MP HC: 498A FIR & CS Quash against Sister-in-Law on vague allegations

Madhya Pradesh High Court

Reetesh Vinode
vs
The State Of Madhya Pradesh on 11 July, 2017

M.Cr.C. 9782 of 2016

Shri J.S. Kushwaha, Counsel for the applicants.
Shri Prakhar Dhengula, Counsel for the State/respondent no.1
None for the respondent no.2, though served. Heard finally.

This petition under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. has been filed for quashing the chargesheet and criminal proceedings in Criminal Case No.1806 of 2016 pending in Court of JMFC, Guna as well as the F.I.R. in Crime No.571/2015 registered by Police Station Cantt, District Guna for offence under Sections 498-A, 323, 34 of I.P.C.

At the outset, the Counsel for the applicants, seek permission of this Court to withdraw the application filed on behalf of the applicants No.1 and 2. Accordingly, this application filed by the applicants No. 1 and 2 is dismissed as withdrawn.

It is submitted by the Counsel for the applicant No.3, that during the pendency of the present application, charges have been framed against the applicant No.3. However, he fairly conceded that the order framing charges has not been challenged. It is submitted by the Counsel for the applicant No.3, that merely because the charges have been framed during the pendency of this petition, cannot be a ground to dismiss the present application. In support of his contention, the Counsel for the applicant relied upon judgments of Supreme Court passed in the case of Sathish Mehra Vs. State (NCT of Delhi) reported in (2012) 13 SCC 614 and submitted that if the allegations made against the accused do not make out a prima facie case against him/her, then compelling them to face the trial is unwarranted.

“13. Though a criminal complaint lodged before the court under the provisions of Chapter XV of the Code of Criminal Procedure or an FIR lodged in the police station under Chapter XII of the Code has to be brought to its logical conclusion in accordance with the procedure prescribed, power has been conferred under Section 482 of the Code to interdict such a proceeding in the event the institution/continuance of the criminal proceeding amounts to an abuse of the process of court. An early discussion of the law in this regard can be found in the decision of this Court in R.P. Kapur v. State of Punjab wherein the parameters of exercise of the inherent power vested by Section 561-A of the repealed Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (corresponding to Section 482 CrPC, 1973) had been laid down in the following terms: (AIR p. 869, para 6)
(i) Where institution/continuance of criminal proceedings against an accused may amount to the abuse of the process of the court or that the quashing of the impugned proceedings would secure the ends of justice;
(ii) where it manifestly appears that there is a legal bar against the institution or continuance of the said proceeding e.g. want of sanction;
(iii) where the allegations in the first information report or the complaint taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety, do not constitute the offence alleged; and
(iv) where the allegations constitute an offence alleged but there is either no legal evidence adduced or evidence adduced clearly or manifestly fails to prove the charge.
14. The power to interdict a proceeding either at the threshold or at an intermediate stage of the trial is inherent in a High Court on the broad principle that in case the allegations made in the FIR or the criminal complaint, as may be, prima facie do not disclose a triable offence, there can be reason as to why the accused should be made to suffer the agony of a legal proceeding that more often than not gets protracted. A prosecution which is bound to become lame or a sham ought to interdicted in the interest of justice as continuance thereof will amount to an abuse of the process of the law. This is the core basis on which the power to interfere with a pending criminal proceeding has been recognized to be inherent in every High Court. The power, though available, being extra ordinary in nature has to be exercised sparingly and only if the attending facts and circumstances satisfy the narrow test indicated above, namely, that even accepting all the allegations levelled by the prosecution, no offence is disclosed. However, if so warranted, such power would be available for exercise not only at the threshold of a criminal proceeding but also at a relatively advanced stage thereof, namely, after framing of the charge against the accused. In fact the power to quash a proceeding after framing of charge would appear to be somewhat wider as, at that stage, the materials revealed by the investigation carried out usually comes on record and such materials can be looked into, not for the purpose of determining the guilt or innocence of the accused but for the purpose of drawing satisfaction that such materials, even if accepted in its entirety, do not, in any manner, disclose the commission of the offence alleged against the accused.

