Section 498A IPC Being Rampantly Misused To Harass Family Members : Gujarat High Court
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate
A-82, Defence Enclave, Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh
Email Id : firstname.lastname@example.org
Date : 27/06/2023
Location : S/o Col. BPS Sirohi, A-82, Defence Enclave, Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera, Meerut-250001, Uttar Pradesh
Section 498A IPC Being Rampantly Misused To Harass Family Members : Gujarat High CourtLaw Finder Doc Id #2254711 In the fitness of things, the Gujarat High Court in a most commendable, courageous, cogent and convincing oral judgment titled Jyantilal Vadilal Shah & others v. State of Gujarat & others in R/Criminal Misc. Application No. 7061 of 2017 that was pronounced as recently as on June 22, 2023 has very rightly quashed a First Information Report (FIR) that was lodged against an 86-year-old woman for cruelty under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), while noting the rampant misuse of the provision to harass family members. It must be mentioned here that the Single Judge Bench of Hon'ble Mr Justice Sandeep N. Bhatt opined that the FIR will cause great hardship to the octogenarian and no fruitful purpose would be served if further proceedings are allowed to continue. It must also be noted that the Bench while quashing the FIR observed in no uncertain terms that Courts must ensure that criminal prosecution is not used as an instrument of harassment or for seeking private vendetta or with ulterior motive to pressurize accused or to settle scores. The Bench also minced just no words to candidly acknowledge that, "At this stage, a mention is required to be made that the current scenario in the society is that Sections of 498A are being rampantly misused by the complainants and in such cases, all the family members are roped in the complaint only with a view to harass the family members and the Hon'ble Apex Court has taken cognizance of such incidents in number of judgments." How horrible! Yet it is always men, men and men alone who are vilified! Giving a blank cheque to women and always believing women's version only is most preposterous and most dangerous! I very strongly believe that the ruthless, reprehensible and rampant misuse of laws meant for safety of women as most powerful weapons to extort huge amount of money cannot be lightly dismissed by anyone and definitely should never go unpunished, unhindered and unaccounted for! This leading case law stand as a living testimony to the irrefutable fact that women can no longer be always trusted and men only be always wrongly blamed for everything! I really just shake my head in disbelief and wonder why a woman and her relatives are not punished mandatorily when they file false dowry cases against men, file false POCSO cases against men, file false rape cases against men and why men is treated as a culprit always with no remedy even after the false case is proved? I am at a complete loss to comprehend that why men is left with no remedy in such cases and why women and her relatives enjoy unfettered liberty to file false cases not sparing even an 86-year-old-woman and yet happily escape unpunished, unaccounted and unhindered lead a free life again under the sun? Why should women and her relatives who connived in filing false cases not be jailed for trying to ruin men's life completely at least for a few years if not whole life so that they can also themselves witness what it means to be in jail? Needless to say, the least that can be done is to jail them at the very least for so many years as a men is punished for such cases filed falsely by women and her relatives? How long will men be exposed to facing punishment for a crime which he never committed and how long will women and her parents and relatives would be given the free run to file as many cases as they want and yet even after being proved that they were false still not be sent to jail where ideally they should be? Of course, it certainly merits no reiteration that this definitely must be seriously debated, discussed and deliberated upon by the expert committee which is dwelling on the various changes to be made in our criminal penal laws. No denying it! At the very outset, this learned, laudable, landmark and latest oral judgment authored by the Single Judge Bench of Hon'ble Mr Justice Sandeep N. Bhatt sets the ball in motion by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, "This application is filed under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 ('the Code' for short) praying to quash the FIR registered as C.R.No.I-110 of 2016 with GIDC Vatva Police Station, Ahmedabad city for the offences punishable under Sections 498(A), 323 and 114 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act." To put things in perspective, the Bench envisages in para 2 that, "The brief facts leading to filing of this application are such that the son of the applicants married the respondent no.2 on 28.2.2000 and thereafter, after some time, the applicants started demanding dowry and started to harass the complainant more and more. It is stated that due to illicit relation of her husband with one lady, the things went more worse and we started living separately from the in-laws i.e. the present applicants. It is stated that as the respondent no.2- complainant started opposing her husband about the illicit relation, he started beating the complainant. Thus, the impugned complaint was filed against her husband, in-laws i.e. the present applicants and the lady with whom, the husband of the complainant had alleged illicit relations. It is this FIR which is sought to be quashed in this application." For sake of clarity, the Bench clarifies in para 3 that, "At the outset, it is to be mentioned that the applicant no.1-accused no.2, who is father-in-law of the complainant has expired and the application is abated qua applicant no.1. So, now, the application is required to be considered for applicant no.2 who is accused no.3 and mother-in-law of the respondent no.2-complainant." Frankly speaking, the Bench then forthrightly concedes in para 6 that, "I have considered the rival submissions and perused the material on record. From the bare reading of the FIR, it transpires that the main allegations are pertaining to offences registered under Sections 498A, 323 and 114 of the IPC read with Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, which are prima facie not made out against the present applicant as general allegations are made against the applicant and main allegations are alleged against accused nos.1 and 4. It also seems that the present applicant is wrongly dragged in the said FIR as she happens to be the mother-in-law of the complainant. The age of the applicant is also required to be seen, she was aged 80 years at the time of filing of this application in the year 2017 and at present, she must be of 86 years. Even looking to the age factor and the fact that general allegations are levelled in the FIR only to make sure that she is roped in the FIR, continuing these proceedings will amount to abuse of process of law and no fruitful purpose will be served in continuing the same." While citing the most relevant case law, the Bench propounds in para 7 that, "In the case of Bhajanlal & Ors. (supra), the Hon'ble Supreme Court has settled the guidelines when the Court can exercise powers under Section 482 of the Code, the relevant paragraph reads as under:
"In the backdrop of the interpretation of the various relevant provisions of the Code under Ch.XIV and of the principles of law enunciated by this court in a series of decisions relating to the exercise of the extraordinary power under Art.226 or the inherent powers under Section 482 of the Code which we have extracted and reproduced above, we give the following categories of cases by way of illustration wherein such power could be exercised either to prevent abuse of the process of any court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice, though it may not be possible to lay down any precise, clearly defined and sufficiently channelised and inflexible guidelines or rigid formulae and to give an exhaustive list of myriad kinds of cases wherein such power should be exercised.
