Mumbai: In a significant ruling, the Bombay High Court has held that a husband cannot be accused of cruelty just because he arrives home late or eats out. The court further held that the ordinary wear and tear in matrimonial life would not amount to cruelty.
The important ruling was delivered by a bench of Justice Kalpathi Sriram while upholding the acquittal orders of a trial court, which gave a clean chit to a man, who was booked for abetting the suicide of his wife.
According to the prosecution case, the wife committed suicide in September 1995 in her matrimonial house. She had allegedly told her parents and other relatives that she was being harassed by her husband, who often arrived late. She particularly stated that her husband would often eat out and skip meals in the house.
Apart from this, the parents of the deceased wife alleged that since she could not conceive, her husband and in-laws repeatedly tortured her for the same. However, the prosecution did not place anything on record to prove the contentions.
While dealing with the contentions, Justice Sriram said, “There will be ordinary wear and tear in any matrimonial life but that does not amount to cruelty or harassment.
Every type of harassment or cruelty would not attract provisions of the Indian Penal Code which punish cruelty or abatement to suicide.”
“It must be established that the harassment or cruelty was with a view to force the wife to commit suicide or to fulfil illegal demands of husband or in-laws,” Justice Sriram said.
The judge accepted the defence put forth by the husband that his deceased wife was unhappy as she could not conceive and thus would have committed suicide.
“The defence of the husband appears to be more probable, according to whom his wife was fond of children, but as she could not conceive after 7 to 8 years after marriage, she was unhappy. In addition, she was unhappy with him returning home late or eating outside due to his work,” Justice Sriram noted.
“There used to be quarrels between husband and wife but eating out or quarrelling, cannot be considered as harassment or cruelty as contemplated under provisions of the IPC,” Justice Sriram ruled.
The bench further said that allegations of harassment are very general in nature and mere allegations won’t be enough to convict a person for abetting suicide.
The bench also trashed the testimonies of a few witnesses, who were neighbours of the couple. They stated that the couple, who used to converse in Kannada language, often spoke loudly and, thus, they thought the couple was fighting.
“That again makes no sense because the witnesses have admitted that they did not understand Kannada and just because somebody speaks in a loud voice does not mean it is a quarrel,” Justice Sriram ruled while acquitting the husband.