No Arrest in 498A – Circular Reffered

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CRIMINAL WRIT PETITION NO.312 OF 2014

Vinod Rajkrishan Kaushik & ors. … Petitioners.
Versus
The State of Maharashtra. … Respondents.

Mr. A.K. Padhy i/b. A.K. Padhy & Co. advocate for petitioners.
Mr. S.R. Shinde, APP for State.

CORAM : SMT.SADHANA S. JADHAV,J
DATE : JULY 25, 2014
P.C.:

1 Heard the learned Counsel for the Petitioners and the learned APP for State.

2 Rule. Rule made returnable forthwith with the consent of the parties.

3 The Petitioner herein challenges correctness and validity of the Order dated 16/11/2011 passed by the 19th Joint Judicial Magistrate First Class, Pune thereby rejecting the application below Exh. 26 filed by the present petitioners seeking discharge as well as the order dated 30th November, 2013 passed in Criminal Revision Application No. 169 of 2012 passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Pune.

4 Such of the facts necessary for the decision of this Writ Petition are as follows :

The Petitioner No. 3 herein who happens to be the son of Petitioner Nos. 1 and 2 got married to the complainant Madhvika on 26/1/2008. The Petitioner No. 3 as well as his wife were working as Software Engineers at Pune.

5 On 17th June, 2008 an occurrence report was filed at Chaturshrungi Police Station, Pune by the wife of the petitioner No. 3 alleging therein that there was an altercation between her and Petitioner No. 3. The Petitioner No. 3 has assaulted the first informant due to which she sustained injuries on her face, back and hands. The informant had telephonically informed her father about the assault. At the request of her father, her friend Monika Agnihotri had visited her house. The Petitioner No. 3 had not allowed her friend Monika Agnihotri to enter inside their flat and therefore, she was constrained to leave from door step itself. On 17/6/2008 uncle and brother of the informant came to Pune and tried to pacify the couple. They had also contacted with the Petitioner Nos. 1 and 2. It is alleged that at that time, the petitioners had insisted upon the relatives to convince the informant to avail loan and give the said amount to them. The efforts to convince the informant had failed and thereafter, she had lodged the report at Chaturshrungi Police Station. Since the offence alleged appeared to be in the nature of non­cognizable offence, the police had recorded occurrence report.

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6 After reaching Ujjain the first informant lodged a detailed first information report as contemplated under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 on 18th June, 2008 wherein she had narrated the same incident. Offence was registered against the accused persons and the informant was sent for medical examination. The injury certificate indicates that there were bruises on her left eye, right arm, left scapular area and contusion over left thigh. Since the offence had taken place within the jurisdiction of Pune, Ujjain Police have transferred the case for further investigation to Chaturshrungi Police Station. On receipt of the first information report, Crime No. 297 of 2008 is registered against the present petitioners for offence punishable under Section 498A, 506, 406 and 323 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code and under Section 3 and 4 Dowry Prohibition Act on 4/7/2008.

7 The investigation was set in motion. Charge­sheet was filed for the alleged offence. It had transpired in the course of the investigation that the valuables and other articles belonging to the first informant were in the custody of the accused persons and hence, Section 406 of the Indian Penal Code was added.

8 The Petitioners then filed application before the Judicial Magistrate First Class, Pune under Section 239 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The learned Magistrate had considered the papers of investigation and the submissions advanced across the bar and had rejected the said application. According to the learned Magistrate, the prosecution ought to be given an opportunity to adduce evidence as prima facie case was made out. The learned Magistrate had also rightly considered that in the eventuality that the accused persons are discharged at prima face stage, it would amount to deciding the matter without allowing the prosecution to adduce evidence.

9 Being aggrieved by the said order the Petitioners herein had filed Criminal Revision Application No. 169 of 2012. The learned Sessions Court had perused the compilation of the charge­sheet which included the injury certificate of the first informant. The Sessions Court had also taken into consideration mandate engrafted under Section 239 of the Code which contemplated that only upon arriving at a conclusion that the charge­sheet against the accused is groundless, only then the accused are entitled to be discharged. Upon perusal of the charge­sheet, the Sessions Court had formed an opinion that although the occurrence report dated 17th June, 2008 does not depict the entire facts and allegations, it definitely reflects that the Petitioner No. 3 had assaulted the informant by hands in the intervening night of 15th June, 2008 and 16th June, 2008. It had also arrived at a conclusion that the statements of the witnesses corroborated the contents of the FIR. The statement of Monika Agnihotri revealed that she had visited the house of the informant and was restrained by the Petitioner No. 3 from meeting the informant. The Sessions Court had therefore upheld the order passed by the Magistrate and had refused to interfere with the order passed by the Magistrate and the Revision Application was dismissed. Hence, this Writ Petition.

