New Delhi: Taking custody of daughter-in-law’s jewellery for safety cannot constitute cruelty under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, the Supreme Court has said.

A bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and J K Maheshwari said that failure to control an adult brother, living independently, or giving advice to adjust to sister-in-law to avoid retaliation cannot constitute cruelty to the bride within the meaning of Section 498A of the IPC.

Section 498 A refers to husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty. The case was lodged by a woman against her husband and in-laws for subjecting her to cruelty.

The apex court’s observations came while hearing an appeal against an order passed by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana dismissing a plea by a man seeking permission to return to the US, where he is employed.

The high court had rejected the man’s prayer to leave the country as he was arrayed as an accused along with his elder brother and parents under sections Sections 323 (voluntary causing hurt), 34 (common intention), 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating) 498A and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code.

Taking custody of jewellery for safety cannot constitute cruelty within the meaning of Section 498A of the IPC.

Failure to control an adult brother, living independently, or giving advice to the complainant to adjust to avoid vindictive retaliation cannot constitute cruelty on the part of the Appellant within the meaning of Section 498A of the IPC, the apex court bench said in a recent order.

It said the complainant (daughter-in-law) has not given any particulars of the jewellery that had allegedly been taken by her mother-in-law and brother-in- law.

There is not a whisper of whether any jewellery is lying with the petitioner, it said.

There is only a general omnibus allegation that all the accused ruined the life of the complainant by misrepresentation, concealment, etc

The Appellant is not liable for the acts of cruelty, or any other wrongful and/or criminal acts on the part of his parents or brother, the apex court said.

The top court said considering the nature of the allegations, it is not understood how and why the petitioner should have been detained in India. In our considered opinion, the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kurukshetra, erred in directing the appellant not to leave the country without prior permission of the Court.

It said the allegations in the complaint against the petitioner prima facie do not disclose any offence under Section 498A of the IPC, which contemplates cruelty.

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