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[S.498A IPC] Scores Of Cases Where Husband’s Family Is Dragged Into Web Of Crime By Frivolous Complaints Of Wife, Must Be Nipped In The Bud: Karnataka HC

Introduction: In a significant legal development, the Karnataka High Court has issued a crucial judgment addressing the misuse of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The case, titled CB Prakash & Anr vs State of Karnataka & Anr, dealt with allegations against the husband’s parents arising from a complaint filed by the wife, highlighting a growing concern over false accusations in marital disputes.

It must be definitely noted right in the beginning itself that while taking potshots at the scores of cases where husband’s family is dragged into web of crime by frivolous complaints of wife, the Karnataka High Court in a most learned, laudable, landmark, logical and latest judgment titled CB Prakash & Anr vs State of Karnataka & Anr in Criminal Petition No. 6995 of 2022 and cited in the Neutral Citation No. NC : 2024:KHC:19132 that was pronounced finally after perusing the material before it on June 4, 2024 while underscoring that such frivolous complaints must be nipped in the bud has quashed a case under Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code registered by a woman against her father and mother-in-law. It is definitely high time and Centre must now without fail immediately initiate the requisite necessary amendments in the new penal laws before they finally come into force on July 1, 2024 and make registration of false cases strictly punishable for women and her parents and relatives who lodge false cases for at least five years along with heavy fine also so that it acts as a potential deterrent against filing of false complaints. It thus merits no reiteration that the earlier this is done, the better it shall be in the interests of our society and of our nation as a whole.

At the very outset, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by the Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice M Nagaprasanna sets the ball in motion by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “The petitioners who are accused 2 and 3 are before this Court calling in question registration of a crime in Crime No.56 of 2022 for offences punishable under Section 498A r/w 34 of the IPC and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act (‘the Act’ for short.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench while briefly dwelling on facts of case envisages in para 3 that, “Facts, in brief, germane are as follows:

The petitioners are father-in-law and mother-in-law of 2nd respondent/complainant who is the wife of accused No.1, who is not before this Court. The marriage between accused No.1 and the complainant takes place on 24-10-2021. After about two months of marriage, accused No.1 flies to Germany for his work. The relationship between accused No.1 and the complainant flounders and floundering of relationship results in a complaint being registered before the jurisdictional police by the complainant in Crime No.56 of 2022 for the aforesaid offences. The registration of crime against the accused has driven accused 2 and 3, the father-in-law and mother-in-law to this Court calling in question the very registration of crime. This Court, in terms of its order dated 01-08-2022, grants an interim order of stay of further investigation qua the petitioners. Therefore, further investigation qua the petitioners has not moved forward.”

It is worth noting that the Bench notes in para 8 that, “The afore-narrated facts and the relationship between the parties are a matter of record. The entire issue has sprung from the complaint. In the entire narration of the complaint, it is only in the penultimate paragraph, the names of the petitioners spring, not for any ingredients of offences punishable under Section 498A of the IPC, but only omnibus hurling of abuses. No specific overt act is indicated in the complaint qua these petitioners as the entire narration in the complaint is the squabble between the husband and the wife. Whether it would be harassment or otherwise is not a subject matter of the present petition.”

Curb Frivolous Section 498A IPC Cases Against Husband's Family Karnataka HC

While specifying the details as mentioned in Column No.17 of the charge sheet, the Bench specifies in para 9 mandating that, “The learned High Court Government Pleader has produced the charge sheet filed against the husband. There appears to be a squabble with regard to visa and minor skirmishes between the members of the family. Though investigation has not taken place against these petitioners, there is no statement recorded that would touch upon the ingredients of Section 498A of the IPC. An omnibus statement cannot result in permitting investigation or a criminal trial against the father-in-law and mother-in-law on false allegations.”

Most significantly and so also most forthrightly, what constitutes the cornerstone of this judgment is then encapsulated in para 10 wherein it is mandated that, “There are scores and scores of cases where allegations are made that have pointed overt acts by every member of the family which are sustained and further trial is permitted. There are even scores and scores of cases where every member of the family without rhyme or reason is dragged into the web of crime by frivolous complaints registered by the complainant/wife while the entire grievance is against the husband and every imaginary member of the family is dragged in. It is these cases which are to be nipped in the bud. Bud, I mean, at the stage of registration of the crime, failing which, it would run foul of the judgment of the Apex Court in the case of KAHKASHAN KAUSAR v. STATE OF BIHAR (2022) 6 SCC 599 wherein it is held as follows:

“Issue involved

10. Having perused the relevant facts and contentions made by the appellants and respondents, in our considered opinion, the foremost issue which requires determination in the instant case is whether allegations made against the appellant in-laws are in the nature of general omnibus allegations and therefore liable to be quashed?

