SC: Courts at woman’s place of shelter can try a complaint u/s 498A IPC

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, today, i.e. on 9thApril 2019, in the matter of Rupali Devi v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors. pronounced that the courts at the place where the wife takes shelter after leaving or driven away from the matrimonial home on account of acts of cruelty committed by the husband or his relatives, would, dependent on the factual situation, also have jurisdiction to entertain a complaint alleging commission of offences under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

“Cruelty” which is the crux of the offence under Section 498A IPC is defined in Black’s Law Dictionary to mean “The intentional and malicious infliction of mental or physical suffering on a living creature, esp. a human; abusive treatment; outrage (Abuse, inhuman treatment, indignity)”. (Para 14)

Cruelty can be both physical or mental cruelty. The impact on the mental health of the wife by overt acts on the part of the husband or his relatives; the mental stress and trauma of being driven away from the matrimonial home and her helplessness to go back to the same home for fear of being illtreated are aspects that cannot be ignored while understanding the meaning of the expression “cruelty” appearing in Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. (Para 14)

The emotional distress or psychological effect on the wife, if not the physical injury, is bound to continue to traumatize the wife even after she leaves the matrimonial home and takes shelter at the parental home. (Para 14)

Even if the acts of physical cruelty committed in the matrimonial house may have ceased and such acts do not occur at the parental home, there can be no doubt that the mental trauma and the psychological distress cause by the acts of the husband including verbal exchanges, if any, that had compelled the wife to leave the matrimonial home and take shelter with her parents would continue to persist at the parental home. Mental cruelty borne out of physical cruelty or abusive and humiliating verbal exchanges would continue in the parental home even though there may not be any overt act of physical cruelty at such place. (Para 14)

The provisions contained in Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, undoubtedly, encompasses both mental as well as the physical well-being of the wife. (Para 15)

Even the silence of the wife may have an underlying element of an emotional distress and mental agony. Her sufferings at the parental home though may be directly attributable to commission of acts of cruelty by the husband at the matrimonial home would, undoubtedly, be the consequences of the acts committed at the matrimonial home. Such consequences, by itself, would amount to distinct offences committed at the parental home where she has taken shelter. (Para 15)

The adverse effects on the mental health in the parental home though on account of the acts committed in the matrimonial home would amount to commission of cruelty within the meaning of Section 498A at the parental home. (Para 15)

The consequences of the cruelty committed at the matrimonial home results in repeated offences being committed at the parental home. (Para 15)

The courts at the place where the wife takes shelter after leaving or driven away from the matrimonial home on account of acts of cruelty committed by the husband or his relatives, would, dependent on the factual situation, also have jurisdiction to entertain a complaint alleging commission of offences under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. (Para 16)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_09-Apr-2019

-Tushar Kaushik

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