In the recent years, criminal laws of the land have undergone radical changes to provide protection to women, more teeth have been provided to existing laws (such as Dowry Prohibition Act, 498A, 406 IPC, etc.) but unfortunately the remedy is becoming worse than the ailment as it is being misused by some unscrupulous wives to wreak havoc on husband and his family. It has been seen that there is a growing tendency to come out with inflated and exaggerated allegations, roping in each and every relation of the husband.
The judicial recognition of blatant misuse of these laws is not anew, way back in 1987, The Hon’ble Court, in Balbir Singh v. The State Of Punjab, 1987 (1) CRIMES 76, observed: “Though the amendments introduced in the penal code are with the laudable object of eradicating the evil of Dowry, such provisions cannot be allowed to be misused by the parents and the relatives of a psychopath wife who may have chosen to end her life for reason which may be many other than cruelty. The glaring reality cannot be ignored that the ugly trend of false implications in view to harass and blackmail an innocent spouse and his relatives, i.e. fast emerging. It is the time to stop this unhealthy trend which results in unnecessary misery and torture to numerous effected persons.”
Hon’ble Court Supreme Court has also observed in Preeti Gupta v. State of Jharkhand, 2010 (4) RCR (Crl.) 45: “para 30. It is a matter of common experience that most of these complaints under section 498-A IPC are filed in the heat of the moment over trivial issues without proper deliberations. We come across a large number of such complaints which are not even bona fide and are filed with oblique motive. At the same time, rapid increase in the number of genuine cases of dowry harassment is also a matter of serious concern.”
Also, in a recent case [Sukhdeep Kaur & another v. State of Punjab & another, dated 29.09.2015] of Hon’ble High Court of Punjab and Haryana Justice Hari Pal Verma observed that: “The petitioners along with other family members have been referred in the FIR so as to mount pressure upon them. No specific role or overt act has been attributed to any of the petitioners and the allegations made in the FIR are not only vague, rather general in nature. It is now well settled that in order to attract the provisions of Section 498A IPC, there must be specific allegations/overt act on the part of the accused and there must be prima facie material against the petitioners to indicate that the dowry articles were actually entrusted to them and they misappropriate the same. For the fault of the husband, the other relations cannot, in all cases, be held to be involved in the demand of dowry. It is noticed that in the recent past, a tendency has developed for roping in all the relations of husband in dowry cases in order to browbeat and pressurize the immediate family of the husband.”
So, in such cases, where either false allegations or exaggerated allegations have been leveled to rope in each and every family member of the family then remedy available with family members of the husband is to file Quashing petition as per the parameters laid down in Bhajan Lal Judgment [In State of Haryana & Others v. Bhajan Lal & Others 1992 Supp. (1) SCC 335] which reads:
“(1) Where the allegations made in the first information report or the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety do not prima facie constitute any offence or make out a case against the accused.
(2) Where the allegations in the first information report and other materials, if any, accompanying the FIR do not disclose a cognizable offence, justifying an investigation by police officers under Section 156(1) of the Code except under an order of a Magistrate within the purview of Section 155(2) of the Code.
(3) Where the uncontroverted allegations made in the FIR or complaint and the evidence collected in support of the same do not disclose the commission of any offence and make out a case against the accused.
(4) Where, the allegations in the FIR do not constitute a cognizable offence but constitute only a non-cognizable offence, no investigation is permitted by a police officer without an order of a Magistrate as contemplated under Section 155(2) of the Code.
(5) Where the allegations made in the FIR or complaint are so absurd and inherently improbable on the basis of which no prudent person can ever reach a just conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.
(6) Where there is an express legal bar engrafted in any of the provisions of the Code or the concerned Act (under which a criminal proceeding is instituted) to the institution and continuance of the proceedings and/or where there is a specific provision in the Code or the concerned Act, providing efficacious redress for the grievance of the aggrieved party.
(7) Where a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with mala fide and/or where the proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the accused and with a view to spite him due to private and personal grudge.”
