MP HC: 498A FIR & Chargesheet Quash against In-laws – Vague & Omnibus Allegations

HIGH COURT OF MADHYA PRADESH : AT JABALPUR

Miscellaneous Criminal Case No.840/2017

1. Vikas Kumar Jain
S/o Shri Vimal Kumar Jain
Aged about – 35 years,

2. Vimal Kumar Jain
S/o Shri Vimal Kumar Jain
Aged about – 59 years,

3. Smt. Sunita Jain
S/o Shri Vimal Kumar Jain
Aged about – 55 years,

4. Vineet Jain S/o Shri Vimal Kumar Jain
Aged about – 25 years,
All are R/o- Jai Jawan 2, Tonak Road,
P.S. Bajaj Nagar, Jaipur,
District Vidisha (MP)

5. Mahendra Kumar Jain
S/o Shri Vimal Kumar Jain
Aged about – 50 years
R/o- M.K. Roop Centre, Main Road,
Ganjibasoda, District Vidisha (MP)

Petitioners

1. The State of M.P.
Through – Mahila Thana, Jabalpur
District- Jabalpur (MP)

2. Smt. Disha Jain
W/o Vikas Jain
MIG 250, Shiv Nagar,
Damoh Naka, Jabalpur (MP)

Respondents
2 M.Cr.C.No.840/2017

Present:- Hon’ble Shri Justice C.V. Sirpurkar

Shri Punit Chaturvedi, counsel for the petitioners.
Shri Manish Awasthi, Government Advocate for the respondent/State.
None for the respondent no.2 though represented.

ORDER
(06-09-2017)

1. This miscellaneous criminal case has been instituted on an application under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure filed on behalf of petitioners/accused persons Vikas Kumar Jain, Vimal Kumar Jain, Sunita Jain, Vineet Jain and Mahendra Kumar Jain in Crime No.25/2016 registered by Mahila Thana, Jabalpur under sections 498-A read with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code and section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.

2. The facts giving rise to this miscellaneous criminal case may briefly be stated thus: Respondent no.2 Disha Jain lodged a written report before the Superintendent of Police, Jabalpur on 29.01.2016 to the effect that she had married petitioner Vikas on 30.01.2015. Petitioners, Vimal Kumar is her father-in-law, Sunita is her mother-in-law, Vineet is her brother-in-law and Mahendra Kumar is her husband’s uncle. During the marriage ceremony, the behaviour of the petitioners was calculated to harass the respondent no.2 and her family members. At the time of marriage, and during the engagement ceremony, the father of the respondent no.2/victim gave cash, ornaments and household goods worth Rs.07,02,000/-; however, the petitioners were not satisfied with the same. On 17.02.2015, victim’s brother Sachin Jain and uncle Satish Mehta had gone to her matrimonial home to bring her back. At that time, all the five petitioners in furtherance of their common intention, took them aside and told them that they had spent Rs.18,00,000/- in the marriage and; therefore, they wanted the victim’s family to pay them Rs.09,00,000/-. Victim’ husband threatened her that if the sum of Rs.09,00,000/- was not paid, it would not be good for her. When the victim’s father talked about the same to the petitioners, they insisted on payment of Rs.09,00,000/- and told him that otherwise he could take his daughter home. After her father returned, the petitioners started to harass and torture the victim even more. She was humiliated and was given leftovers to eat. Her husband used to taunt and beat her. The petitioners abused and used insulting expressions for the relatives of the victim. They used to lock the kitchen and go to the hotels leaving the victim hungry. When the husband of the victim realized that she may take a drastic step, he left her at her maternal home on 10.04.2015. On 28.01.2016, her husband called her on phone and asked whether the sum of Rs.09,00,000/- has been arranged. He threatened that otherwise he would not take her to matrimonial home and she could commit suicide by jumping from Tilwara bridge. Consequently, the victim lodged the aforesaid written report dated 29.01.2016 with Superintendent of Police. The matter was placed before Family Consultation Centre wherein a compromise was struck on 17.02.2016 and the victim agreed to return to her matrimonial home; however, the same evening her husband Vikas met her on his way to her home and threatened that he will sort her out once she reached her matrimonial home at Ganjbasoda. Therefore, the petitioner refrained from returning to Ganjbasoda.

