Section 498 A IPC; Preeti Gupta Vs. State of Jharkhand [Supreme Court of India, 13-08-2010]

Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 – Section 482 – Penal Code, 1860 – Sections 498-A, 406, 341, 323 & 120-B – Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 – Sections 3 & 4 – Criminal complaint against immediate relatives of husband – Inherent powers of High Court – Issuance of summons – Challenge by complainant’s-married sister-in-law and brother-in-law – Held, there were no specific allegations against appellants in the complaint nor any role was ascribed to them by witnesses – Said relatives were living in different cities and never visited or rarely visited the complainant’s place – Their implication in the complaint was meant to harass and humiliate them – Permitting the complainant to pursue the complaint would be an abuse of the process of law – In the interest of justice, complaint against appellants is quashed – Order of High Court is set aside.

Penal Code, 1860 – Section  498-A – Increase in criminal complaints u/s. 498-A IPC – Large number of complaints u/s. 498-A not bonafide, but filed with oblique motive – Need for legislature to take a serious re-look of the entire provision and make suitable changes in the existing law.

Legal Ethics – Duty of advocates – Held, Advocates must maintain noble traditions of the profession – They must ensure that social fiber, peace and tranquility of the society remains intact – They should treat every complaint u/s. 498A as a basic human problem and must make serious endeavour to help the parties in arriving at an amicable resolution of that human problem.

(2010) 9 SCR 1168 : AIR 2010 SC 3363 : (2010) 7 SCC 667 : JT 2010 (8) SC 410 : 2010 AIR (SCW) 4975 : 2010 (8) SCALE 131 : JT 2010 (8) SC 410 : 2010 CRI. L.J. 4303

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

(Dalveer Bhandari) and (K.S. Radhakrishnan) JJ.

August 13, 2010

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1512 OF 2010

(Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No.4684 of 2009)

Preeti Gupta & Another …Appellants

Versus

State of Jharkhand & Another ….Respondents

JUDGMENT

Dalveer Bhandari, J.

1. Leave granted.

2. This appeal has been filed by Preeti Gupta the married sister-in-law and a permanent resident of Navasari, Surat, Gujarat with her husband and Gaurav Poddar, a permanent resident of Goregaon, Maharashtra, who is the unmarried brother-in-law of the complainant, Manisha Poddar, against the impugned judgment of the High Court of Jharkhand at Ranchi, Jharkhand dated 27.4.2009 passed in Criminal Miscellaneous Petition Nos.304 of 2009.

3. Brief facts which are necessary to dispose of this appeal are recapitulated as under:

The Complainant Manisha was married to Kamal Poddar at Kanpur on 10.12.2006. Immediately after the marriage, the complainant who is respondent no.2 in this appeal left for Mumbai along with her husband Kamal Poddar who was working with the Tata Consultancy Services (for short “TCS”) and was permanently residing at Mumbai. The complainant also joined the TCS at Mumbai on 23.12.2006. Respondent no.2 visited Ranchi to participate in “Gangaur” festival (an important Hindu festival widely celebrated in Northern India) on 16.3.2007. After staying there for a week, she returned to Mumbai on 24.03.2007.

4. Respondent no.2, Manisha Poddar filed a complaint on 08.07.2007 before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ranchi under sections 498-A, 406, 341, 323 and 120-B of the Indian Penal Code read with sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act against all immediate relations of her husband, namely, Pyarelal Poddar (father-in-law), Kamal Poddar (husband), Sushila Devi (mother-in-law), Gaurav Poddar (unmarried brother-in-law) and Preeti Gupta @ Preeti Agrawal (married sister-in-law). The complaint was transferred to the court of the Judicial Magistrate, Ranchi. Statements of Respondent no.2 and other witnesses were recorded and on 10.10.2008 the Judicial Magistrate took cognizance and passed the summoning order of the appellants. The appellants are aggrieved by the said summoning order.

