New Delhi, Sept. 9: The Supreme Court today said the “mere fact” that a married man develops “some intimacy” with another woman and his wife commits suicide would not as such amount to cruelty on the husband’s part warranting his prosecution.
A two-judge bench acquitted P.M. Rawal, an insurance official, who had challenged his conviction for abetting his wife’s suicide under the penal code’s Section 306.
Rawal’s wife had jumped from the terrace of their house in 1993 and her family had filed a complaint alleging that his extramarital affair with a fellow colleague had driven his wife to suicide.
A sessions court had jailed Rawal for 10 years before Gujarat High Court reduced the sentence to five years. Rawal had appealed to the apex court.
Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Pinaki Chandra Ghose said there was no evidence on record to prove that the accused had an illicit affair with his lady colleague or that his wife Jagruti had ended her life because of the alleged relationship.
The bench also pointed out that the suicide note Jagruti left behind did not mention anything critical about her husband. Rather, the court said, Jagruti had blamed herself in the note for not being a good “match” for Rawal who, she added, was “in love” with his colleague.
In her suicide note, Jagruti said: “My husband… is a very good man and he is not responsible. I also love him. However, I am extremely bad, selfish and egoist and, therefore, not a match to him.
“He is in love… and wants to marry her and, therefore, for their happiness, I am taking this step.
“No one of my house is responsible. Therefore, they may not be harassed. Kindly arrange their marriage with all pomp and gaiety.”
The court said the “mere fact that the husband has developed some intimacy” with another woman “as such would not amount to cruelty”, which must be of such a nature as is likely to drive the spouse to commit suicide to fall within the explanation to IPC Section 498A (harassing married woman to death).
The bench clarified that the harassment “need not” be in the form of physical assault and even mental harassment would come within the purview of Section 498A. “Mental cruelty, of course, varies from person to person… some may meet with courage and some others suffer in silence, to some it may be unbearable and a weak person may think of ending one’s life.
“We, on facts, found that the alleged extramarital relationship was not of such a nature as to drive the wife to commit suicide…” Justice Radhakrishnan, writing the judgment for the bench, said.
“But for the alleged extramarital relationship, which if proved, could be illegal and immoral, nothing has been brought out by the prosecution to show that the accused had provoked, incited or induced the wife to commit suicide,” the bench said, adding that the alleged relationship appeared to be a “one-sided love affair”.