The Supreme Court of India dismissed a criminal case submitted under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against the ex-in-laws of a woman for cruelty and harassment. [Abhishek vs. Madhya Pradesh State]
A bench composed of Justices Aniruddha Bose, PV Sanjeev Kumar, and SVN Bhatti determined that the allegations of marital maltreatment and dowry harassment were general and all-encompassing, and that the woman “clearly desired to exact revenge on her in-laws.”
“They are so outlandish and implausible that no reasonable person could conclude that there are adequate grounds to proceed against them… “Allowing the criminal process to continue against the appellants under these circumstances would result in blatant injustice,” the highest court stated.
The supreme court was hearing appeals against a Madhya Pradesh High Court order that had refused to dismiss the proceedings against the woman’s ex-brothers-in-law and mother-in-law.
The husband had previously obtained a decree of divorce dissolving the marriage, although the woman had submitted an appeal with the High Court against the grant of divorce.
In the interim, the woman made allegations of cruelty, and a chargesheet was eventually lodged against all three defendants, alleging violations of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code and the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961.
The woman claimed that she was subjected to cruelty, dowry harassment, and poor living conditions in her marital residence.
A few months after the woman’s marriage to her brother’s brother, she also filed complaints with the Mumbai anti-corruption bureau and the Madhya Pradesh High Court Chief Justice against one of the brothers-in-law who had entered judicial service as a civil judge.
The Supreme Court dismissed the woman’s criminal charges against her in-laws, citing the numerous inconsistencies and discrepancies in her account of the events.
The court noted that although the woman had left the marital residence in 2009, she did not register a complaint against her in-laws until 2013, “just before her husband initiated divorce proceedings.”
On account of the allegations against the judicial officer, the highest court questioned why he would demand dowry from the complainant-woman, even if he were inclined to commit such an offence, given that he was already married.
Since the woman had previously admitted to filing a malicious complaint against the judicial officer with the High Court, the highest court determined that her motivations were not pure.
The Court was also unconvinced by allegations that the woman’s mother-in-law taunted her by stating that, because she was wearing a maxi dress, “she should be undressed and made to dance in the street.”
This allegation was deemed “entirely insufficient to constitute cruelty under Section 498A IPC” by the court.
Thus, the appeals were granted. The criminal complaint and proceedings were dismissed against the appellants (in-laws).
Former in-laws of the complainant were represented by Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra, along with advocates Anmol Kheta, Dushyant Dahiya, Kumar Kashyap, Kausar Hussain, and Dinesh Chandra Pandey.
The government of Madhya Pradesh was represented by attorneys Abhinav Shrivastava, Sunny Choudhary, Sasmit Patra, RP Singh, Shivang Rawat, Pashupathi Nath Razdan, Nidhi, Mohit Girdhar, Sarthak Arora, Sandeep Sharma, Karan Bishnoi, Abhimanyu Singh, Nirmal Kumar Ambastha, Maitreee Jagdish Joshi, and Astik Gupta.