15. The above nature and extent of the power finds an exhaustive enumeration in a judgment of this Court in State of Karnataka v. L. Muniswamy (1977) 2 SCC 699 which may be usefully extracted below : (SCC pp. 702-03) “7. The second limb of Mr Mookerjee’s argument is that in any event the High Court could not take upon itself the task of assessing or appreciating the weight of material on the record in order to find whether any charges could be legitimately framed against the respondents. So long as there is some material on the record to connect the accused with the crime, says the learned counsel, the case must go on and the High Court has no jurisdiction to put a precipitate or premature end to the proceedings on the belief that the prosecution is not likely to succeed. This, in our opinion, is too broad a proposition to accept. Section 227 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 2 of 1974, provides that:

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* * * This section is contained in Chapter XVIII called “Trial Before a Court of Session”. It is clear from the provision that the Sessions Court has the power to discharge an accused if after perusing the record and hearing the parties he comes to the conclusion, for reasons to be recorded, that there is not sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused. The object of the provision which requires the Sessions Judge to record his reasons is to enable the superior court to examine the correctness of the reasons for which the Sessions Judge has held that there is or is not sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused. The High Court therefore is entitled to go into the reasons given by the Sessions Judge in support of his order and to determine for itself whether the order is justified by the facts and circumstances of the case. Section 482 of the New Code, which corresponds to Section 561-A of the Code of 1898, provides that:

* * * In the exercise of this wholesome power, the High Court is entitled to quash a proceeding if it comes to the conclusion that allowing the proceeding to continue would be an abuse of the process of the Court or that the ends of justice require that the proceeding ought to be quashed. The saving of the High Court’s inherent powers, both in civil and criminal matters, is designed to achieve a salutary public purpose which is that a court proceeding ought not to be permitted to degenerate into a weapon of harassment or persecution. In a criminal case, the veiled object behind a lame prosecution, the very nature of the material on which the structure of the prosecution rests and the like would justify the High Court in quashing the proceeding in the interest of justice. The ends of justice are higher than the ends of mere law though justice has got to be administered according to laws made by the legislature. The compelling necessity for making these observations is that without a proper realisation of the object and purpose of the provision which seeks to save the inherent powers of the High Court to do justice, between the State and its subjects, it would be impossible to appreciate the width and contours of that salient jurisdiction.”

16. It would also be worthwhile to recapitulate an earlier decision of this court in Century Spinning & Manufacturing Co. vs. State of Maharashtra (1972) 3 SCC 282 noticed in L. Muniswamy’s case (Supra) holding that: (SCC p. 704, para 10) “10 …. the order framing a charge affects a person’s liberty substantially and therefore it is the duty of the court to consider judicially whether the materials warrant the framing of the charge.

It was also held that the court ought not to blindly accept the decision of the prosecution that the accused be asked to face a trial.”

In the case of Ravikant Dubey and Others Vs. State of M.P. and another reported in 2014 Cr.L.R. (M.P.) 162, a co- ordinate Bench of this Court has held as under :-

“8. In view of the above, the questions of law which requires consideration are as follows:
(i) Whether petition preferred by the petitioners under Section 482 of the Code for quashing the FIR can be entertained, when trial has been started and evidence of some witnesses have also been deposed before the Trial Court ?
(ii) Whether evidence recorded by Trial Court during trial can be considered for quashing the FIR ?
(iii) Whether any ground is available for quashing the FIR in view of the facts and laws available on record ?
Regarding question of law no. (i) :-
9. Learned Senior Counsel for the petitioners submitted that inherent powers can be used at any stage to prevent abuse of process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice. It makes no different whether trial has been started or not and whether some evidence has been deposed before the Trial Court or not. In support of his contention he placed reliance in the case of Sathish Mehra (supra) and Joseph Salvaraja Vs. State of Gujrat and others, (2011) 7 SCC 59.
* * * *
12. Therefore, in the considered view of this Court this petition is maintainable also even when trial is at advance stage. The question is answered accordingly.”
Thus, it is submitted that even during the pendency of the petition under Section 482 of Cr.P.C., when the charges have been framed and even if some witnesses have been examined, the petition can be decided on merits.

