3 Aug 2010

Offence under Section 498A only against relatives: Supreme Court

In a recent decision the Supreme Court has declared that conviction under Section 498A of Indian Penal Code, being the law relating to offence of cruelty by husband or his relatives on the wife, is not permissible when the accused is not a relative of the husband. In these circumstances, the Supreme Court agreed with the submissions of Senior Advocate U.U. Lalit who had argued that the proceedings initiated against the accused by quashed whereas she was not a relative of the husband.

The Bench inter alia observed as under;
7. Shri U.U. Lalit, Learned Senior Counsel, appearing on behalf of the appellant argued that in U. Suvetha v. State By Inspector of Police & Anr. [(2009) 6 SCC 757], it was specifically held that in order to be covered under Section 498A, IPC one has to be a ‘relative’ of the husband by blood, marriage or adoption. He pointed out that the present appellant was not in any manner a ‘relative’ as referred to in Section 498A, IPC and, therefore, there is no question of any allegation against her in respect of the ill-treatment of the complainant. The Court in this case examined the ingredients of Section 498A, IPC and noting the specific language of the Section and the Explanation thereof came to the conclusion that the word ‘relative’ would not include a paramour or concubine or so. Relying on the dictionary meaning of the word ‘relative’ and further relying on R. Ramanatha Aiyar’s Advance Law Lexicon, Volume 4, 3rd Edition, the Court went on to hold that Section 498A, IPC being a penal provision would deserve strict construction and unless a contextual meaning is required to be given to the statute, the said statute has to be construed strictly. On that behalf the Court relied on the judgment in T. Ashok Pai v. CIT [(2007) 7 SCC 162]. A reference was made to the decision in Shivcharan Lal Verma & Anr. v. State of M.P. [(2007) 15 SCC 369]. After quoting from various decisions of this Court, it was held that reference to the word ‘relative’ in Section 498A, IPC would be limited only to the blood relations or the relations by marriage.
8. Relying heavily on this, Shri Lalit contended that there is no question of any trial of the appellant for the offence under Section 498A, IPC. The argument is undoubtedly correct, though opposed by the Learned Counsel appearing for the State. We are of the opinion that there will be no question of her prosecution under Section 498A, IPC. Learned Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the complainant, Shri Soli J. Sorabjee, also did not seriously dispute this proposition. Therefore, we hold that the FIR insofar as it concerned Section 498A, IPC, would be of no consequence and the appellant shall not be tried for the offence under Section 498A, IPC.

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