The Karnataka High Court recently ruled that a man’s second wife cannot register a complaint against her husband or in-laws for cruelty under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) because she is not recognised as a legally married wife. [Kantharaju And State of Karnataka].
Justice S Rachaiah ruled that if the marriage between the husband and wife is invalid, the Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code cannot be sustained.
“A complaint filed by the second wife against the husband and her in-laws is not maintainable,” the Court made it clear.
Therefore, it overturned the conviction of one Kantharaju (petitioner) after concluding that the complainant was the petitioner’s second wife and that the marriage was therefore invalid.
“The prosecution has to establish that the marriage of PW.1 (complainant) 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 and 2 that PW.1 was the second wife. Once PW.1 is considered as second wife of the petitioner, the complaint filed against the petitioner for the offence under Section 498A of IPC ought not to have been entertained,” the High Court held.
The complainant (second wife) alleged that she suffered from paralysis a few years after the marriage. As a result, the petitioner allegedly subjected her to harassment, cruel treatment, and mental trauma.
She also claimed that she was forcibly removed from her marital residence and that the petitioner threatened to set her on fire.
However, the petitioner argued that since the complainant was the second wife, the offence of cruelty could not apply, and that both the trial court and the appellate court erred by disregarding this aspect.
The court determined, based on witness testimony, that the complainant was the second wife of the petitioner.
Therefore, the lower courts erred in applying the principles and the law on this point, the Supreme Court stated.
“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 requires it to be set aside,” the Court ordered while acquitting the petitioner.
Chetan Desai appeared on behalf of Kantharaju, while Rahul Rai K appeared on behalf of the State.