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10 The learned Counsel appearing for the Petitioners has vehemently argued that in fact, it was mandatory upon the learned Magistrate to discharge the Petitioners on the ground that framing of the charge would be futile. It was apparent that the prosecution was initiated only to harass the Petitioners. Learned Counsel has argued that omnibus allegations are levelled against the Petitioners and from bare perusal of the FIR, it would be apparent that the first informant would not be able to substantiate the charges levelled against the petitioner. It is argued that the marriage of the Petitioner No. 3 and the informant was performed without accepting any dowry. It was further argued that in the application for bail it was admitted that the parents of the informant had not given any dowry. It is further argued that while considering the application seeking bail, the Petitioner No. 3 has filed an application seeking restitution of conjugal rights in the court of Delhi. It is further argued that Pune police had not denied to register offence and yet it was not registered since no cognisable offence was made out at that stage. That the complainant had denied medical examination at Pune, but preferred to subject herself for medical examination after two days. Hence, such evidence in the form of injury certificate is manipulated. At the time of deciding the application seeking discharge, according to the learned Counsel it was incumbent upon the Court to consider the defence of the accused also. It is mentioned in the synopsis to the Petition that on 15th December, 2010, Principal Judge, Family Court, Ujjain has granted a decree of divorce in favour of the complainant. Much stress is laid upon the injury certificate which according to the learned Counsel is a concocted document.

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11 It is pertinent to note that in paragraph­19 of the Petition it is contended that a mere suggestion to the highly paid newly couple to plan to buy a house in Delhi by taking home loan jointly, can never be treated as a demand of dowry or torture for taking a loan of Rs. 30 Lakhs for buying a house, as is evident from the contents of the email Subject : House in Omaxe Housing. It is specifically contended that in the first occurrence report there is no averment in respect of dowry, harassment or breach of trust and the same was concocted at Indore.

12 It is a matter of record that the Petitioner Nos. 1 and 2 were not residing under the same roof alongwith the Petitioner No. 3 and the first informant. They were residing at Noida. It is the allegation that they used to visit Pune and at that time, there was harassment. It is pertinent to note that in the report dated 17/6/2008 there was no allegation against the Petitioner Nos. 1 and 2. Hence, the contention that the learned Magistrate has not considered the discharge application in its proper perspective needs to be upheld. The Petitioner Nos. 1 and 2 deserves to be discharged on the ground that they were living separately. There are no allegations against them in the first report. When the complainant returned to Ujjain, the Petitioner Nos. 1 and 2 were not at Pune. The Petitioner No. 3 had restrained Monika Agnihotri from meeting the complainant. It is admitted by the Petitioners that the Petitioner Nos. 1 and 2 had only suggested the couple to purchase a house at Delhi and they had not demanded dowry for their own benefit. However, the case of the Petitioner No. 3 would have to be considered on all together different ground. It is pertinent to note that the Family Court at Ujjain passed decree of divorce in favour of the complainant in a Divorce Petition filed by her.

13 The learned Counsel for the Petitioner has rightly placed reliance on the Judgment of the Apex Court in the case of Priti Gupta & anr. v/s. State of Jharkhand & anr. reported in AIR 2010 SC 3363 wherein the Hon’ble the Hon’ble Apex Court has observed that 

“a serious relook of the entire provision is warranted by the
legislation. It is also a matter of common knowledge that
exaggerated versions of the incident are reflected in a large
number of complaints. The tendency of over implication is also
reflected in a very large number of cases. 
The criminal trials lead to immense sufferings for all
concerned. Even ultimate acquittal in the trial may also not be
able to wipe out the deep scars of suffering of ignominy.
Unfortunately a large number of these complaints have not only
flooded the courts but also have led to enormous social unrest
affecting peace, harmony and happiness of the society. It is high
time that the legislature must take into consideration the
pragmatic realities and make suitable changes in the existing
law. It is imperative for the legislature to take into consideration
the informed public opinion and the pragmatic realities in
consideration and make necessary changes in the relevant
provisions of law.”
Hence, the Hon’ble Apex Court had circulated the copy of the Judgment to the Law Commission and to the Union Law Secretary, Government of India.

14 It is an admitted position that the Petitioner No. 3 had got married to the informant only in January, 2008.  They had lived together for hardly five months before the complainant had withdrawn herself from the matrimonial house. 
 

15 Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code  reads thus :
“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 wilful 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.” 

Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code contemplates harassment of such a nature which would coerce the wife or her relatives to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause gave injury or danger to life, limb or health of the woman. Recitals of the first information report in this case only disclose a stray incident which had occurred due to a verbal altercation between the husband and wife which would be a natural affair between most of the couples. Difference of opinion or verbal altercation on a particular issue or a solitary incident which may temporarily hamper the harmony in a marriage cannot be termed as harassment or cruelty. 
 16 Black’s Law Dictionary defines “harassment” as “Words, conduct, or action (usually repeated or persistent) that being directed at a specific person, annoys, alarms or causes substantial emotional distress in that person and serves no legitimate purpose.” Emphasis is being laid upon “usually, repeated or persistent”. In the present case, it cannot be said that the Petitioner No. 3 was persistent in his conduct so much so that it can cause harassment to the first informant.  The very fact that she had denied to subject herself to medical examination at Pune would show that she had no apparent injuries.  The police officer at Chaturshrungi Police Station would have definitely noticed the bruises if it appeared on  her eyes and other features. Therefore, there creeps doubt as to whether the said injury certificate could be concocted at a place where her parents lived. 

17 Cruelty could be defined as a bodily harm or a reasonable apprehension of bodily harm which endangers life, limb or health. In the present case, the Court is doubtful as to whether the injuries were really caused at the place where the first information report was lodged. In a marriage of long duration it becomes necessary to determine as to whether the cruelty is for such a period which would warrant initiation of proceedings for an offence punishable under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. The Court cannot be oblivious of the fact that in a marriage which lasted for hardly five months, the wife was subjected to a cruelty of such an extent that she would file a petition for divorce. There has been no effort from her relatives to pacify the relations between the young couple. As against this, the Petitioner No. 3 has filed a petition seeking restitution of conjugal rights which reflects his attitude and inclination to forgive the complainant. It is surprising that the Family Court at Ujjain has passed a decree of divorce in the present case in the year 2010 itself. It is doubtful as to whether a ground was made out for judicial separation for a period of 2 years so that the informant could get a divorce. 

18 The Hon’ble Apex Court in the recent Judgment in the case of Arnesh Kumar v/s. State of Bihar & anr. has observed that­ 

“There is phenomenal increase in matrimonial disputes in recent
years. The institution of marriage is greatly revered in this
country. Section 498­A of the IPC was introduced with avowed
object to combat the menace of harassment to a woman at the
hands of her husband and his relatives. The fact that Section
498­A is a cognizable and non­bailable offence has lent it a
dubious place of pride amongst the provisions that are used as
weapons rather than shield by disgruntled wives. The simplest
way to harass is to get the husband and his relatives arrested
under this provision.” 

19 In the present case, it is a matter of record that the Petitioner No. 3 had to undergo incarceration for a week because of the fact that he was arrested unaware. The Petitioner No. 3 was arrested on 26th September, 2008 and was released on bail on 1/10/2008. The Petitioner No. 3 was exposed to social obloquy at the place of service since he was arrested  in the office i.e. in the TCS office and was handcuffed.  All this would clearly show that the complainant was seeking personal vendetta without there being any sufficient grounds.

20 The contention of the learned Counsel for the petitioners that the Petitioners had filed an application under the Right to Information Act which showed that the uncle of the complainant was present in their office at Ujjain on the day when it was shown that he had taken the complainant from Pune to Ujjain needs to be considered. He had not obtained any leave to visit Pune. 

21  As the Hon’ble Apex Court has observed, it is seen that in the present case the disgruntled wife filed the proceedings under Section 498A, 406, 323 of the Indian Penal Code. Soon thereafter, a petition is filed under the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Thereafter the proceedings are initiated in the Family Court. Hence, the husband and his relatives have to go through the ordeal of legal proceedings in the same case in 3 different courts. Hence, the time has come to keep in mind the observations of the Hon’ble Apex Court and pass an appropriate orders to prevent an abuse of process of law.

22 In fact, the Government of Maharashtra had issued a circular to all Police Station  that whenever there is a complaint under Section 498A, the concerned police officer should call upon both the parties and make an effort to bring about reconciliation and give them sufficient time to come to terms. In the present case, it appears that no serious allegations were made at Chaturshrungi Police Station which would even warrant prosecution under Section 498A and therefore, in all probabilities the police officers had not called upon the Petitioner No. 3. At the same time, it cannot be ignored that the Petitioner No. 3 was in fact, arrested by the police in his office and was paraded as if he was a hardened  criminal. The police machinery had not only stopped at that, but had sought police custody on the ground of recovery of the passport of the complainant and other articles.  The highhandedness and influence of the complainant party was writ large on the face of the record and the police  had detained the Petitioner No. 3 in custody without verification of the facts.

23 On perusal of the facts of the case and observations of the Hon’ble Apex Court cited supra, and for the reasons mentioned hereinabove, the Petition seeking discharge deserves to be allowed.

24 The Writ Petition is allowed in terms of prayer clause (b). Rule is made absolute. Writ Petition is disposed of accordingly.

(SMT. SADHANA S. JADHAV,J) 

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