One instance unless portentous not sufficient to invoke 498A IPC: SC

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Court quashed the criminal proceedings under Sections Sections 498A and 506 of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act against the husband's relatives

The Supreme Court has said that one incident without any evidence to show consistent interference into marital life would not be sufficient to invoke penal provision of cruelty by a relative of the husband.

A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and S V N Bhatti quashed the criminal proceedings arising out of an FIR lodged against Mahalakshmi and others in Bengaluru under Sections Sections 498A and 506 of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

"One instance unless portentous, in the absence of any material evidence of interference and involvement in the marital life of the complainant, may not be sufficient to implicate the person as having committed cruelty under section 498A of the IPC. Given that the appellants were not residing at the marital home, and appellant no.1 was not even living in India, the absence of specific details that constitute cruelty, we would accept the present appeal," the bench said.

The appellant Mahalakshmi was the sister of Sarvan Kumar, former husband of Rekha Bhaskaran. 

Other appellants included Maharani T S and Ranjanavadhan were cousins of the husband. Appellant no 4, Archana was the wife of appellant no 3 Ranjanavadhan.

Even before the marriage of the accused husband and complainant wife in 2015, Mahalakshmi was living in Canada after her marriage in 2013.

She claimed that the allegations in the complaint were false and incorrect. She submitted that she was living and working in Canada. Further, sometime in March 2016, she visited India to attend her friend’s wedding in Mysore and stayed there for nearly twenty days. Again, in September 2016, she had remained in India for almost 12 days when her father, accused no 2 – Surendra Prasad, was operated and hospitalised under critical care for two to three weeks. 

Other appellants namely, Maharani T S, Ranjanavadhan and Archana, were residing separately. In fact, appellant Maharani, was a permanent resident of Secunderabad, Telangana. After marriage, accused Sarvan Kumar and complainant Rekha Bhaskaran were residing at Bengaluru, Karnataka. 

A decree of divorce was also passed on November 17, 2022, dissolving the marriage. An appeal challenging the decree was pending.

After having considered the charge sheet filed, the bench said, "We quash the criminal proceedings against the appellants."

However, the bench clarified that if any material comes on record during the recording of evidence, it will be open to the trial court to take recourse to Section 319 of the Criminal Procedure Code and proceed following the law. 

The bench also explained that it had not made any comment or observations against the accused namely Sarvan Kumar, Surendra Prasad and Malathi Prasad.

Case Title: Mahalakshmi & Ors Vs State of Karnataka & Anr