5. In the criminal complaint, it was alleged that a luxury car was demanded by all the accused named in the complaint. It was also alleged that respondent no.2 was physically assaulted at Mumbai. According to the said allegations of the complainant, it appears that the alleged incidents had taken place either at Kanpur or Mumbai. According to the averments of the complaint, except for the demand of the luxury car no incident of harassment took place at Ranchi.

6. According to the appellants, there was no specific allegation against both the appellants in the complaint. Appellant no.1 had been permanently residing with her husband at Navasari, Surat (Gujarat) for the last more than seven years. She had never visited Mumbai during the year 2007 and never stayed with respondent no.2 or her husband. Similarly, appellant no.2, unmarried brother-in-law of the complainant has also been permanently residing at Goregaon, Maharashtra.

7. It was asserted that there is no specific allegation in the entire complaint against both the appellants. The statements of prosecution witnesses PW1 to PW4 were also recorded along with the statement of the complainant. None of the prosecution witnesses had stated anything against the appellants. These appellants had very clearly stated in this appeal that they had never visited Ranchi. The appellants also stated that they had never interfered with the internal affairs of the complainant and her husband. According to them, there was no question of any interference because the appellants had been living in different cities for a number of years.

8. It was clearly alleged by the appellants that they had been falsely implicated in this case. It was further stated that the complaint against the appellants was totally without any basis or foundation. The appellants also asserted that even if all the allegations incorporated in the complaint were taken to be true, even then no offence could be made out against them.

9. The appellants had submitted that the High Court ought to have quashed this complaint as far as both the appellants are concerned because there were no specific allegations against the appellants and they ought not have been summoned. In the impugned judgment, while declining to exercise its inherent powers, the High Court observed as under:

“In this context, I may again reiterate that the acts relating to demand or subjecting to cruelty, as per the complaint petition, have been committed at the place where the complainant was living with her husband. However, the complainant in her statement made under solemn affirmation has stated that when she came to Ranchi on the occasion of Holi, all the accused persons came and passed sarcastic remarks which in absence of actual wordings, according to the learned counsel appearing for the petitioner could never be presumed to be an act constituting offence under section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.”

10. In this appeal, both the appellants specifically asserted that they had never visited Ranchi, therefore, the allegations that they made any sarcastic remarks to the complainant had no basis or foundation as far as the appellants are concerned.

11. The complainant could not dispute that appellant no.1 was a permanent resident living with her husband at Navasari, Surat, Gujarat for the last more than seven years and the appellant no.2 was permanent resident of Goregaon, Maharashtra. They had never spent any time with respondent no.2.

12. According to the appellants, they are not the residents of Ranchi and if they are compelled to attend the Ranchi Court repeatedly then that would lead to insurmountable harassment and inconvenience to the appellants as well as to the complainant.

13. The complaint in this case under section 498-A IPC has led to several other cases. It is mentioned that a divorce petition has been filed by the husband of respondent no.2. Both respondent no.2 and her husband are highly qualified and are working with reputed organization like Tata Consultancy Service. If because of temperamental incompatibility they cannot live with each other then it is proper that they should jointly get a decree of divorce by mutual consent. Both respondent no.2 and her husband are in such age group that if proper efforts are made, their re- settlement may not be impossible.

14. The main question which falls for consideration in this case is whether the High Court was justified in not exercising its inherent powers under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in the facts and circumstances of this case?

15. This court in a number of cases has laid down the scope and ambit of courts’ powers under section 482 Cr.P.C. Every High Court has inherent power to act ex debito justitiae to do real and substantial justice, for the administration of which alone it exists, or to prevent abuse of the process of the court. Inherent power under section 482 Cr.P.C. can be exercised:

(i) to give effect to an order under the Code;

(ii) to prevent abuse of the process of court, and

(iii) to otherwise secure the ends of justice.

16. Reference to the following cases would reveal that the courts have consistently taken the view that they must use this extraordinary power to prevent injustice and secure the ends of justice. The English courts have also used inherent power to achieve the same objective. It is generally agreed that the Crown Court has inherent power to protect its process from abuse. In