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Increased Tendency Of Implicating Husband’s Relatives In Matrimonial Disputes Without Analyzing Long Term Ramifications Of A Trial: Jharkhand HC

Introduction: The Jharkhand High Court, in a noteworthy decision on February 16, 2024, took a pragmatic stance in the case of Neeraj Kumar Singh & Ors. vs. The State of Jharkhand & Anr. The court, led by Hon’ble Mr Justice Sanjay Kumar Dwivedi, quashed criminal proceedings against a husband, emphasizing the increasing tendency to implicate relatives in matrimonial disputes.

It is in the fitness of things that the Jharkhand High Court as recently as on February 16, 2024 while taking the most pragmatic, persuasive and positive stand in a learned, landmark, latest, logical and laudable judgment titled Neeraj Kumar Singh & Ors. vs. The State of Jharkhand & Anr. in Cr.M.P. No. 3184 of 2018 did not dither in quashing the criminal proceedings against a husband and also did not shy away from conceding that there is an increased tendency to implicate relatives of a husband in matrimonial disputes without analyzing the long-term ramifications of a trial. It must be noted that the Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice Sanjay Kumar Dwivedi did not shy away from conceding that, “It would be unjust if the petitioners are forced to go through the tribulations of trial on the complaint, where general and omnibus allegations are made.”

What is striking to note here is that the Bench also observed that, “It is revealed that general allegations are levelled against the petitioners. The complainant has alleged that all the accused harassed her mentally and demanded dowry…It is difficult to ascertain the role played by each accused in furtherance of the offence, which is the subject matter of the present case.” Due to lack of clarity of the role that was played by the accused, we thus see that the Court was left with no option but to quash the criminal proceedings and complaint against the husband and his parents. We thus see that the Jharkhand High Court allowed the petition.

At the very outset, this learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment authored by the Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice Sanjay Kumar Dwivedi of Jharkhand High Court at Ranchi sets the ball in motion by first and foremost putting forth in para 2 that, “This petition has been filed for quashing of the entire criminal proceeding including the order taking cognizance dated 21.03.2018 in Complaint Case No.04 of 2018, pending in the Court of the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Garhwa.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench while elaborating on the facts of the case envisages in para 3 that, “The complaint case was filed by opposite party no.2 alleging therein that she was married to petitioner no.1 on 22.04.2016 and after some weeks of her marriage, the accused persons started criticizing the gift which were given at the time of marriage. When she objected then petitioner no.1 at the instance of his mother abused and assaulted her. They were demanding Rs.5 Lakhs. The complainant-opposite party no.2 narrated the incidence to her parents whereafter they came to Jamshedpur and on 27.05.2017 paid Rs.1 Lakh to her mother-in-law. It was further alleged that after about one month, again the accused persons started torturing her mentally and physically for payment of balance amount of Rs.4 Lakhs. On 22.11.2017, the accused persons abused and assaulted her and locked her in a room. They even tried to kill her by pressing her neck. The complainant called her parents and her brother and all went to Sonari Police Station, where the matter was pacified. It was also alleged that on 22.12.2017, while she was at her sasural, she received notice from Family Court, Jamshedpur in M.T.S. Case No.672 of 2017. Later on, it was found that this case had been lodged by her husband for a decree of divorce. It was alleged that on 31.12.2017 at about 04:00 A.M., the accused persons assaulted her and brought her to Garhwa and left her.”

Do note, the Bench notes in para 7 that, “It is an admitted position that petitioner no.1 is the husband of opposite party no.2. Petitioner no.1 has earlier instituted a petition under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act for restitution of conjugal life and after appearance of opposite party no.2, the said matter was compromised and petitioner no.1 took opposite party no.2 along with him and, thereafter, against certain dispute arose between the parties and opposite party no.2 left the company of petitioner no.1.”

As we see, the Bench further notes in para 8 that, “It is further an admitted position that petitioner no.1 has filed Matrimonial Suit No.672 of 2017 in the year 2017 itself. In the complaint petition, receiving of the notice in the said matrimonial suit is disclosed in paragraph 7. The present complaint case was filed on 02.01.2018, which clearly suggests that this complaint case is afterthought of opposite party no.2, which was in retaliation of the said matrimonial suit.”

Most significantly, most brilliantly and most remarkably, the Bench propounds in para 9 that, “Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code 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. This Court as well as other Courts including the Hon’ble Supreme Court noticed 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. In this way, such complaints lead to uncalled for harassment not only to the accused but also to the complainant. This was the view of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Rajesh Sharma v. State of U.P., reported in (2018) 10 SCC 472.”

