband, his parents and his brother alleging that she was harassed for dowry. The specific allegation against the brother-in-law, the appellant before the apex court, was that he and his mother had taken custody of all her gold. It was also alleged that when the complainant confronted the appellant about the bad habits of her husband (she allegedly found a "weed pipe" in his pocket), she was told to "accept the culture" of the husband. She further stated in her complaint,

"My brother-in-law threatened me to remain quiet otherwise Nitin is a very bad enemy.”

After the perusal of the complaint, the Court noted,

"The allegations in the complaint against the Appellant prima facie do not disclose, against the Appellant, any offence under Section 498A of the IPC, which contemplates cruelty, that is willful conduct of such a nature, as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to the life, limb or health (whether physical or mental) of the woman."

It was also noted that the complainant had not given any particulars of the jewellery that had allegedly been taken by the appellant. Moreover, there was not a whisper in the complaint of whether any jewellery is lying with the appellant.

"It is not even alleged that the Appellant forcibly took away or misappropriated the complainant’s jewellery or refused to return the same inspite of request. Taking custody of jewellery for safety cannot constitute cruelty within the meaning of Section 498A of the IPC. There is not even any allegation against the Appellant of any demand or threat or torture for dowry or property," the order stated.

In this light, the Court held,

"Having regard to the nature of the allegations, it is not understood how and why the Appellant should have been detained in India. In our considered opinion, the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kurukshetra, erred in directing this Appellant not to leave the country without prior permission of the Court."

The apprehension of the High Court that the husband of the complainant might leave the country cannot be a ground to deny the appellant permission to go back to the USA where he has been working for the last 10 years, the Court noted while allowing the appellant to travel abroad.

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