A mere failure to keep a promise or a breach of promise to marry cannot give rise to criminal intention to cheat, the Bombay High Court held, earlier this week. The HC further said that a criminal intent is required to establish offense of cheating or fraud.
A bench of Justices Tanaji Nalawade and Shrikant Kulkarni pronounced the ruling while granting relief to nine members of an Amravati-based family.
The nine members of Lodha family (name changed). were booked by the police on a complaint filed by a man, who accused them of canceling their son's marriage with his daughter, at just a few days before the scheduled date.
According to the FIR, the Lodh family had agreed to get their son married to the complainant's daughter in 2017.
The complainant father claimed that the families had performed an engagement ceremony, wherein they had gifted a gold ring and chain along with Rs 11,000 cash to the Lodh family.
Subsequently, the families decided to solemnize the marriage within two months of the engagement. The father of the bride, accordingly, booked a banquet and even a catering service for the proposed marriage. He even paid the requisite money for the same.
However, just a few days before the marriage, the Lodh family cancelled the ceremony and refused to get their son married to the complainant's daughter.
Accordingly, the father registered an FIR under charges of cheating, fraud and also for demanding dowry.
Before the bench, the Lodh family argued that there was no intention to cheat or commit fraud against the bride's family. They argued that the marriage was cancelled because their son wasn't inclined to marry the bride.
Having considered the facts of the case, the judges said that for the purpose of constituting an offence of cheating it is required to show that the accused had the fraudulent or dishonest intention at the time of making promise or representation.
"A mere breach of contract cannot give rise to criminal prosecution. The distinction between a case of mere breach of contract and one of cheating depends upon the intention of the accused at the time of the alleged inducement," the bench said while adding that where there is no clear evidence of criminal intention when the offence is committed, would amount to a civil dispute and not a criminal one.
"It is necessary to show that the person had a fraudulent intention at the time of making promise to say that he committed an act of cheating. A mere failure to keep up promise cannot be presumed an act leading to cheat," the bench held.
"Criminal intention at the time of the offence is to be established and mere breach of promise of marriage can not give rise to criminal intention," the judges added.
The judges, accordingly, quashed the FIR registered against all the nine members of the Lodh family.