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A Criminal Court Dealing With A Complaint Under Section 498-a Of The Ipc Should Refer The Parties To A Mediation Centre Before The Hearing If There Is A Possibility Of Settlement

Diya Pradeep ,
  03 June 2023       Share Bookmark

Court :
The Supreme Court of India
Brief :

Citation :
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 1794 OF 2013

Case title: 

K. Srinivas Rao vs D.A. Deepa

Date of Order: 

22 February 2013

Bench: 

Aftab Alam, Ranjana Prakash Desai

Parties:

Appellant - K. Srinivas Rao

Respondent - D.A. Deepa

SUBJECT

Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with the offense of 'Mental and Physical Cruelty'. It states that whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to a fine. The definition of cruelty has been provided in Section 498-A of the IPC and includes any 'willful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or harassment of the woman where such harassment is to coerce her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand'.

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS

Indian Penal Code, 1860

  • Section 498-A

Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

  • Section 9
  • Section 13(1)(i-a)
  • Section 13(1)(i-b)

OVERVIEW

  • A marriage was solemnized between two parties the appellant (husband) and the respondent (wife) on 25/4/1999.
  • The very next day, disputes started to rise between the parties and after that, they began to physically abuse each other.
  • Following the abuse, the parties separated before consummation.
  • Later, the wife filed a criminal complaint against the husband alleging him of making more dowry demands.
  • The wife then filed for restitution of conjugal rights under section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. This petition was dismissed by the Family Court, Secunderabad.
  • The husband filed a counterclaim under Section 13(1)(i-a) and (b) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 seeking divorce on the grounds of desertion and cruelty. The court passed the decree for divorce.
  • This decree in favor of the husband was set aside by an order of the High Court where it was observed that the conclusion that the respondent-wife caused mental cruelty to the appellant-husband is based on presumptions and assumptions.
  • The present appeal is filed by the husband before the Hon’ble Supreme Court after being aggrieved by the decision of the Andhra Pradesh High Court.

ISSUE RAISED

  • Is the appeal filed by the appellant (husband) seeking to set aside the impugned Andhra Pradesh High Court order dated 8/11/2006 maintainable?

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT

  • Mr. Jayanth Muth Raj represented the appellant in the present case.
  • It was submitted that the respondent had lodged several false complaints and accusations against the appellant which caused extreme mental cruelty to him.
  • The counsel asserted that the high court made a grave error in its observations as the wife hadn’t lived for a significant time with the husband causing him mental cruelty of any sort.
  • Counsel submitted that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and, therefore, it is necessary to dissolve it by a decree of divorce.
  • Reliance was placed on the cases G.V.N. Kameswara Rao vs G. Jabilli [Appeal (civil) 140 of 2002], and Parveen Mehta vs. Inderjit Mehta [Appeal (civil) 3930 of 2002] to substantiate the above point.
  • The learned counsel urged that due to the wife's conduct and her actions to defame her husband, she is not entitled to relief from the court.

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT

  • Mr. D. Rama Krishna Reddy represented the respondent in the present case.
  • The counsel submitted that despite the respondent-wife's father giving Rs.80,000/- and 15 tolas of gold as dowry, additional cash of Rs.10,00,000/- was demanded by the husband’s family.
  • It was further submitted that due to this demand not being met, the respondent was poorly treated and had to leave the house immediately.
  • The counsel asserted that the wife had no choice but to file a complaint under Section 498-A of the IPC when the husband's family persisted with the demands.
  • It was also argued that the respondent values the matrimonial ties but due to the uncompromising attitude of the appellant-husband and his family members, the respondent-wife had to resort to court proceedings.
  • Counsel submitted that after properly evaluating all the circumstances the High Court has rightly set aside the divorce decree and granted a decree of restitution of conjugal rights. As a result, the High Court's judgment should not be interfered with.

JUDGEMENT ANALYSIS

  • The supreme court of India dismissed the present appeal.
  • The court observed that the high court's decision was erroneous in its view that staying together under the same roof is a pre-condition for mental cruelty.
  • The apex court ruled that since the parties to this case have been living separately for 10 years it created an unbridgeable distance between the two. Therefore, a marriage that is dead for all purposes cannot be revived by the court’s verdict, if the parties are not willing.
  • Additionally, the court observed that the wife's actions caused extreme cruelty to the husband. During a given period, a spouse can cause mental cruelty to a spouse by sending vulgar or defamatory letters or notices, filing complaints containing indecent accusations, or launching several judicial proceedings that adversely affect the other spouse, which is what happened in the present case.
  • The court further directed that in appropriate cases, even though the offense punishable by Section 498-A of the IPC is not compoundable, if both sides are willing and if there appear to be elements of the settlement, the criminal court should direct the parties to seek a resolution through mediation.

CONCLUSION

Section 498-A is one of the most crucial and imperative provisions of the Indian Penal Code. The bench consisting of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai held that a criminal court dealing with a complaint under Section 498-A of the IPC should refer the parties to a mediation center before the hearing if there is a possibility of settlement and both parties agree. However, the courts also need to ensure that this practice doesn’t dilute the purpose or austerity of the provision. The court ruled that mediation is an effective alternate dispute resolution mechanism even in matrimonial disputes and urged the parties to explore the possibility of settlement through mediation in disputes.

 
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