(Section 498A of IPC) RUHI versus ANEES AHMAD & ORS.

(Section 498A of IPC) RUHI versus ANEES AHMAD & ORS. (Section 498A of IPC) RUHI versus ANEES AHMAD & ORS.

In the Supreme Court of India (Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction)Section 498A of IPC

Criminal Appeal No. 7 of 2020.

A division bench of Supreme Court comprising Justice L Nageswar Rao and Justice Hemant Gupta in this case reiterated its earlier judgement in Rupali Devi V. State of U.P. (2019) and held that courts at the place where wife resides after leaving matrimonial home shall also have jurisdiction to entertain a complaint under Section 498A of IPC.

Brief facts and background of the case runs as follows

Appellant Ruhi was married to respondent Anees Ahmad according to Muslim Personal Law. Subsequently there were demands of dowry in cash and kind, and as alleged by appellant, she was pressurized by in-laws including the respondent. Meanwhile she gave birth to a son. She was subjected to physical violence due to failure in fulfilling the demands and ultimately, she along with her infant son was driven away from matrimonial home (Merrut, UP) by the respondent. A few months later, the marriage was dissolved by the respondent on pretext of provisions of Muslim Personal law.

Aggrieved Appellant filed a complaint to the SSP, Ghaziabad (UP) citing her grievances inter-alia matrimonial cruelty, breach of trust and demand for dowry etc. After being forced away from matrimonial home, she was living in parental home (Delhi). Consequently, the complaint earlier preferred to SSP, Ghaziabad was transferred to North-East District of Delhi and an FIR was registered at relevant Police Station.

Respondent Anees Ahmad filed an application in Delhi High Court for quashing this FIR which was turned down by the Hon’ble High Court but on count of jurisdiction, the court was of the view that, since the place of occurrence as per FIR was Merrut (the matrimonial home), the investigation and case ought to proceed at relevant police station and courts at Merrut. Hence, Delhi High Court ruled in favour of transmitting of case to the courts at Merrut (UP).

Meanwhile, Appellant Ruhi applied for interim maintenance, and Family Court at Karkardooma, Delhi passed an ex-parte order against respondent Anees Ahmad, thereby directing him to pay the Appellant a provisional amount of money every month till the case for maintenance under section 125 of code of criminal procedure was finally decided by the learned family courts. Respondent faltered to pay and the Appellant moved an execution petition six months later whereby, Respondent was given some relief on count of amount of maintenance by the Learned Family Court but was ordered to pay maintenance nonetheless. He, thereafter, filed a review petition but the petition was dismissed for want of merit.

Respondent, then knocked the doors of High Court by way of a revision petition challenging the territorial jurisdiction of family court. Respondent also claimed that fixation of quantum of interim maintenance as done by learned Family Court was violative of Ss. 125/126 Cr.P.C. and lacked basis. Appellant Ruhi, responding in this HC petition, submitted that her ex-husband was a man of means and she had no means of livelihood for herself and her child and was on verge of destitution.

(Section 498A of IPC) RUHI versus ANEES AHMAD & ORS.

Hon’ble High Court relying heavily on apex court judgement in Shamina Farooqui V. Shahid Khan (2015), held that, the purpose of S.125 Cr.P.C. is to provide speedy remedy to deserted women and children and that the maintenance fixed by learned Family Court was merely interim, to be adjusted in final order after completion of trial. Hon’ble High Court also adhered to Supreme Court judgements in Chaturbhuj V. Sita Bhai (2008) and Capt. Ramesh Chander Kaushal V. Veena Kaushal stating that object of S.125 Cr.P.C. is to prevent vagrancy and destitution.

The criminal appeal in Supreme Court-

The present case Ruhi V. Anees Ahmad in the Supreme Court of judicature arises out of grievance of appellant caused by transfer of complaint from Police Station Welcome Colony, Delhi to Police Station Lisadi Gate, Merrut (UP) by Delhi High Court on an application from respondent. It is noteworthy at this juncture that, Merrut was matrimonial home of the appellant. It is but natural that during pendency of case on dates of proceeding, appellant with her child had to visit Merrut from Delhi.

Needless to say, what overt or covert threats she might have undergone from her ex-husband or ex-in-laws. It must have been like revisiting the agonies suffered during matrimonial cruelties, like, adding insult to injury. She, in addition, had to bear monetary expenses of travelling to and fro.

The issue-

The issue before Hon’ble Supreme Court in this appeal was to ascertain whether Delhi Courts had territorial jurisdiction to try the case involving offences under IPC and Dowry Prohibition Act committed in Merrut, UP.

The observations of Hon’ble Supreme Court-

Hon’ble Justice L Nageswar Rao and Hon’ble Justice Hemant Gupta relied on the apex court’s earlier judgement in Rupali Devi V. State of Uttar Pradesh (2019) and the substantive provision of Section – 179 in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Hon’ble Supreme Court was of the view that commission of cruelty on wife at matrimonial home has grave repercussions later on when she takes refuge at parental home.

Cruelty suffered by wife back at in-laws’ ensues in repeated offences under section 498A of IPC being committed at parental home. Their lordships held that S.179 of Code of Criminal Procedure considers such separate incidents of sufferings of deserted wife to be part of same transaction and its applicability in present case would be just and objective.

S.179 of Criminal Procedure Code contemplates that an offence is triable both where the act is done or where the consequences of that act ensue. Respondent’s move to persuade the court to treat this matter as a point without a precedent was turned down by their lordships. The apex court refused to consider this case to be res integra as it is supported by dictum of Rupali Devi judgement.

The ratio of Rupali Devi can be summarized thus- There is a continuity of mental cruelty borne out of physical cruelty and verbal abuses committed in matrimonial home. Section 498A of IPC deals with not just bodily violence but also psychological trauma. Hon’ble judges were of the opinion that after-effects of violence result in psychological pain. More so, this after-effect of mental trauma continues for long, doesn’t matter if the wife is still in matrimonial home or has taken refuge elsewhere. Continuity of this psychological ramification, in the opinion of their lordships, is covered well within the definition of cruelty in this provision i.e. section 498A of IPC.

Hon’ble Judges relied on wisdom of Rupali Devi judgement regarding the issue of territorial jurisdiction of Delhi courts over matrimonial cruelty committed in Merrut. Ratio of Rupali Devi judgement on this count can be spelled out as follows- Where after suffering cruelty at matrimonial home, wife takes shelter elsewhere, either on being forced to leave or on her own, then the courts of the place of refuge also shall have jurisdiction to try case of offences u/section 498A of IPC.

The Judgement-

Supreme Court thereby, granting the leave, summed up by holding that, charge sheet filed at Merrut should be transmitted to a competent court in Karkardooma Courts, Dellhi and prosecution shall be conducted by the Delhi Police.

Article by – Yusuf Afzal Khan

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