Recently, the Bombay High Court while quashing an FIR alleging dowry harassment by the in-laws of a woman for lack of prima facie case took significant observation on the affinity to make vague and omnibus allegations of dowry harassment against every member of the husband’s family.
Brief Facts of the Case
- FIR was registered against the in-laws under Sections 498-A, 324, 506 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
- A plea was filed to quash the criminal case against the in-laws, invoking Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Observation made by the Court
The Court held that,
On overall reading of F.I.R. impugned and the charge-sheet, we are of the opinion that there are no allegations against the present applicants which constitute offences alleged against the applicants. Hence, we are of the opinion that continuance of present proceedings would amount to an abuse of process of law.
Nowadays, it has become a tendency to make vague and omnibus allegations, against every member of the family of the husband, implicating everybody under Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code and held that the Courts should carefully scrutinize the dowry harassment allegations to find out if the allegations made really constitute an offence.
Furthermore The Court Also Noted That-
Cruelty, as defined in Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code, must meet the following requirements:
(i) There should be harassment of the woman;
(ii) Harassment should be with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security; and
(iii) Harassment may be even where there is failure by woman or any person related to her to meet any such demand earlier made.
The cruelty perpetuated to the woman may be physical or mental. However, saying, as alleged in the report that, we are also serving in the police and we have connections with the higher Authorities, or the husband of the non-applicant no.2 got no benefit of the education of the non-applicant no.2, cannot be stated to be cruelty to the woman.
The Court recognized that it should ordinarily avoid enquiring into the truthfulness of the allegations when considering a plea to quash criminal proceedings under Section 482 of CrPC.
It further pointed out that,
When the filing of F.I.R. amounts to gross misuse of the criminal justice system, it becomes the duty of the High Court to intervene in such cases, under Section 482 of CrPC so that there is no miscarriage of justice and faith of people in the judicial system remains intact.
Quashing the FIR the Court held that in the present case, sisters-in-law and brother-in-law have been arraigned as accused without there being specific allegations as regards the nature of cruelty, as contemplated by Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code against them.
Precedents recalled by the Court
- Criminal proceedings should not be allowed to be resorted to as shortcut to settle the score. The Criminal Court has to exercise a great deal of caution. For the accused, it is a serious matter. Jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure has to be exercised to prevent abuse of the process of the Court or otherwise secure ends of justice (G Sagar Suri and another v. State of UP).
- Relatives of the husband should not be roped in on the basis of vague allegations unless specific instances of their involvement are set out (K. Subba Rao v. State of Telangana).
- The tendency of roping in all relations of the in-laws by the wife in the matter of dowry deaths or such type of similar offences in an over-enthusiasm and anxiety to seek conviction needs to be deprecated (Kailash Chand Agrawal v. State of UP).
- The criminal justice system should not be used as a tool of arm twisting and to settle the score. The High Court can intervene where the criminal justice system is used as a tool (M/s.Indian Oil Corporation v. M/s. NEPC India Ltd., & others).
Case Name: Shabnam Sheikh and others v. State of Maharashtra
Case no.: CRIMINAL APPLICATION (APL) NO. 114 OF 2014
Coram: Justice ZA Haq and Justice Amit Borkar