Wednesday, September 15, 2010

SC- Girl friend concubine (though staying with husband) are NOT relative of husband -can’t be prosecuted under 498a cruelty. Definition of Relative of husband u/s IPC 498a




        CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1745 OF 2010
(@ SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION(CRL.) No.4758 of 2009)

SUNITA JHA                           ... APPELLANT



                  J U D G M E N T


1.   Leave granted.

2.   This Appeal is directed against the judgment

and order dated     29th April,   2009, passed   by a

learned Single Judge of the Jharkhand High Court

in Criminal Revision No.410 of 2007 dismissing

the same and affirming the order of the Trial

Court rejecting the prayer of the Appellant for

being discharged from the case.

3.   One     Asha    Rani         Pal,     the     Respondent          No.2

herein,     filed        a    complaint          case     against       her

husband, Mukund Chandra Pandit, and the Appellant

herein,     being     Complaint           Case    No.404     of     2005,

before     the     Sub-Divisional          Judicial        Magistrate,

Dumka, Jharkhand, under Section 498A IPC.                              The

learned      Magistrate           by      his     order     dated       6th

February,        2006,       took      cognizance       against         the

Appellant and other accused and issued process

for the accused to appear before him on 5th April,

2006.      Pursuant to the said order, the Appellant

appeared     before       the     learned        Magistrate       on   10th

July,    2006,     when      the     prosecution        examined        two

witnesses, namely, PW.1 Kanhai Pal, father of the

Respondent No.2 and PW.2 Mukti Pal.                        No further

evidence     was    led      by     the   complainant/Respondent

No.2    and    on    13th    November,      2006,        the   learned

Magistrate      closed       the    pre-charge       evidence         and

posted    the       case    for    arguments       on    framing      of


4.     On 9th March, 2007, the Appellant filed an

application       for      discharge,      inter    alia,      on     the

ground that the complainant had not been examined

as a witness in the case.                  During the arguments

on the said application, it was contended that

the Appellant could not be made an accused under

Section 498A IPC since she was not a relative of

Mukund Chandra Pandit and that the allegations

made    against      her    did    not   make      out    a    case   of

cruelty under the aforesaid Section.                     However, by

his    order    dated       9th   March,    2007,        the   learned

Magistrate rejected the Appellant's application

for discharge on the ground that there was prima

facie evidence for framing of charge against the

accused, including the Appellant, under Section

498A IPC.

5.     Aggrieved by the said order, the Appellant

moved the Jharkhand High Court at Ranchi by way

of Criminal Revision No.410 of 2007. As indicated

hereinabove, a learned Single Judge of the High

Court    by     his    order   dated    29th   April,     2009,

dismissed the Revision Application on the ground

that    since    the   Appellant     was   living   with   the

accused husband of the complainant, she must be

deemed to have become a family member of Mukund

Chandra Pandit for the purpose of Section 498A


6.     The case of the Appellant before us is that

the High Court erred in law in holding that the

Appellant became a member of the family of Mukund

Chandra Pandit merely because she was living with

him in his house allegedly as his wife.                    Mr.

Gaurav    Agrawal,       Advocate,     appearing    for     the

Appellant, contended that Section 498A IPC was

very clear as to who could be charged under the

said Section.       For the sake of convenience, the

said Section is reproduced hereinbelow :-

    "498A. Husband or relative of husband
    of a woman subjecting her to cruelty. -
    Whoever,       being      the   husband       or     the
    relative      of    the   husband   of    a    woman,
    subjects such woman to cruelty shall be
    punished with imprisonment for a term
    which    may    extend     to   three    years       and
    shall also be liable to fine.

    Explanation. - For the purpose of this
    section, "cruelty" means-

    (a)    Any    willful     conduct   which      is     of
    such a nature as is likely to drive the
    woman    to    commit     suicide   or    to       cause
    grave injury or danger to life, limb or
    health (whether mental or physical) of
    the woman; or

    (b) Harassment of the woman where such
    harassment is with a view to coercing
    her or any person related to her to
    meet    any        unlawful     demand    for        any
    property or valuable security or is on

      account of failure by her or any person
      related to her to meet such demand."

7.    It will be seen from the aforesaid provisions

that it is either the husband or the relative of

a husband of a woman who subjects her to cruelty,

who   could       be   charged    under     the    said   Section.

Such provision could not apply to a person who

was   not     a    relation      of   the    husband      when     the

alleged offence is said to have been committed.

