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Marital discord cannot be termed harassment: HC
Shibu Thomas I TNN
Mumbai: Marital discord between a couple cannot be equated to physical and mental harassment of the wife, the Bombay high court has ruled.
Eleven years after a woman from Akola ended her life by setting herself ablaze, a high court bench of Justice R C Chavan recently held that her husband, Kamalkishore Agrawal (52), could not be held guilty of treating her cruelly and driving her to commit suicide.
“Suspicion, however strong, cannot take the place of proof,’’ said the judge. “It appears that the victim and Kamalkishore had a marital discord for a long period of time, which, even according to the accused, led to mental degradation of the woman. That cannot justify the conclusion that the victim was subjected to such mental or physical cruelty, by the husband, that she was driven to death.’’
The court acquitted Kamalkishore of the charges under the IPC that related to wilfully treating the wife cruelly, which allegedly led her to commit suicide (Section 498-A). The court also quashed the trial court order sentencing him to two years’ rigorous imprisonment.
The judge held that the accused could not be held guilty of contributing to his wife’s suicide. “Many have suicidal tendencies and they form opinions that those of ordinary prudence, will not,’’ said the judge. “That does not mean that those around (such an individual) can be held guilty of wilful conduct, driving such persons with delusion to suicidal tendencies or to suicide.’’
Kamalkishore got married to Seema in 1992 and she gave birth to a daughter a year later. Six years later, Seema set herself on fire. Her brother lodged a criminal case against the husband. A trial court convicted Kamalkishore and the verdict was upheld by a sessions court. He then moved the high court.
The prosecution furnished letters by Seema where she alleged problems in her marriage and illtreatment by her husband and inlaws. Kamalkishore’s lawyers, however, argued that unhappiness in married life, or neglect by husband, could not be equated to cruelty.
The prosecution next pointed to a written statement by Kamalkishore, where he had referred to his wife’s weakening mental condition. The prosecutor argued that he had not bothered to find out why his wife had slipped into such a state and her mental deterioration could have been caused by harassment or illtreatment by him.
The court, however, did not agree. “Mere harassment, or conduct perceived by the victim as cruelty, would not be sufficient,’’ said the judge. “It was not proved that Kamalkishore had wilfully subjected his deceased wife to cruelty, which led to her mental degradation and eventual suicide.”