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Refusal to take up responsibility for child's treatment does not amount to cruelty under section 498-A IPC
Gudipati Mallikarjuna Rao Vs Gudipati Saranya
Andhra Pradesh HC
CRIMINAL PETITION No. 1958 of 2021
About/from the judgment:
Ruling that neglecting the child and refusing to take responsibility for his treatment does not fall under the ambit of cruelty as per Section 498-A or criminal intimidation under section 506 Indian Penal Code,1860 (IPC), the High Court quashed a criminal case filed by a woman against her husband and in-laws.
The court was hearing the criminal petition of husband and in-laws of the woman to quash the case filed under Sections 498-A, 509, 506, 354 r/w 34 of IPC on the ground that it was filed beyond the period of limitation and the case is not made out.
On the other hand, the respondent-wife contended that the offence of cruelty and criminal intimidation has continued because petitioner husband and in-laws failed to visit or take up responsibility for child’s treatment.
In November 2011, the de facto complainant wife and petitioner husband were married. Later, the wife alleged that her husband and in-laws harassed and mistreated her. The harassment is said to have been carried out for the purpose of extracting money from her parents.
In September 2015, a son was born to the wife and she was allegedly sent away to her matrimonial home and neither her husband nor any of her in-laws had bothered to look after her or the son.
According to the wife's allegation, her son had some problems in his testicles and had to undergo an operation. However, the petitioner husband or in-laws did not provide any financial support.
In such alleged circumstances, a complaint was filed by her for offences under Sections 498-A, 506, 354 r/w 34 of IPC against the husband and in-laws.
Based on the investigation, the Additional Junior Civil Judge, Narasaraopet took cognizance of the case for the offences under Sections 498-A, 509, 506, 354 r/w 34 of IPC.
The petitioners — the husband and in-laws, approached the High Court by way of the criminal petition for quashing of the case. The counsel for petitioners submitted that the complaint could not have been entertained as it was filed beyond the period of limitation set out under Section 468 of Cr.P.C.
He further submitted that the order of cognizance, apart from being bereft of any reasons disclosing satisfaction of the Magistrate, is also defective on account of a clear non application of mind by the Magistrate.
The counsel highlighted that once Section 354 of IPC is excluded from the charge sheet, all the other offences do not attract a punishment of more than three years and the limitation for filing a complaint under these provisions would be three years from the date of offence. In this case, all the allegations related to offences prior to November, 2015 while the complaint was filed in May 2019 which is clearly beyond the period of three years, he argued.
The counsel for the complainant-wife argued that the harassment continued even after she returned to her parental home in November 2015. She claimed that both she and her child were neglected and forced to live with her parents despite their ill health.
As examples of this harassment, the counsel alleged that none of the petitioners had attended or performed the tonsure ceremony of the child. Apart from this, the harassment continued as no treatment was provided by the petitioner husband or in-laws for the child and nobody visited at the time when surgery was performed in 2018, she said.
After hearing both sides, the Court decided that the trial court had taken cognizance under Sections 498-A, 354, 506 r/w 34 of the IPC. However, the court noted that there was no recorded reason as to why cognizance had been taken under Section 354 when the investigating officer had dropped that provision, nor was there any explanation as to why cognizance had not been taken under Section 509 when the investigating officer had included it in the charge sheet.
The court noted that the magistrate had not recorded even a brief note setting out their satisfaction for taking cognizance.
"In view of the clear non application of mind, this Court would have to set aside the said order of cognizance. However, setting aside the order of cognizance would only result in a remand of the case to the Magistrate and the issues raised by the petitioners would remain unanswered," said the bench.
Furthermore, the court explained that the complaint by the de facto complainant was filed more than three years after she returned to her parents' home, which is beyond the prescribed time limit. This would result in the complaint under Sections 498-A, 509 or 506 of IPC being barred by limitation, it said.
The court then considered the question that whether the further incidents alleged by the wife would amount to such acts of harassment that would result in the period of limitation being extended.
"The allegations in relations to the later period are allegations of neglect and refusal to visit or meet the de facto complainant or her child. It would have to be seen whether this behaviour would attract any of the provisions contained in the charge sheet," it court.
After perusing Section 506 and 509 of the IPC, the court said, "the allegations made against the petitioner, for neglect and refusal to take up responsibility for the treatment of the child of the de facto complainant would not fall under either of these provisions"
The court then considered whether such actions of neglect would fall within the ambit of Section 498-A of the IPC. "These actions of neglect would not fall within ambit of Section 498-A of I.P.C," it said.
The court held that, “In the circumstances, it would have to be held that the complaint, filed by the de facto complainant, is beyond the period prescribed under Section 468 of Cr.P.C”.
It further referred to the Supreme Court case of Kamlesh Kalra vs Shilpika Kalra & Ors and noted that it has been held that “a complaint filed more than three years after separation of the couple would have to be held to be barred by limitation”.
Consequently, the criminal petition was allowed and the case on the file of the I Additional Junior Civil Judge, Narasaraopet was quashed.
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