(1) Where the allegations made in the first information report or the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety do not prima facie constitute any offence or make out a case against the accused.
(2) Where the allegations in the first information report and other materials, if any, accompanying the FIR do not disclose a cognizable offence, justifying an investigation by police officers under Section 156(1) of the Code except under an order of a Magistrate within the purview of Section 155(2) of the Code.
(3) Where the uncontroverted allegations made in the FIR or complaint and the evidence collected in support of the same do not disclose the commission of any offence and make out a case against the accused.
(4) Where, the allegations in the FIR do not constitute a cognizable offence but constitute only a non-cognizable offence, no investigation is permitted by a police officer without an order of a Magistrate as contemplated under Section 156(2) of the Code.
(5) Where the allegations made in the FIR or complaint are so absurd and inherently improbable on the basis of which no prudent person can ever reach a just conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.
(6) Where there is an express legal bar engrafted in any of the provisions of the Code or the concerned Act (under which a criminal proceeding is instituted) to the institution and continuance of the proceedings and/or where there is a specific provision in the Code or the concerned Act, providing efficacious redress for the grievance of the aggrieved party.
(7) Where a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with mala fide and/or where the proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the accused and with a view to spite him due to private and personal grudge."While referring to yet another relevant case law, the Bench observes in para 8 that, "It is also relevant to refer to the judgment of the Hon'ble Apex Court in the case of Inder Mohan Goswami and Another v. State of Uttaranchal reported in (2007) 12 SCC 1, more particularly para : 23 & 24 thereof, which read as under :
"23. This Court in a number of cases has laid down the scope and ambit of courts' powers under Section 482 CrPC. Every High Court has inherent power to act ex debito justitiae to do real and substantial justice, for the administration of which alone it exists, or to prevent abuse of the process of the court. Inherent power under Section 482 CrPC can be exercised:
(i) to give effect to an order under the Code;
(ii) to prevent abuse of the process of court, and
(iii) to otherwise secure the ends of justice.
24. Inherent powers under Section 482 CrPC though wide have to be exercised sparingly, carefully and with great caution and only when such exercise is justified by the tests specifically laid down in this section itself. Authority of the court exists for the advancement of justice. If any abuse of the process leading to injustice is brought to the notice of the court, then the court would be justified in preventing injustice by invoking inherent powers in absence of specific provisions in the statute."Most forthrightly, the Bench mandates in para 9 that, "In view of above settled position of law and after considering the facts as alleged in the FIR and circumstances of the present case, it transpires that continuation of further proceedings pursuant to the said FIR will cause greater hardships to the applicant and no fruitful purpose would be served if such further proceedings are allowed to be continued. The Court must ensure that criminal prosecution is not used as instrument of harassment or for seeking private vendetta or with ulterior motive to pressurise accused or to settle the score." Most significantly, the Bench graciously concedes in para 10 holding that, "At this stage, a mention is required to be made that the current scenario in the society is that Sections of 498A are being rampantly misused by the complainants and in such cases, all the family members are roped in the complaint only with a view to harass the family members and the Hon'ble Apex Court has taken cognizance of such incidents in number of judgments." Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 11 that, "Resultantly, this application is allowed. The F.I.R. registered as C.R.No.I-110 of 2016 with GIDC Vatva Police Station, Ahmadabad city and all consequential proceedings arising therefrom are hereby quashed and set aside qua the applicant no.2. Rule is made absolute. Direct service is permitted. It is open for the prosecution to proceed with the trial against rest of the accused." All told, it is high time and our lawmakers must definitely now rise to the occasion and amend the penal laws to meet the present circumstances. Also, it must be ensured that those women and her relatives who misuse the anti-dowry laws like Section 498A of IPC as we see in this leading case decided by the Gujarat High Court and so also rape laws and other laws meant for safety of women and girls like POCSO must be definitely sent behind bars for the term which a men would have been sentenced if he was convicted of the offence. It definitely cannot be denied by anyone that women who is now overshadowing men in each and every sphere of life cannot be allowed to always have the free run to file false cases, have the last laugh and yet escape without being made to pay huge penalty and a jail term also so that no women or her relatives can ever dare to misuse such penal laws that are meant for the protection of women and not for being misused against men and his relatives like the 86-year-old woman in this case either to extract money or to settle personal scores or to pressurize accused! It must be definitely underscored that this rampant abuse of laws by women and her parents and relatives definitely deserves to be punished most strictly so that the men and his relatives and parents don't suffer endlessly for no fault of theirs! It brooks no more delay now and our law makers must act most promptly in this direction! Let's fervently hope so!
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