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Dowry demand without cruelty is not an offence under section 498A IPC: Kerala High Court

Last Updated on October 18, 2023 by News Desk

Recently, the Kerala High Court observed that demand for dowry or any property or valuable security without the ingredient of “cruelty” will not amount to an offence under section 498A of Indian Penal code.

It also held that trivial disputes between spouses or their family, in their daily life, cannot be considered as harassment or cruelty.

“A mere skirmish in the ordinary life between the spouses or intermittent quarrel or even a frequent quarrel, unless constitutes the ingredient of ‘harassment’ for meeting an unlawful demand for property or valuable security or on account of failure to meet such unlawful demand, would not constitute or attract the criminal liability that can be fastened for the offence under Section 498 A IPC, Like wise, a demand for dowry or any property or valuable security without the ingredient of “cruelty” as explained under clause (a) or (b) will not attract the said offence, but a combined effect of both these would bring home the liability under Section 498 A IPC,” court stated.

The court was hearing a revision petition filed by a man challenging a sessions court order that had convicted and sentenced him under Section 498A.

Facts of the case were that the wife who was the de facto complainant, alleged that her husband raised a demand for more dowry and assaulted her. The nature of the assault by the accused (husband) was not explained.

The court took into notice that there was no evidence to show any kind of assault or any injury received by her on such assault. No medical evidence was produced. The court opined “In order tobring up a case punishable under Section 498A, it must be satisfied that the husband or his relatives subjected the woman, the wife, with cruelty.”

The court further suggested authorities to be more vigilant and cautious while setting the criminal law in motion. It said that it shall not unnecessarily drag such mundane disputes or differences between the spouses or their relatives in a criminal prosecution for the offence under Section 498 A IPC.

Therefore, after noting all the facts and finding that there was no acceptable evidence to prove manhandling nor any document evidencing any earlier incident or assault on the victim, the Court set aside the conviction and acquitted the accused.

case title- Niyas, Aaramthu House v State of Kerala

written by Shagun Behal

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