11. Before we delve into greater detail on the nature and content of allegations made, it becomes pertinent to mention that incorporation of Section 498-AIPC was aimed at preventing cruelty committed upon a woman by her husband and her in-laws, by facilitating rapid State intervention. However, it is equally true, that in recent times, matrimonial litigation in the country has also increased significantly and there is a greater disaffection and friction surrounding the institution of marriage, now, more than ever. This has resulted in an increased tendency to employ provisions such as Section 498-AIPC as instruments to settle personal scores against the husband and his relatives.

12. This Court in its judgment in Rajesh Sharma v. State of U.P. [Rajesh Sharma v. State of U.P., (2018) 10 SCC 472: (2019) 1 SCC (Cri) 301] , has observed : (SCC pp. 478-79, para 14)

“14. Section 498-A was inserted in the statute with the laudable object of punishing cruelty at the hands of husband or his relatives against a wife particularly when such cruelty had potential to result in suicide or murder of a woman as mentioned in the Statement of Objects and Reasons of Act 46 of 1983. The expression “cruelty” in Section 498-A covers conduct which may drive the woman to commit suicide or cause grave injury (mental or physical) or danger to life or harassment with a view to coerce her to meet unlawful demand. [Explanation to Section 498-A.] It is a matter of serious concern that large number of cases continue to be filed under Section 498-A alleging harassment of married women. We have already referred to some of the statistics from the Crime Records Bureau. This Court had earlier noticed the fact that most of such complaints are filed in the heat of the moment over trivial issues. Many of such complaints are not bona fide. At the time of filing of the complaint, implications and consequences are not visualised. At times such complaints lead to uncalled for harassment not only to the accused but also to the complainant. Uncalled for arrest may ruin the chances of settlement.”

13. Previously, in the landmark judgment of this Court in Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar [Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar, (2014) 8 SCC 273: (2014) 3 SCC (Cri) 449] , it was also observed : (SCC p. 276, para 4)

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

14. Further in Preeti Gupta v. State of Jharkhand [Preeti Gupta v. State of Jharkhand, (2010) 7 SCC 667 : (2010) 3 SCC (Cri) 473] , it has also been observed : (SCC pp. 676-77, paras 32-36)

“32. It is a matter of common experience that most of these complaints under Section 498-A IPC are filed in the heat of the moment over trivial issues without proper deliberations. We come across a large number of such complaints which are not even bona fide and are filed with oblique motive. At the same time, rapid increase in the number of genuine cases of dowry harassment is also a matter of serious concern.

33. The learned members of the Bar have enormous social responsibility and obligation to ensure that the social fibre of family life is not ruined or demolished. They must ensure that exaggerated versions of small incidents should not be reflected in the criminal complaints. Majority of the complaints are filed either on their advice or with their concurrence. The learned members of the Bar who belong to a noble profession must maintain its noble traditions and should treat every complaint under Section 498-A as a basic human problem and must make serious endeavour to help the parties in arriving at an amicable resolution of that human problem. They must discharge their duties to the best of their abilities to ensure that social fibre, peace and tranquillity of the society remains intact. The members of the Bar should also ensure that one complaint should not lead to multiple cases.

34. Unfortunately, at the time of filing of the complaint the implications and consequences are not properly visualised by the complainant that such complaint can lead to insurmountable harassment, agony and pain to the complainant, accused and his close relations.

35. The ultimate object of justice is to find out the truth and punish the guilty and protect the innocent. To find out the truth is a Herculean task in majority of these complaints. The tendency of implicating the husband and all his immediate relations is also not uncommon. At times, even after the conclusion of the 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 scrutinised with great care and circumspection.

36. 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 an amicable settlement altogether. The process of suffering is extremely long and painful.”

15. In Geeta Mehrotra v. State of U.P. [Geeta Mehrotra v. State of U.P., (2012) 10 SCC 741: (2013) 1 SCC (Civ) 212 : (2013) 1 SCC (Cri) 120] it was observed : (SCC p. 749, para 21)

“21. It would be relevant at this stage to take note of an apt observation of this Court recorded in G.V. Rao v. L.H.V. Prasad [G.V. Rao v. L.H.V. Prasad, (2000) 3 SCC 693 : 2000 SCC (Cri) 733] wherein also in a matrimonial dispute, this Court had held that the High Court should have quashed the complaint arising out of a matrimonial dispute wherein all family members had been roped into the matrimonial litigation which was quashed and set aside. Their Lordships observed therein with which we entirely agree that : (SCC p. 698, para 12)

‘12. … There has been an outburst of matrimonial dispute in recent times. Marriage is a sacred ceremony, the main purpose of which is to enable the young couple to settle down in life and live peacefully. But little matrimonial skirmishes suddenly erupt which often assume serious proportions resulting in commission of heinous crimes in which elders of the family are also involved with the result that those who could have counselled and brought about rapprochement are rendered helpless on their being arrayed as accused in the criminal case. There are many other reasons which need not be mentioned here for not encouraging matrimonial litigation so that the parties may ponder over their defaults and terminate their disputes amicably by mutual agreement instead of fighting it out in a court of law where it takes years and years to conclude and in that process the parties lose their “young” days in chasing their cases in different courts.’