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3. Learned counsel for the petitioners has submitted that the petitioners never demanded any dowry from the victim and her family members. In fact petitioner Vikas is educated only up to 12 th standard and the victim/respondent no.2 has done her MBA. Moreover, the victim does not want to live in a small place like Ganjbasoda; therefore, she behaved in insolent manner with the petitioners. The petitioners never harassed the victim in any manner. No specific allegations giving date, time, place etc. has been leveled against the petitioners. The allegations that have been leveled are omnibus in nature. The victim returned to her matrimonial home on 09.04.2015 of her own free will and accord. The written report has been lodged on 30.01.2016. A compromise was reached between the parties in the Family Consultation Centre and the petitioners were ready to take the victim to her matrimonial home the same day; however, she declined to go on that date and later refused to go altogether after leveling baseless allegations against petitioner Vikas. In fact petitioner Vikas had filed an application under section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act for restitution of conjugal rights on 08.03.2016 in the Court of Additional District Judge, Ganjbasoda District Vidisha. When the notice of aforesaid proceedings was served upon the victim, by way of counter- blast, she lodged written report with the Superintendent of Police. On 16.08.2016, an ex parte decree for restitution of conjugal rights was passed in favour of petitioner Vikas Jain. Learned counsel for the petitioners has placed reliance upon the judgment rendered by the Supreme Court in the case of Preeti Gupta and another vs State of Jharkhand and another, AIR 2010 SC 3363. In aforesaid circumstances, it has been prayed that the proceedings instituted on aforesaid first information report against the petitioners be quashed.

4. Though, respondent no.2/victim has been represented in this miscellaneous criminal case, no one appeared on her behalf at the time of arguments.

5. Learned Government Advocate for the respondent/State on the other hand has opposed the prayer for quashing the first information report.

6. On due consideration of rival contentions and perusal of the case diary, the Court is of the view that this petition under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, must succeed in part for the reasons hereinafter stated:

7. It is an admitted fact that charge sheet in the matter has been filed on 08.07.2016 and has been registered as Criminal Case No.11682/2016 in the Court of Judicial Magistrate First Class, Jabalpur. However, the Apex Court has held in the case of Satish Mehra Vs. State (NCT of Delhi) and another, AIR 2013 SC 506 that the power to interdict a criminal proceeding even at an intermediate stage of the trial is inherent in the High Court and even after framing of the charge, the proceedings may be quashed.

8. It has also been held by the Supreme Court in the case of Harshendra Kumar D. Vs. Rebatilata Koley AIR 2011 SC 1090 that uncontroverted documents or material of unimpeachable or sterling character may be considered while exercising jurisdiction under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

9. A perusal of the first information report and statements of the witnesses under section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure reveal that though there are specific allegations against husband Vikas Kumar Jain, the allegations against remaining petitioners are omnibus in nature. They are shorn off even basic details such as date, time, place etc.

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10. It may be noted in this regard that the Supreme Court in the case of Arnesh Kumar Vs. State of Bihar, 2014 (8) SCC 273, has observed that:

“4. There is a phenomenal increase in matrimonial disputes in recent years. The institution of marriage is greatly revered in this country. Section 498-A 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 498-A IPC is a cognizable and non-bailable 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. In a quite number of cases, bedridden grandfathers and grandmothers of the husbands, their sisters living abroad for decades are arrested.

11. It has been observed by the Supreme Court in Preeti Gupta v. State of Jharkhand , AIR 2010 SC 3363 that:

“The tendency of implicating husband and all his immediate relations is also not uncommon. At times, even after the conclusion of criminal trial, it is difficult to ascertain the real truth. The courts have to be extremely careful and cautious in dealing with these complaints and must take pragmatic realities into consideration while dealing with matrimonial cases. The allegations of harassment of husband’s close relations who had been living in different cities and never visited or rarely visited the place where the complainant resided would have an entirely different complexion. The allegations of the complaint are required to be scrutinized with great care and circumspection. Experience reveals that long and protracted criminal trials lead to rancour, acrimony and bitterness in the relationship amongst the parties. It is also a matter of common knowledge that in cases filed by the complainant if the husband or the husband’s relations had to remain in jail even for a few days, it would ruin the chances of amicable settlement altogether. The process of suffering is extremely long and painful.”