The undisputed fact is that the applicant No.3 is the sister-in-law of the complainant/ respondent No.2.

The necessary facts for the disposal of this application in short are that the complainant/respondent No.2, lodged a F.I.R. in Crime No.571 of 2015 at Police Station Cantt. Guna, Distt. Guna, that she was married to Ritesh Vinode on 30-4-2015. After some time of marriage, her in-laws started harassing her for demand of dowry. They were demanding Rs.5 lacs and swift car. She tried her best to convince her in-laws, but they did not agree to give up their demand. Thereafter, she was turned out of her matrimonial house and the complainant sent a message to her father and she came back to her parents house alongwith her father. On 6-9-2015, the applicant alongwith her mother- in-law, husband etc, came to Guna and enquired that whether the money has been arranged or not and when she expressed her inability to arrange for dowry, then on this issue all of them assaulted her by fists and blows. The incident was seen by some of her relatives. Accordingly, on the basis of the allegations made in the F.I.R., the police registered the offence.

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Reiterating the allegations made in the F.I.R., a similar case diary statement was made by the complainant. The statements of other witnesses are also to the same effect.

It is contended by the Counsel for the applicant No. 3, that only vague and omnibus allegations have been made against the applicant No.3. She has been falsely roped in merely with an intention to put additional pressure on the husband of the complainant. It is further submitted that neither in the F.I.R. nor in the case diary statement, it was alleged that the applicant had also demanded Rs. 5 lacs and Swift car. In the F.I.R. as well as in the case diary statement, the complainant had only alleged that an amount of Rs.5 lacs and Swift car was demanded by her in- laws. The applicant after her marriage was residing in Bikaner and at present she is serving and residing in Thane. The applicant No.3 has annexed the copy of the Aadhar Card, Electricity Bill as well as I.D. Proof issued by the present employee.

Per contra, it is submitted by the Counsel for the respondent No.1/State that there are specific allegations of demand of Rs.5 Lacs and a Swift Car, and therefore, when the trial has begun, then it would not be appropriate to quash the proceedings against the applicant No.3.

Heard the learned Counsel for the parties. From the record, it is clear that the complainant neither in her F.I.R., nor in her case diary statement has made any specific allegation against any of her in-laws that who had demanded Rs.5 lacs and Swift Car. In the F.I.R. and the case diary statement, it is only alleged that her in- laws had demanded Rs.5 lacs and Swift Car. The allegation of coming to Guna on 6-9-2015 and enquiring about arrangement of money cannot be said to be a specific allegation against the applicant No. 3 who is the resident of Thane.

If the allegations made against the applicant No. 3 are concerned, it is clear that only vague and omnibus allegations have been made against the applicant No.3. The case of the near and distant relatives of the husband stands on a different footing than that of the husband and parents-in-law. In order to prosecute the other relatives, there has to be some specific allegations against them. General, vague and omnibus allegations cannot be treated as sufficient material against the other relatives of the husband who otherwise, doesnot have anything to do with the family affairs of the complainant.

By relying on judgments passed by the Supreme Court in cases of Geeta Mehrotra Vs. State of U.P. reported in (2012) 10 SCC 741 and Preeti Gupta Vs. State of Jharkhand, reported in (2010) 7 SCC 667, it is submitted by the Counsel for the applicant No. 3 that there should be specific and clear allegations against the relatives of the husband and vague and omnibus allegations would not be sufficient to compel them to face the agony of trial. It is further submitted that there is an increasing tendency in the society to over-implicate the near and dear relatives of the husband so as to pressurize the husband.

