A Calcutta High Court judge has lashed out at women who commit what he described as “legal terrorism” by using the provisions of the IPC’s Section 498A against their husbands and families.
Section 498A was introduced in the 1980s to protect women from ill-treatment and dowry demands by their husbands and the families of their husbands. There have been instances, however, when wives who have a grudge against their husbands, have used the provision to file unwarranted cases.
Justice Subhendu Samanta quashed the case filed by the wife against her husband and family and made strong observations, saying: “The legislature has enacted the provision of Section 498A to strike out the dowry menace from the society. But it is observed in several cases that by misusing of said provision new legal terrorism is unleashed.”
The judge pointed out that the wife had not provided any witnesses or evidence to back the allegations of cruelty towards her and that the case had been filed just to harass her husband and his family. “I am of a view that the instant criminal proceedings initiated by the de-facto complainant against the husband and in-laws does not disclose prima facie offence against them as alleged. The proceeding are instituted only to fulfil personal grudge,” the judge observed.
The wife had filed two cases in October and December 2017, alleging physical and mental cruelty. The first case was filed against the husband and the second also included his family. However, the judge noted she had not offered strong evidence to back these charges. “Criminal law allows a complainant to file a criminal complaint but the same has to be justified by adducing cogent evidence,” Justice Samanta noted.
The judge elaborated his point, saying: “The allegations against the husband is general and omnibus. The witnesses also did not bring out any more further ingredients of such allegations.” He added also that, “the facts shows after such complaint there were compromise between the parties for which Banashree (the wife) started living in her matrimonial home since 26.10.2017.”
One witness is said to have heard the husband and wife quarrelling. But the judge noted: “The quarrel of two persons does not mean or prove who is in aggression or who is aggrieved.”.
He also noted: “It is the only intention of the de-facto complainant to harras (sic) the present petitioner by virtue of pendency of the instant criminal case.”
Inevitably, there have been numerous instances where wives have attempted to settle scores with their husbands by using Section 498A and levelling charges of mental and physical cruelty. As a result, the Supreme Court has laid down that the police should not automatically make arrests in a Section 498A case but should first attempt to verify the allegations.
The husband and wife are now divorced. The judge ordered that the case (Dwaipayan Das Vs State of West Bengal and anr.) should be quashed.