“When the facts and circumstances of the case are considered in the background of legal principles set out in preceding paragraphs, then it would be unfair to compel the appellants to undergo the rigmarole of a criminal trial. In the interest of justice, we deem it appropriate to quash the complaint against the appellants.”

12. Likewise, in the case of Neelu Chopra & anr. v. Bharti, AIR 2009 SC(Supp) 2950, Supreme Court held as follows: “It does not show as to which accused has committed what offence and what is the exact role played by these appellants in the commission of offence. There could be said something against Rajesh, as the allegations are made against him more precisely but he is no more and has already expired. Under such circumstances, it would be an abuse of process of law to allow the prosecution to continue against the aged parents of Rajesh, the present appellants herein on the basis of vague and general complaint which is silent about the precise acts of the appellants.”

13. A three judge bench of Supreme Court in the case of Kans Raj vs. State of Punjab, AIR 2000 SC 2324 observed that: “For the fault of the husband, the in-laws or the other relations cannot, in all cases, be held to be involved in the demand of dowry. In cases where such accusation are made, the overt acts attributed to persons other than husband are required to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. By mere conjectures and implications such relations cannot be held guilty for the offence relating to dowry deaths. A tendency has, however, developed for roping in all relations of the in- laws of the deceased wives in the matters of dowry deaths which, if not discouraged, is likely to affect the case of the prosecution even against the real culprits. In their over enthusiasm and anxiety to seek conviction for maximum people, the parents of the deceased have been found to be making efforts for involving other relations which ultimately weaken the case of the prosecution even against the real accused as appears to have happened in the instant case.”

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14. It may be seen from the aforesaid judgments that the Supreme Court has expressed its concern with regard to false implication of husband and his relatives in the cases under section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code by disgruntled wives. It has been held that if there are no specific and credible allegations, with necessary particulars against the relatives of the husband, they should not be made to suffer the ignominy of a criminal trial.

15. In the instant case, as already observed, there are specific allegations against husband Vikas Jain. It has been submitted that proceedings in this criminal case have been instituted by way of counter-blast; however, aforesaid argument does not bear scrutiny because the proceedings under section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act were instituted on 08.03.2016 whereas the written report was given to the police on 29.01.2016. Moreover, proceedings in criminal case cannot be quashed on the sole ground that they were instituted after filing of proceeding by the accused under Hindu Marriage Act. In this regard, the judgment rendered by the Supreme Court in the case of Pratibha Vs Rameshwari Devi, 2007 AIR SCW 5933 may be referred to wherein it has been held that complaint of harassment of dowry filed six months after complainant leaving her matrimonial home and after filing of divorce petition by the husband cannot be quashed by drawing adverse inference against the complainant because such complaints are filed when all efforts settlement fail and the divorce petition has been filed by the husband.

16. As such, the power under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure cannot be used to stifle the proceedings against petitioner Vikas; however, so far as remaining petitioners/accused persons are concerned, there are no specific and credible allegations with necessary particulars against them. Only omnibus allegations shorn of even basic details have been leveled. Moreover, the victim had backed out of the settlement arrived at between the parties in the family Consultation Centre; therefore, allowing the trial to proceed against relatives of the husband would be travesty of justice and abuse of process of law. Therefore, they should not be made to undergo the rigmarole of a criminal trial. As such, the exercise of extra- ordinary power of the High Court reserved under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is called for.

17. Consequently, this petition under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is allowed in part.

18. The first information report registered by Mahila Thana, Jabalpur in Crime No.25/2016 under section 498-A read with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code and section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act and criminal proceedings arising therefrom, pending in the Court of Judicial Magistrate First Class, Jabalpur so far as they relate to petitioners/accused persons Vimal Kumar Jain, Sunita Jain, Vineet Jain and Mahendra Kumar Jain, are quashed. The trial arising from aforesaid first information report against husband petitioner Vikas Kumar Jain shall continue in accordance with law.

(C.V. Sirpurkar) Judge

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