In a significant observation, the Supreme Court noted that just one trivial incident with no clear evidence of involvement in the complainant’s life is not sufficient to implicate a person under this provision unless it is serious. Considering all the facts and evidences, the top court quashed a criminal proceeding against a husband and his family under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.
The bench comprising Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice S.V.N Bhatti observed, “One instance unless portentous, in the absence of any material evidence of interference and involvement in the marital life of the complainant, may not be sufficient to implicate the person as having committed cruelty under Section 498A of the IPC.”
The estranged wife, Rekha Bhaskaran, had added her husband’s sisters and cousins as accused in the FIR. She has filed a complaint under Section 498A and Section 506 of Indian Penal Code and Section 3 and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.
Mahalakshmi and other appellants had filed a petition under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure seeking quashing of the chargesheet.
The appellants have approached Karnataka High Court seeking quashing of the criminal proceedings. Their petition was rejected by the court in the impugned order.
The apex court went through the written complaint as well as the chargesheet. The Court found that out of two allegations, one one has been substantiated. The allegation was that the sister threw the complainant’s belongings on the ground and used foul language against her.
Significantly, the court took into account the appellants’ residency and individual situations. The appellant, Mahalakshmi resides in Canada and only visits India for specific durations. Also, appellants 2, 3, and 4 living in separate locations played a crucial part in influencing the court’s verdict. The case was further complicated by a divorce decree issued on November 17, 2022, officially ending the marriage.
“Given that the appellants were not residing at the marital home, and appellant no. 1 was not even living in India, the absence of specific details that constitute cruelty, we would accept the present appeal,” the bench stated.