It was contended that the Appellant was in no way

related to the husband and was not his wife as

held by the High Court so as to bring her within

the   ambit       of   Section   498A      IPC    and   the   charge

framed against her was, accordingly, invalid and

liable to be quashed.            Reliance was placed by Mr.

Agrawal     on     the   decision     of    this    Court     in    U.

Suvetha v. State [(2009) 6 SCC 757], wherein the

aforesaid question was directly in issue.                        This

Court took up for consideration the question as

to the persons who could be charged under Section

498A IPC having particular regard to the phrase

"relative of the husband" occurring in the said

Section.         This    Court    categorically        held     that

neither     a    girlfriend       nor   a     concubine       is     a

relative of the husband within the meaning of

Section 498A IPC, since they were not connected

by blood or marriage to the husband.

8.   The        other     question       which        fell         for

determination was if a husband was living with

another woman besides his wife, whether the same

would amount to "cruelty" within the meaning of

Section    498A.    It    was    held   that    if    such    other

woman was not connected to the husband by blood

or   marriage,      the    same    would    not      attract       the

provisions of Section 498A I.P.C., although it

could be an act of cruelty for the purpose of

judicial    separation      or    dissolution        of   marriage

under     the    marriage       laws,   but     could     not       be

stretched to amount to "cruelty" under Section

498A IPC.

9.    While construing the provisions of Section

498A IPC in the given circumstances, this Court

observed       that     Section     498A     being      a     penal

provision deserved strict construction and by no

stretch of imagination would a girlfriend or even

a concubine be a "relative", which status could

be    conferred       either   by   blood    connection         or

marriage or adoption.             If no marriage has taken

place,   the    question       of   one    being    relative    of

another would not arise.

10.      Mr. Agrawal urged that the High Court had

misconstrued the provisions of Section 498A vis-

`-vis    the    Appellant      in   relation       to   the   said

Section and the impugned order of the High Court

was, therefore, liable to be set aside along with

the order of the learned Sub-Divisional Judicial

Magistrate rejecting the Appellant's prayer for

discharge from the complaint case filed by Asha

Rani Pal.

11. An       attempt    was    made         on     behalf    of   the

complainant, Asha Rani Pal, to justify the order

passed by the learned Magistrate as also the High

Court on the ground that the Appellant must be

deemed to have acquired the status of wife of

Mukund Chandra Pandit by her conduct and the fact

that they had been living together as husband and


12. We have considered the submissions made on

behalf of the Appellant and the complainant wife.

It    may    be    indicated    that        the    husband    Mukund

Chandra Pandit has not been made a party to these

proceedings.         However, having regard to the view

which       we    are   taking,       his        presence    is   not

necessary for disposing of the present appeal.

13.                Section     498A     IPC,        as      extracted

hereinabove, is clear and unambiguous that only

the husband or his relative could be proceeded

against under the said Section for subjecting the

wife    to       "cruelty",    which    has        been     specially

defined in the said Section in the explanation

thereto.        The    question        as    to   who     would     be    a

relative       of   the      husband        for   the     purpose        of

Section 498A has been considered in detail in U.

Suvetha's      case        (supra).         We    are     entirely       in

agreement with the views expressed in the said

case and we agree with the submissions made on

behalf of the Appellant that the learned Judge of

the High Court committed an error in bestowing

upon     the    Appellant        the     status      of    wife     and,

therefore, a member of Mukund Chandra Pandit's

family. The doctrine of acknowledgement would not

be available in the facts of this case.                                  No

doubt,    there       is    direct     allegation         against    the

Appellant of cruelty against the Respondent No.2,

Asha Rani Pal, but as indicated in U. Suvetha's

case     (supra),          the    same       would        enable     the

Respondent No.2 to proceed against her husband

under Section 498A I.P.C. and also against the

Appellant under the different provisions of the

Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, but not under Section

498A I.P.C.

14. The    Appeal,    therefore,     succeeds                     and            is

allowed.      The   judgment   of   the      learned                  Single

Judge of the Jharkhand High Court impugned in

this Appeal is set aside and the cognizance taken

against the Appellant on 6th February, 2006, by

the learned Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate,

Dumka, under Section 498A IPC, is hereby quashed.

                                        (ALTAMAS KABIR)

                                        (A.K. PATNAIK)
New Delhi
Dated: 13.09.2010


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