Court at the place where the wife takes shelter after leaving matrimonial home on Account of Cruelty can entertain complaints U/s 498A IPC, reiterates SC

The Supreme Court on Tuesday passed a judgement in opposition to the recent judgement by Himachal Pradesh High Court. It is allowing women to file FIRs in the jurisdiction where they are residing after leaving or driven away from their matrimonial home on accounts of acts of cruelty committed by the husband or his relatives depending on the factual situation.

A petition was filed on 7 October 2014 under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal procedure (Cr.PC) to quash an FIR filed in a police station in Nalagarh police station under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.

Section 482 determines powers of the High Court. Whereas Section 498A entitles women to file a complaint against her husband or his relatives who subject her to cruelty (mental or physical). It also defines the term cruelty for this section. The petitioner based his arguments solely on the fact that the Nalagarh district did not have the jurisdiction to inquire into the contents of the FIR.

The Himachal Pradesh High Cout, Shimla on 10th August 2018 passed judgement in favour of the petitioner (Nitika vs Yadav case) stating

“Needless to say that this Court has only examined/analyzed material adduced on record by the respective parties to ascertain whether Police at Nalagarh has/had jurisdiction to investigate into contents of FIR and as such this Court may not be understood to have returned findings, if any, qua the sustainability of offence/charge, if any, made out against the petitioners under Sections 498-A, 406 and 506 IPC which shall be considered and decided by the Court of competent jurisdiction, if required and desired.” 

An appeal was filed against the above judgement in the Supreme Court. The proceeding was observed by a two-judge bench seating Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice Navin Sinha. The appellant contended that the present case was fully covered by a three-judge bench in the Rupali Devi vs the State of Uttar Pradesh case. In its judgement, the bench had observed

“The emotional distress or psychological effect on the wife, if not the physical injury, is bound to continue to traumatize the wife even after she leaves the matrimonial home and takes shelter at the parental home. Even if the acts of physical cruelty committed in the matrimonial house may have ceased and such acts do not occur at the parental home, there can be no doubt that the mental trauma and the psychological distress caused by the acts of the husband including verbal exchanges, if any, that had compelled the wife to leave the matrimonial home and take shelter with her parents would continue to persist at the parental home. Mental cruelty is borne out of physical cruelty or abusive and humiliating verbal exchanges would continue in the parental home even though there may not be any overt act of physical cruelty at such place.”

Therefore, the judgement by the Supreme Court relied on the above three-judge bench and passed a judgement against the Himachal High Court’s decision.