The Supreme Court in the case of Kansraj Vs. State of Punjab, (2000) 5 SCC 207, has held as under :

“In the light of the evidence in the case we find substance in the submission of the learned counsel for the defence that Respondents 3 to 5 were roped in the case only on the ground of being close relations of Respondent 2, the husband of the deceased. 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 accusations are made, the overt acts attributed to persons other than the 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 overenthusiasm 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.”
The Supreme Court in the case of Monju Roy Vs. State of West Bengal, reported in (2015) 13 SCC 693, has held as under :-

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“8. While we do not find any ground to interfere with the view taken by the courts below that the deceased was subjected to harassment on account of non-fulfillment of dowry demand, we do find merit in the submission that possibility of naming all the family members by way of exaggeration is not ruled out. In Kans Raj v. State of Punjab, (2000) 5 SCC 207, this Court observed : (SCC p. 215, para 5) “5………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.” The Court has, thus, to be careful in summoning distant relatives without there being specific material. Only the husband, his parents or at best close family members may be expected to demand dowry or to harass the wife but not distant relations, unless there is tangible material to support allegations made against such distant relations. Mere naming of distant relations is not enough to summon them in absence of any specific role and material to support such role.

9. In Raja Lal Singh vs. State of Jharkhand, (2007) 15 SCC 415, it was observed : (SCC p. 419, para 14) “14. No doubt, some of the witnesses e.g. PW 5 Dashrath Singh, who is the father of the deceased Gayatri, and PW 3 Santosh Kr. Singh, brother of the deceased, have stated that the deceased Gayatri told them that dowry was demanded by not only Raja Lal Singh, but also the appellants Pradip Singh and his wife Sanjana Devi, but we are of the opinion that it is possible that the names of Pradip Singh and Sanjana Devi have been introduced only to spread the net wide as often happens in cases like under Sections 498-A and 394 IPC, as has been observed in several decisions of this Court e.g. in Kamesh Panjiyar v. State of Bihar [(2005) 2 SCC 388], etc. Hence, we allow the appeal of Pradip Singh and Sanjana Devi and set aside the impugned judgments of the High Court and the trial court insofar as it relates to them and we direct that they be released forthwith unless required in connection with some other case.”

* * * * * *

11. The Court has to adopt pragmatic view and when a girl dies an unnatural death, allegation of demand of dowry or harassment which follows cannot be weighed in golden scales. At the same time, omnibus allegation against all family members particularly against brothers and sisters and other relatives do not stand on same footing as husband and parents. In such case, apart from general allegation of demand of dowry, the court has to be satisfied that harassment was also caused by all the named members.”

If the facts of the present case are considered in the light of the judgments passed by the Supreme Court in the case of Kansraj (Supra), Monju Roy (Supra), Geeta Mehrotra (Supra) and Preeti Gupta (Supra), it would be clear that only vague and general allegations have been made against the applicant No.3. It is the specific case of the applicant No.3 that she is residing at Thane. This fact has not been rebutted by the respondent No.2. Thus, the general allegations, that the applicant alongwith other in- laws of the complainant came to Guna on 6-9-2015 and enquired about the arrangement of money and on her refusal, her beating by her in-laws cannot be said to be sufficient evidence against the applicant No.3, so as to compel her to face the agony of trial. Undisputedly, the applicant No.3 is a married lady and initially she was residing in Bikaner and now she is residing in Thane. The applicant No. 3 is the sister-in-law of the complainant and has no business to interfere in the personal life of the complainant. Thus, in the considered opinion of this Court, unless and until, a specific allegation is made against a near and dear distant relative of the husband, he/she cannot be prosecuted for offence under Section 498-A of I.P.C. In the present case also, there is no specific allegation against the applicant No. 3, so as to compel her to face the Trial.

Accordingly, the chargesheet as well as the further proceedings in Criminal Case No. 1806/2016 pending in the Court of J.M.F.C., Guna qua the applicant No. 3 is quashed, and the application filed by applicant No.1 Ritesh Vinode and applicant No.2 Smt. Shashi Vinode is dismissed as withdrawn.

This application partially succeeds and is hereby partially allowed.

(G.S. Ahluwalia) Judge MKB*

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