Further, the Bench while citing the relevant case law states in para 10 that, “Even in some of the cases, bedridden grandfathers and grandmothers of the husbands, their sisters living in another town are being implicated in the case and this aspect of the matter has been considered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar, reported in (2014) 8 SCC 273.”

Furthermore, the Bench also conceded while citing the relevant case law in para 11 that, “Most of the cases under Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code are being filed in the heat of the moment over trivial issues without proper deliberations and that was the subject matter before the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Preeti Gupta v. State of Jharkhand, reported in (2010) 7 SCC 667.”

Briefly stated, the Bench observes in para 12 that, “The family members had been roped into the matrimonial litigation time and again and that has been considered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Geeta Mehrotra v. State of U.P., reported in (2012) 10 SCC 741.”

While striking a note of caution and citing a recent and relevant case law, the Bench discloses in para 13 that, “In the case of K. Subba Rao v. State of Telangana, reported in (2018) 14 SCC 452, the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that 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.”

Needless to say, the Bench states in para 14 that, “There are line of judgments and some of them, which have been quoted hereinabove, are suffice to decide the present case.”

Most forthrightly, the Bench as we see then concedes in para 15 stating aptly that, “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, is under consideration in the case arising under Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code.”

It is worth noting that the Bench notes in para 16 that, “Coming to the facts of the present case. Upon perusal of the contents of the complaint petition, it is revealed that general allegations are levelled against the petitioners. The complainant has alleged that all the accused harassed her mentally and demanded dowry. None of the petitioners have been attributed any specific role in furtherance of general allegation made against them. It is difficult to ascertain the role played by each accused in furtherance of the offence, which is the subject matter of the present case.”

What’s more, the Bench then points out in para 17 that, “Further, the petition under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act was filed by petitioner no.1, which was compromised later on and Matrimonial Suit No.672 of 2017 was thereafter filed by petitioner no.1 and after receiving notice in the said suit, the present complaint case was filed in the year 2018 after almost a year and that fact is admitted in paragraph 7 of the complaint case.”

 As a corollary, the Bench then directs in para 18 that, “In view of the above facts, reasons and analysis and considering that in absence of any specific role attributed to the petitioners, it would be unjust if the petitioners are forced to go through the tribulations of trial on the complaint, where, general and omnibus allegations are made. Accordingly, the entire criminal proceeding including the order taking cognizance dated 21.03.2018 in Complaint Case No.04 of 2018, pending in the Court of the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Garhwa are quashed.”

 For sake of clarity, the Bench clarifies in para 19 stating that, “It is made clear that so far as Matrimonial Suit No.672 of 2017 is concerned, that will be decided in accordance with law without prejudiced to this order as this order has been passed considering the parameters of criminality and Section 482 Cr.P.C.”

Still more, the Bench directs in para 20 that, “Accordingly, this petition is allowed and disposed of.”

Finally, the Bench concludes by holding in para 21 that, “Pending I.A., if any, is disposed of.”

In sum, we thus see that the Jharkhand High Court has made it indubitably clear that there is increased tendency of implicating husband’s relatives in matrimonial disputes without analyzing long term ramifications of a trial. So it is no wonder that the criminal proceedings against the husband were quashed so very rightly by the Court. It is most terrible that those who level false allegations are not punished.

It is high time and law makers must amend the penal laws and make mandatory punishment of at least two years in jail and so also compensation of at least Rs 5 or 10 lakhs so as to deter women and her relatives from levelling false allegations. It is definitely the biggest miscarriage of justice that those who level serious false allegations are not ever taken to task and punished adequately as ideally should be the case as we see in so many foreign countries! Why in India we see no such amendments being made in this direction? What is the reason or what justifies for giving women and her relatives a blank cheque to level false allegations and make the life of a husband and his parents and relatives most miserable and yet escape without being punished in any manner? This despite the irrefutable fact that now women are becoming so highly educated, doing jobs in big multinational companies and are also leaving behind and outsmarting even men in so many fields! Centre must ponder!

Conclusion: The Jharkhand High Court’s decision underscores the increased tendency to implicate relatives in matrimonial disputes without considering long-term consequences. The quashing of criminal proceedings against the husband highlights the need for a balanced approach to such cases. The article concludes by urging lawmakers to amend penal laws, imposing mandatory punishment for false allegations to deter misuse of legal provisions and ensure justice.

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