The view taken by the Judges in this matter was that the courts would not encourage such disputes.”

16. Recently, in K. Subba Rao v. State of Telangana [K. Subba Rao v. State of Telangana, (2018) 14 SCC 452 : (2019) 1 SCC (Cri) 605] , it was also observed that : (SCC p. 454, para 6)

“6. … The courts should be careful in proceeding against the distant relatives in crimes pertaining to matrimonial disputes and dowry deaths. The relatives of the husband should not be roped in on the basis of omnibus allegations unless specific instances of their involvement in the crime are made out.”

17. The abovementioned decisions clearly demonstrate that this Court has at numerous instances expressed concern over the misuse of Section 498-AIPC and the increased tendency of implicating relatives of the husband in matrimonial disputes, without analysing the long-term ramifications of a trial on the complainant as well as the accused. It is further manifest from the said judgments that false implication by way of general omnibus allegations made in the course of matrimonial dispute, if left unchecked would result in misuse of the process of law. Therefore, this Court by way of its judgments has warned the courts from proceeding against the relatives and in-laws of the husband when no prima facie case is made out against them.

18. Coming to the facts of this case, upon a perusal of the contents of the FIR dated 1-4-2019, it is revealed that general allegations are levelled against the appellants. The complainant alleged that “all accused harassed her mentally and threatened her of terminating her pregnancy”. Furthermore, no specific and distinct allegations have been made against either of the appellants herein i.e. none of the appellants have been attributed any specific role in furtherance of the general allegations made against them. This simply leads to a situation wherein one fails to ascertain the role played by each accused in furtherance of the offence. The allegations are, therefore, general and omnibus and can at best be said to have been made out on account of small skirmishes. Insofar as husband is concerned, since he has not appealed against the order of the High Court, we have not examined the veracity of allegations made against him. However, as far as the appellants are concerned, the allegations made against them being general and omnibus, do not warrant prosecution.

19. Furthermore, regarding similar allegations of harassment and demand for car as dowry made in a previous FIR Respondent 1 i.e. the State of Bihar, contends that the present FIR pertained to offences committed in the year 2019, after assurance was given by the husband Md. Ikram before the learned Principal Judge, Purnea, to not harass the respondent wife herein for dowry, and treat her properly. However, despite the assurances, all accused continued their demands and harassment. It is thereby contended that the acts constitute a fresh cause of action and therefore the FIR in question herein dated 1-4-2019, is distinct and independent, and cannot be termed as a repetition of an earlier FIR dated 11-12-2017.

20. Here it must be borne in mind that although the two FIRs may constitute two independent instances, based on separate transactions, the present complaint fails to establish specific allegations against the in-laws of the respondent wife. Allowing prosecution in the absence of clear allegations against the appellant in-laws would simply result in an abuse of the process of law.

21. Therefore, upon consideration of the relevant circumstances and in the absence of any specific role attributed to the appellant-accused, it would be unjust if the appellants are forced to go through the tribulations of a trial i.e. general and omnibus allegations cannot manifest in a situation where the relatives of the complainant’s husband are forced to undergo trial. It has been highlighted by this Court in varied instances, that a criminal trial leading to an eventual acquittal also inflicts severe scars upon the accused, and such an exercise must, therefore, be discouraged.” (Emphasis supplied).”

As a corollary, the Bench then observes in para 11 that, “In the light of unequivocal facts narrated hereinabove and the finding that there is no allegation against these petitioners, permitting further investigation would become an abuses of the process of law and result in miscarriage of justice.”

Finally, the Bench concludes by holding in para 12 that, “For the aforesaid reasons, the following:


(i) Criminal petition is allowed.

(ii) The First Information Report in Crime No.56 of 2022 registered against the petitioners stands quashed.

(iii) It is made clear that the observations made in the course of the order are only for the purpose of consideration of the case of petitioners under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. and the same shall not bind or influence the proceedings against the other accused pending before any other fora.

Consequently, I.A.No.1 of 2024 stands disposed.”

Conclusion: In conclusion, the Karnataka High Court’s decision to quash the FIR against the petitioners serves as a crucial step towards curbing the misuse of legal provisions designed to protect women from marital cruelty. By emphasizing the need for specific allegations and evidence before proceeding with criminal trials, the judgment seeks to balance the rights of complainants with the protection of innocent family members from undue legal harassment.

This landmark ruling not only provides relief to the accused in this case but also sets a precedent for future disputes under Section 498A IPC, urging courts to exercise caution and discretion in handling matrimonial disputes that often involve exaggerated or unfounded allegations.


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July 2024