The Supreme Court set aside conviction of a man under Section 498A of the IPC, emphasising the duty of the Court to encourage genuine settlement of matrimonial disputes.
The Apex Court bench comprisingJustices Dinesh Maheshwari and Vikram Nath opined that maintaining of conviction of the appellant of the offence under Section 498-A IPC would not be securing the ends of justice. With such conviction being maintained and the appellant losing his job, the family would again land itself in financial distress which may ultimately operate adverse to the harmony and happy conjugal life of the parties.
The appellant joined Indian Army as Naik on 12.09.2005. The appellant and the respondent No. 2 were married on 25.05.2013. Certain disputes having arisen, the respondent No. 2 lodged an FIR bearing No. 204 of 2014 at Police Station, Sisai against the appellant and his family members with the allegations of demand of dowry, mental and physical torture etc.
On 26.11.2014, the chargesheet was filed for offences under Sections 498-A, 323, 417, 34 IPC against the accused persons and charges were framed accordingly. After trial in GR Case No. 904 of 2014, the learned Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Gumla, convicted the appellant of the offence under Section 498-A IPC and the other accused persons of the offence under Section 323 IPC.
All the accused persons were acquitted of the charges under Sections 417, 34 IPC. Except the appellant, all other accused persons were given the benefit of Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 but, the appellant was sentenced to undergo simple imprisonment of three years.
Sessions Judge dismissed the appeal filed by the husband.
Jharkhand High Court
Partly allowing the Revision Petition, the High Court of Jharkhand taking note of the settlement between the parties, confirmed the conviction under Section 498-A IPC while reducing the sentence to the period of imprisonment already undergone.
The appeal before Supreme Court was whether the High Court, even after taking note of the settlement of the parties resolving their marital disputes, has erred in not setting aside the order of conviction altogether?
Before the Court, both the parties reiterated their stand that they have resolved their disputes and are living together while leading a happy conjugal life. The court, thus observed,
Taking note of the object of Section 498-A IPC, the expected approach of the High Court in the event of bona fide settlement of disputes had been duly exposited by this Court in the case of B.S. Joshi and Others v. State of Haryana and Another: (2003) 4 SCC 675, where this Court has underscored the duty of the Court to encourage the genuine settlement of matrimonial disputes
The court also referred to the judgment in Bitan Sengupta & Anr. v. State of West Bengal and allowed the appeal. The bench observed,
In the aforesaid view of the matter, and taking note of the terms of settlement as stated in the application moved before the High Court which include the undertaking of the appellant that he would be nominating the respondent No. 2 as the nominee in his service record; and where the parties are said to be leading a happy conjugal life, we are clearly of the view that the High Court should have accepted the settlement and quashed all the proceedings with annulment of the orders against the appellant.
The High Court having not done so, we are inclined to adopt this course so as to secure the ends of justice.
- Section 498A of the IPC criminalises matrimonial cases
- If the crime has happened, should any court allow compromise? This means, a husband who has been cruel to his wife, is allowed to co-habit with her due to “settlement”
- If such compromises are allowed, what stops women from using these criminal cases against husbands and their families to ensure they fall in line?
- Was the case false? Was the husband pressurised in any way in lieu of withdrawing the case under Section 498A?
- Will such compromises work in the betterment of relationships, or become a mockery where wives with malicious intent will have the last laugh?
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