The Calcutta High Court said on Monday that women have unleashed “legal terrorism” by misusing Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a provision that criminalises cruelty against a woman by her husband or his relatives.
Single-judge Justice Subhendu Samanta said that Section 498A was introduced for the welfare of women but it is now being misused with filing of false cases, Bar and Bench reported. “The legislature has enacted the provision of Section 498A to strike out the dowry menace. But it is observed in several cases that by misusing the said provision legal terrorism is unleashed,” the judge observed.
Harassment and torture enumerated in the definition of cruelty under Section 498A cannot be proved solely by the de facto complainant (wife), the judge observed. “The criminal law allows a complainant to file a criminal complaint but the same has to be justified by adducing cogent evidence,” the court added while quashing a Section 498A case against a man and his family members.
The court was hearing a plea filed by the man and his family challenging the criminal cases lodged against them by his estranged wife in October and December 2017.
HC Was Hearing A Case Of Domestic Violence
As per the plea, the wife had first lodged a case against the petitioner-husband in October 2017 accusing him of subjecting her to mental and physical cruelty.
Pursuant to that, the police recorded the statements of some witnesses and also the neighbours of the couple. However, the police noted that only general and omnibus allegations were made against the husband.
Further, the wife lodged another complaint in December 2017, this time naming the family members of the husband and accusing them of cruelty and subjecting her to mental and physical torture.
The court noted that no evidence establishing prima facie offence against the present petitioners was brought on record.
“The direct allegation against the husband by the de facto complainant is merely from her version. It supports no documentary or medical evidence. One neighbour has heard about the quarrel of the wife and her husband; the quarrel of two persons does not mean or prove who is in aggression or who is aggrieved,” the court said.
It further noted that since marriage, the couple were residing in one apartment separate from the relatives of the husband, who were living in another apartment.
“I am of a view that the instant criminal proceedings initiated by the de facto complainant against the husband and in-laws do not disclose prima facie offence against them as alleged. The proceedings are instituted only to fulfil personal grudge. Considering the circumstances I think it necessary to invoke the inherent power of this court to quash the proceedings. Otherwise the continuation of the criminal proceedings would be tantamount to the abuse of process of court," the court said.
With these observations, it quashed the case.