For example, In a Recent case [Dr. Gurpal Chand Kataria @Gurpal v. Pawan Kumari dated 10.3.2014] Quashing Petition was allowed by Hon’ble Court of Punjab and Haryana while observing: “Pawan Kumari filed the complaint levelling allegations against all the family members of the husband including the ones staying away from the matrimonial home. The allegations levelled against the petitioner when examined in the light of submissions made by counsel for the petitioner, I find merit in the plea of the petitioner that he has been indicted in the crime being elder brother of Kuldeep. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Preeti Gupta and another’s case (supra) has cautioned the courts that large number of complaints of dowry harassment is not bonafide. Majority of the complaints are filed either on the advice of members of Bar or with their concurrence with exaggerated versions. Large number of these complaints not only flooded the courts but also has led to social unrest affecting peace, harmony and happiness of the society. The facts and circumstances of the present case, when examined in the light of observations made in the aforesaid judgments, I am of the considered opinion that it would be unfair to compel the petitioner to face rigmarole of criminal proceedings which cause untold misery to the accused and in the present case, further it would result in wastage of services of the petitioner to be rendered to the public. In view of the above, the petition is allowed. Complaint No. 23 dated 7.10.2010 titled “Pawan Kumari vs. Kuldeep and others” for offence punishable under Sections 406, 498-A read with Section 34 IPC(Annexure P-6) pending before the Judicial Magistrate Ist Class, Phagwara, summoning order dated 2.2.2013 (Annexure P-7) and proceedings emanating therefrom are ordered to be quashed, qua the petitioner.”
Nowadays, there is a trend going on in which NRIs are also roped in false cases under section 406,498A IPC. Since they are residing outside, complainant easily gets them declared as “Proclaimed Offender” under section 82 of CRPC by giving Indian Address of those NRI where no one is living. It has been seen that “many NRIs are crying foul over the alleged misuse of anti-dowry law with social activists claiming that Indian men and NRIs are becoming soft targets of IPC 498A. Once a case is registered under 498A, the police gets into action and books the groom and his family and they are immediately taken into custody.”
In such cases also, Quashing petition under section 482 CRPC can be filed as it was allowed in one of the recent cases. In the case Rajiv Mehta and another v. State of Punjab and others, Crl. Misc. No.M-8495 of 2014, Date of Decision: 17.8.2015, facts are: Marriage between petitioner no.1 and respondent no.3 took place on 30.10.2003. The couple resided together at New Delhi for about a month and thereafter they left for Holland on 30.11.2003. Before marriage, petitioner no.1 was already staying abroad. He sponsored respondent no.3-his wife and she also went with her husband to Holland. Later on, couple shifted from Holland to England somewhere in the year 2005. Out of the wedlock, a daughter was born on 17.8.2006 in England. It seems that some temperamental differences arose between husband and wife, while they were staying in England. Wife respondent no.3 filed a petition for divorce on 12.7.2010 against petitioner no.1-husband in the Family Court at Willesden County Court in England. Simultaneously, respondent-wife, through her father-respondent no.2 got the impugned FIR dated 17.7.2010 registered against four persons of her in-laws family, including relatives of the husband i.e. his sister and brother-in-law. Although respondent no.2-complainant lodged the complaint against six persons, but Anil Walia, brother-in-law and Meenu Walia sister-in-law of respondent no.3-wife were found innocent by the police during the course of enquiry and FIR was not registered against them. Marriage between the parties already stood dissolved by a decree of divorce dated 7.4.2014 passed by the Family Court at Willesden County Court in England, as per the own pleadings of complainant-respondent no.2. Despite knowing fully well that the accused persons were staying abroad, complainant-respondent no.2 gave their Indian address at the time of registration of the impugned FIR. This was the reason that no notice was issued to any of the accused at their residential address of England, because of which they came to be declared proclaimed offenders, vide order dated 11.3.2011 (Annexure P-4).
Observations of Hon’ble High Court of Punjab and Haryana: It has again gone undisputed on record that the petitioners were staying abroad when the impugned FIR was registered against them. Despite knowing fully well that the accused were not residing in India, complainant respondent no.2 gave Indian addresses of the petitioners. Whenever any notice was issued to the petitioners, it was issued at their Indian address and they were never informed at their residential addresses of England, because of which they came to be declared proclaimed offenders by the learned Magistrate, by passing the impugned order dated 11.3.2011 (Annexure P-4). In fact, impugned order dated 11.3.2011 (Annexure P-4) has been found to be the direct result of malafide intention of the complainant respondent no.2, who kept the learned court of competent jurisdiction as well as the police authorities in dark, intentionally concealing the truth about the material fact that the accused, as a matter of fact, were not staying in India.
Had the complainant come to the court with clean hands and petitioners would have been served at their residential addresses of England, there was no scope of declaring them proclaimed offenders nor the learned Magistrate would have passed the impugned order (Annexure P-4). Having said that, it can be safely concluded that respondents no.2 and 3 proceeded on a common malafide intention, with a view to wreck their vengeance against the petitioners, causing maximum harassment to them, by misusing the process of law. Under these circumstances, continuation of the impugned criminal proceedings arising out of the impugned FIR, would be totally uncalled for and unwarranted, thus, liable to be quashed for this reason also.