Is estranged wife licensed to harass in-laws?

Is estranged wife licensed to harass in-laws?
Highlights

The recent verdict of the Supreme Court on the question of jurisdiction to file a complaint under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) notwithstanding its good intentions is sure to cause abundant harassment to the husband and his relatives at the hands of an estranged wife.

The recent verdict of the Supreme Court on the question of jurisdiction to file a complaint under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) notwithstanding its good intentions is sure to cause abundant harassment to the husband and his relatives at the hands of an estranged wife.

The apex court held while answering a reference that the courts at the place where the wife takes shelter after leaving or driven away from the matrimonial home on account of acts of cruelty committed by the husband or his relatives, more would depend on the factual situation and also have jurisdiction to entertain a complaint filed under Section 498A of IPC.

Considering the reference pending for about seven years, the three Judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul observed: "Whether in a case where cruelty had been committed in a matrimonial home by the husband or the relatives of the husband and the wife leaves the matrimonial home and takes shelter in the parental home located at a different place or a place situated at any other place than the parental home of the wife have jurisdiction to entertain the complaint under Section 498A, in a situation where no overt act of cruelty or harassment is alleged to have been committed by the husband at the parental home where the wife had taken shelter."

The apex court's intentions are good as this crucial decision would remove the hurdle in filing the complaint under Section 498A IPC by a harassed woman against her husband and the relatives of the husband from any place where she has chosen to reside after leaving or being driven out from the matrimonial home.

As it is of the common knowledge that when parties to a matrimonial dispute like dowry harassment are at war, generally boundaries of decency and morality are crossed, and wild allegations and counter allegations are made against each other.

In such a situation, the estranged wife may be prompted to take advantage of this verdict of the Supreme Court and cause maximum harassment to her husband and his relatives. The Supreme Court verdict is obviously silent over this possibility.

The wife in order to teach a fitting lesson to her husband and the relatives of husband may show distant place as her residence after the incident of dowry harassment.

For example, a wife who is bent upon taking revenge on her husband and other in-laws may fabricate the proof of residing at a faraway place and get complaint registered there.

Section 498 A of IPC being the being a criminal offence, the accused persons will have to face the ordeal of attending the court frequently, while the wife being the complainant will get a sympathetic treatment from the court there by exempting her from personal appearance.

In fact, since the enactment of Section 498A in the IPC in early eighties it has been applied by the vested interests indiscriminately. In modern times when marriages between the people belonging to heterogeneous cultures, economic standards and social backgrounds take place, matrimonial differences are bound to happen.

The statistics show that in most of the cases filed under Section 498A, there has been gross abuse of this harsh provision by the police.

Unfortunately. in such a ticklish situation instead of providing a mechanism for the amicable resolution of the marital disputes, the lawmakers have thought it fit to leave its enforcement to the ill-equipped and mentally reluctant police force. It has done more harm than good to the society.

The indiscreet use of this section has broken more families than united them. Indeed, Section 498A IPC has outlived its utility and it is high time that it was completely scrapped in the interest of the family peace and harmonious marital life of the people.

Review in Rafale matter

The much discussed and debated case of Rafale deal has once again surfaced in the Supreme Court. The top court has brushed aside the Central government's argument that Section 123 of the Evidence Act read with Section 124 and 162 provides for the statutory basis for a claim of public interest privilege and above all, there is the Constitutional embargo contained in Article 74 (2) of the Constitution.

The Court also did not agree with the Government's argument that under the provisions of Official Secrets Act, the access to information where the public interest in disclosure overshadows, and the harm to the protected interest cannot be tolerated.

Thus, the Rafale case with political overtones has been revived. Now it remains to be seen what would be the apex court's stand in the light of new documents produced by the petitioners before it while the government claims that they were stolen from the records.

Incidentally, while the questions of admissibility of stolen documents and privacy privileges are being debated in the country's top court, at about the same time, the Ecuador Embassy has handed over Julius Assange, the founder of Wiki leaks to the USA for prosecution under various laws including the theft of secret documents!

Onus of financial capacity on complainant

In a significant judgement delivered in Basalingappa vs Muddibasappa, the Supreme Court has observed that the complainant in a cheque bounce case is bound to explain his financial capacity when the same is questioned by the accused by leading evidence to that effect.

The bench comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice K M Joseph observed: "Court cannot insist on a person to lead negative evidence...High Court without discarding the evidence which was led by the defence could not have held that finding of trial court regarding financial capacity of the complaint is perverse.

We are, thus, satisfied that accused has raised a probable defence and the findings of the trial court that complaint failed to prove his financial capacity based on evidence led by the defence."

The Court also observed that to rebut the presumption, it is open for the accused to rely on evidence led by him or the accused and rely on the material submitted by the complainant in order to raise a probable defence. It added that it is not necessary for the accused to come in the witness box in support of his defence. Section 28 and 139 imposed an evidentiary burden and not a persuasive burden.

Considering the fact that a large number of cheque bounce cases involves either the unaccounted money wherein income tax is evaded or post-dated cheques for unduly higher amounts than actually lent by the creditors are obtained forcibly from the needy borrower. Under these circumstances this judgment will provide relief to many a gullible person who get trapped in the dirty designs of illegal money lenders and financiers.

HC judge Siva Shankar Rao retires

Dr B Siva Shankara Rao, a Judge of the Telangana High Court at Hyderabad, retired on April 10. Justice Rao had earned the reputation as a brilliant and upright jurist during his career.

SC recommends Justice Vikram Nath as CJ of AP HC

Justice Vikram Nath, the senior-most Judge of the Allahabad High Court has been recommended for the post of the Chief Justice of the newly created High Court of Andhra Pradesh at Amaravati by the Supreme Court Collegium.

It may be noted that since its inception on January 1, 2019 the new High Court of Andhra Pradesh has no regular Chief Justice. At present, the High Court has been manned by the Acting Chief Justice Chagari Praveen Kumar.

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