The high court on Thursday observed that some women were abusing IPC Section 498A to harass those the clause aims to protect them from — husbands and in-laws.
Justice K.S. Ahluwalia made the observation while quashing criminal charges against Mita Bhaduri and her husband Tapan, who were fearing arrest in connection with a case under section 498A (cruelty by husband or relatives of husband) lodged by her sister-in-law Maumita Maitra.
“The proceedings against the petitioners (Mita and Tapan) will be an abuse of the process of law. The FIR, along with all proceedings against the petitioners, is quashed,” Justice Ahluwalia said in his three-page order.
Quoting a Supreme Court ruling, Justice Ahluwalia said: “The ultimate object of justice is to find out the truth and punish the guilty and protect the innocent. The tendency of implicating all immediate relations is also not uncommon. The courts have to be extremely careful and cautious while dealing with these complaints and must take pragmatic matrimonial cases.”
Legal experts in the city welcomed Justice Ahluwalia’s view, which they said had highlighted the tendency of a section of women and their family members to misuse article 498A and lodge false complaints against in-laws.
“If a woman lodges a complaint of torture against her husband or any of her in-laws within seven years of marriage, police will have to arrest the accused first. No investigation is needed to arrest the accused or family members. Many women misuse the law to falsely implicate their husbands and in-laws,” said lawyer and former mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya.
Maumita, a resident of Khardah, on the northern fringes of the city, had married Atanu in December 2002. The couple, who had been living at Atanu’s house in Sodepur, have two daughters — Arunima, 7, and Archisha, 5.
In December 2012, Maumita had lodged a complaint of torture against her husband, sister-in-law Mita and her husband Tapan.
Mita and Tapan — the couple got married in 1983 — live at Sinthee, around 12km from Atanu’s house. They moved a petition in the high court, seeking quashing of the proceedings against them.
The couple’s lawyer Debabrata Chatterjee submitted: “Maumita had complained that she had been regularly subjected to mental and physical torture by my clients. Is it possible? Mita and her husband have their own family. Why will they go to Sodepur regularly and torture Maumita?”
The judge observed: “It’s a fact that Mita and Tapan lived far way from the complainant’s house. The sister, who got married 19 years before her brother’s wedding, had nothing to do with the brother’s matrimonial affairs.”