The question would arise as to whether in the facts and circumstances where the complainant had left the matrimonial home and started living with her father in1993, could a case be registered against the appellant under Section 498A I.P.C. in 1997? The supreme court in CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 299 OF 2003 MANJU RAM KALITA v.
STATE OF ASSAM decided on 28/05/09 answered the question in negative. Speaking for the bench his lordship honorable Dr. B.S. Chauhan, J held that :
"Cruelty" for the purpose of Section 498-A I.P.C. is to be established in the context of S. 498-A IPC as it may be a different from other statutory provisions. It is to be determined/inferedby considering the conduct of the man, weighing the gravity or seriousness of his acts and to find out as to whether it is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide etc. It is to be established that the woman has been subjected to cruelty continuously/persistently or at least in close proximity of time of lodging the complaint. Petty quarrels cannot be termed as `cruelty' to attract the provisions of Section 498-A IPC. Causing mental torture to the extent that it becomes unbearable may be termed as cruelty.”
The question may also arise as to whether the definition and nature of cruelty is different for the purposes of s 498-A and s. 306 of IPC as also for s. 13 of Hindu Marriage Act. Though this point was not in issue before the Supreme court, elaborate discussion of case law by his lordship Dr. B.S. Chauhan, J throws some light on this point also.
In S. Hanumantha Rao v.
"mental cruelty broadly means, when either party causes mental pain, agony or suffering of such a magnitude that it severs the bond between the wife and husband and as a result of which it becomes impossible for the party who has suffered to live with the other party. In other words, the party who has committed wrong is not expected to live with the other party."
In V. Bhagat v. Mrs. D. Bhagat, AIR 1994 SC 710, this court, while dealing with the issue of cruelty in the context of Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, observed as under :
“.......It is not necessary to prove that the mental cruelty is such as to cause injury to the health of the petitioner. While arriving at such conclusion, regard must be had to the social status, educational level of the parties, the society they move in, the possibility or otherwise of the parties ever living together in case they are already living apart and all other relevant facts and circumstances which it is neither possible nor desirable to set out exhaustively. What is cruelty in one case may not amount to cruelty in another case. It is a matter to be determined in each case having regard to the facts and circumstances of that case. If it is a case of accusations and allegations, regard must also be had to the context in which they were made........... The context and the set up in which the word `cruelty' has been used in the section seems to us, that intention is not necessary element in cruelty.That word has to be understood in the ordinary sense of the term in matrimonial affairs. If the intention to harm, harass or hurt could be inferred by the nature of the conduct or brutal act complained of, cruelty could be easily established. But the absence of intention should not make any difference in the case, if by ordinary sense in human affairs, the act complained of could otherwise be regarded as cruelty."
In Mohd. Hoshan v. State of A.P.; (2002) 7 SCC 414, the Supreme Court while dealing with the similar issue held that mental or physical torture should be "continuously" practiced by the accused on the wife. The Court further observed as under :
"Whether one spouse has been guilty of cruelty to the other is essentially a question of fact. The impart of complaints, accusations or taunts on a person amounting to cruelty depends on various factors like the sensitivity of the individual victim concerned, the social background, the environment, education etc. Further, mental cruelty varies from person to person depending on the intensity of sensitivity and the degree of courage or endurance to withstand such mental cruelty. In other words, each case has to be decided on its own facts to decide whether the mental cruelty was established or not."
In Smt. Raj Rani v. State (Delhi Administration); AIR 2000 SC 3559, it was held that while considering the case of cruelty in the context to the provisions of Section 498A I.P.C., the court must examine that allegations/accusations must be of a very grave nature and should be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
In Sushil Kumar Sharma vs. Union of India, AIR 2005 SC 3100, the Supreme Court explained the distinction of cruelty as provided under Section 306 and 498A IPC observing that under Section 498A cruelty committed by the husband or his relation drive woman to commit suicide etc. while under Section 306 IPC, suicide is abated and intended. Therefore, there is a basic difference of the intention in application of the said provisions.
In Girdhar Shankar Tawade v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 2002 SC 2078; the Supreme Court held that "cruelty" has to be understood having a specific statutory meaning provided in Section 498A I.P.C. and there should be a case of continuous state of affairs of torture by one to another.
Tags :Family Law