While declaring the marriage null and void, the Karnataka High Court set aside the conviction of a 46-year-old man who was accused of cruelty under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. The bench noted that the second wife is not entitled to file a complaint under IPC Section 498A.
“Once PW.1 (complainant woman) is considered as the second wife of the petitioner, obviously, the complaint filed against the petitioner for the offence under Section 498-A of IPC ought not to have been entertained,” noted the single judge bench of Justice S Rachaiah.
Justice Rachaiah noted, “In other words, a complaint filed by the second wife against the husband and her in-laws is not maintainable. The courts below committed an error in applying the principles and also the law in this aspect. Therefore, interference by this court in exercising the revisional jurisdiction is justified.”
The High Court bench was hearing a criminal revision petition filed by Kantharaju who is a resident of Vittavathanahalli in the state’s Tumakuru district.
The complainant alleged that she was the second wife and they lived together for five years. They had a son out of that marriage. She got paralyzed and became incapacitated. He allegedly started harassing her and subjected her to cruelty and mental torture.
After she lodged a complaint against him, a Trial court in Tumakuru held him guilty in January 2019. A Sessions Court upheld the conviction in October 2019.
The High Court set aside his conviction while noting that the second wife was not entitled to file a complaint under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.
“The prosecution has to establish that the marriage of PW.1 is legal or she is the legally wedded wife of the petitioner. Unless it is established that she is the legally wedded wife of the petitioner, the courts below ought to have acted upon the evidence of PWs.1 (complainant woman) and 2 (her mother) that PW.1 was the second wife,” the High Court said.
Referring to two Supreme Court judgment (Shivcharan Lal Verma case and the P Sivakumar), “The ratio of these two judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court clearly indicates that if the marriage between the husband and wife ended as null and void, the offence under Section 498A of IPC cannot be sustained.”
“Admittedly, in the present case, the complainant in her evidence, PW.2 being the mother of PW.1 both have consistently deposed and admitted that PW.1 is the second wife of the petitioner. Accordingly, the concurrent findings of the courts below in recording the conviction require to be set aside,” the bench noted.