The Supreme Court recently annulled the criminal case filed by a wife against her in-laws for the crime of cruelty under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code after noting that the allegations were “mostly general and comprehensive in nature”.
The woman had filed an FIR against her mother-in-law and two sons-in-law (one of whom is a judicial officer). The defendants approached the Supreme Court after the Supreme Court refused to annul the proceedings under Article 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Seat included Judges Aniruddha Bose, Sanjay Kumar and SVN Bhatti He noted that many of the claims were improbable and inconsistent. It noted that the brothers reside in different cities and that the complainant’s interaction with them is limited to festival seasons only. The complainant had only resided in the marital home for about two years, and in 2009, she left it voluntarily and started living with her parents.
Perhaps most notably, the court noted, however, is that the complaint was not filed until 2013 shortly after the husband had filed a petition for divorce. The wife also caused an anonymous complaint against her brother-in-law, who worked in the judiciary, to be sent to the Supreme Court as well as to the Anti-Corruption Bureau. Later, she admitted that she was the complainant.
“The cases in which the husband’s family members file a petition to annul the criminal proceedings brought by his wife against them in the midst of marital disputes are neither rare nor recent,” The Court noted before pointing out the various precedents which held that a criminal case against in-laws could be set aside if it was vague and sweeping in nature (Kahkashan Kosar aka Sonam et al v Bihar and others, 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 141). Reference is also made to the recent decision of Mahmoud Ali et al. v. State of et al 2023 Live Law (SC) 613which held that concomitant circumstances should be taken into account to cancel the FIR/complaint if the same was allegedly filed due to personal hostility.
The court noted that the complainant’s submission of an anonymous complaint against her son-in-law was a circumstance indicating personal hostility. She also indicated that the wife left the marital home voluntarily in 2009 and the complaint was only filed in 2013 shortly after the husband filed for divorce.
The court was surprised to note that the FIR indicated that the offenses occurred between 2007 and 2013, although there were no allegations of harassment after 2009. The complaint did not mention any specific instance of harassment by the brothers. The court also noted that the statements of her alleged mother-in-law mocking the complainant for wearing long clothes did not amount to cruelty.
“..most of her allegations are general and comprehensive in nature, without any specific details as to how and when her brothers and mother-in-law, who live in very different towns, molested her for a dowry.” The court noticed.
Another allegation of the complainant was that, on the date of his marriage, one of his wife’s brothers asked the complainant and her parents to provide him with 2.5 thousand rupees and a car.
“Why he would demand such a dowry, even if he was inclined to commit such an unlawful act, from his sister-in-law at the time of his marriage is rather inconsequential and difficult to understand.” The court noted in this regard.
The court noted that these claims were “far-fetched” and “improbable.”
“In view of the totality of the facts and circumstances, we find that Bhauna’s allegations against the Appellants are, as it stands, wholly inadequate, and do not, prima facie, constitute a case against them. Moreover, it is so far-fetched and unlikely that any A reasonable person would conclude that there are sufficient grounds to take action against them.” The court said.
Saying that allowing criminal proceedings to continue would be a “clear and blatant injustice,” the court dismissed the criminal case.
Case Title: Abhishek v. State of Madhya Pradesh