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Section 498 – A of the IPC cannot be used as a tool to settle disputes with in-laws: Chhattisgarh High Court

The Chattisgarh High Court has upheld that section 498 – A of the IPC cannot be used as a tool to settle disputes with in-laws through the bench of Justice Goutam Bhaduri and Justice Rajani Dubey in the case of Dr. Ramkeshwar Singh vs Smt. Sheela Singh @ Madhusingh [FAM No. 94 of 2013]

FACTS OF THE CASE:

In 1995, the appellant and respondent married. Following that, when she became pregnant, she aborted the child without her husband’s consent. It is claimed that after the marriage, the wife was diagnosed with tuberculosis and frequently went to her maternal house for treatment. Because the applicant, a government doctor, could not always stay with her, she was sent to her parental house for treatment. It is stated that because she was not interested in remaining with the husband, he filed an application for dissolution of marriage on 02.02.1996, which was eventually withdrawn before the Court at Jagdalpur, and again on 06.11.1998. The wife also filed an application for dissolution of marriage on 06.08.1996 before the Additional Sessions Judge, Korba, which was eventually withdrawn on 15.03.2004.

It was alleged that a FIR was lodged levelling false allegations against the husband and his entire family members, for which a case was registered under section 498-A of the IPC, putting the appellant and his family members under harassment, and that in such an adverse situation, the appellant’s mother died on 06.07.1999, despite the wife’s knowledge of his mother’s death. It is also stated that while the matrimonial case was pending, the criminal case was finally decided on February 28, 2006, with an order acquitting the husband and his entire family. The acquittal order was then challenged.

JUDGEMENT:

In this case, there was no dispute about the issuance of the document, which was a certified copy of the acquittal judgement. As a result, in exercising its power under Order 41 Rule 27 of the CPC, the Court’s discretion would lean in favor of the appellant by inferring from the fact that a criminal trial was held, which resulted in acquittal. It is admissible as evidence because it is a certified copy of the judgement.

It was also determined that the learned trial Court correctly acquitted the respondents of the charge. This order dismissing the revision and affirming the acquittal, which was made at the request of respondent No.5, was also not in dispute.

The Court observed that the appellant is a Doctor and as stated during the course of hearing, the respondent wife was a private teacher. Therefore, facing a criminal case would always castigate a stigma in the Society. It was noted that “The report under Section 498-A of the IPC cannot be used as a tool to teach a lesson to the family members of the husband as it may adversely affect the future prospects of a young professional and it may take long time to fill up the gap.” Therefore, the Court of the opinion that false accusations made by the wife against the entire family members under section 498-A would amount to mental cruelty and such conduct of respondent wife which inflicts upon the appellant husband such mental pain and suffering would make it not possible for her to live with the appellant husband.

With regards to the false accusations, the Court also stated that “Certainly it will have an adverse effect on the social standing of a family as it results in isolation of a person who faced criminal trials because of the false accusations made by the other spouse. Therefore, before making such allegations, regard must be had to social status, educational level of the parties, and the society they move in, otherwise, such allegations would amount to cruelty.”

Furthermore, the nature of the accusations made against each other in a matrimonial case revealed that the parties have been living apart and litigating in different courts since 1996. Taking these facts into account, the Court believed that there was an irreversible breakdown of marriage that is beyond repair. Under the circumstances, the Court granted the appeal and issue a divorce decree to the husband. The parties’ marriage was dissolved, and a decree was issued to that effect. In terms of alimony to the wife, it was ordered that the appellant pay maintenance of Rs.15000/- per month, which the wife is entitled to receive through the court below, after making necessary deductions from the appellant’s salary every month.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY REETI SHETTY

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