SUPREME COURT HOLDS THAT HIGH COURT OUGHT TO HAVE QUASHED FIR FILED AGAINST THE ACCUSED BASED ON FALSE ALLEGATIONS MADE IN A DOWRY HARASSMENT CASE
A Three Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Aniruddha Bose, Justice Sanjay Kumar and S.V.N. Bhatti passed a Judgment dated 31.08.2023 in a recent case of Abhishek Vs State of Madhya Pradesh, Civil Appeal No. 1457 of 2015 and observed that the High Court ought to have quashed the FIR filed against the Appellants-Accused, as the allegations made by the Complainant did not make out any case against them and further, there were several contradictions in the Complainant’s version.
(1) In the present case, one, Bhawna, the Complainant, made a Complaint on 05.02.2013 against her Husband- Nimish Gaur, Mother-in-Law- Kusum Lata and Brothers-in-law, Sourabh and Abhishek about physical harassment and demand of additional dowry, before the P.S. Kotwali, District Narsinghpur, Madhya Pradesh,
(2) As per the Complaint, the Complainant married Nimish on 02.07.2007. The said arrange marriage was performed at Indore, Madhya Pradesh. After their marriage, they left for Mumbai on 08.07.2007, as her husband was working in the film industry at Mumbai and was engaged in film editing from in laws home. Further, she alleged that due to matrimonial disputes, she left her marital residence in Mumbai and shifted to her parents’s house in Narsinghpur. The Complainant further alleged that her Brother-in-law, Abhishek at the time of his own marriage as well, demanded a car and additional Rupees Two Lakhs only from the Complainant and her parents.
(3) Subsequently, owing to a jurisdictional issue, the Kotwali Police forwarded the Complainant’s Complaint to the Heera Nagar Police Station in Indore. Thus, FIR No. 56 of 2013 dated 09.02.2013, was registered against the aforementioned 4 Accused persons pursuant to Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 (DP Act) (Penalty for giving or taking dowry) and Section 4 of DP Act (Penalty for demanding dowry) and Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code 1860 (IPC) (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty).
(4) Thereafter, the Police filed a Chargesheet before the Ld. Judicial Magistrate First Class, Indore in Criminal Case No. 11954 of 2014 (Family Court).
(5) Thereafter, the Appellants-Accused, namely, Kusum Lata and Sourabh in Cr.C. No. 6585 of 2013 and Abhishek in M.Cr.C. No. 2647 of 2014 filed a Petition before the Hon’ble Madhya Pradesh High Court (High Court) under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 (Cr.P.C) (Saving of inherent power of High Court) thereby, praying for quashing of the FIR.
(6) Thereafter, the Complainant’s Husband filed a Divorce Petition on 08.05.2013 in Civil Suit No. 153A of 2015 before the Ld. Family Court, Narsinghpur, Madhya Pradesh and the Divorce was granted, vide Order dated 05.09.2019.
(7) Prior to the Complainant’s filing of the Complaint, her Mother in Law made a representation on 24.02.2009 before the Heera Nagar Police Station at Indore, anticipating that the Complainant may accuse them of pestering her for dowry.
(8) Further, the following facts are also important in the present case:
(a) The Complainant’s Brother-in-Law, Abhishek entered into judicial services as a Civil Judge six or seven months after the marriage of the Complainant, and was posted at Ujjain and later, at Neemuch in Madhya Pradesh.
(b) The Complainant’s Mother-in-Law, Kusum Lata used to reside with her other Son, Abhishek.
(c) The Complainant’s other Brother-in-law, Saurabh, is an architect and was working in Delhi since 2007.
(d) The Complainant’s Husband, Nimish made written representations to the Police Authorities at Narsinghpur on 09.09.2012 and 17.11.2012 against his brother, Abhishek at the behest of his Wife i.e. the Complainant.
(e) Prior to filing of the Complaint at the Police Station of Kotwali, the Complainant made an anonymous complaint to the Chief Justice, Madhya Pradesh High Court, against her Brother-in-Law, Abhishek, thereby making scandalous allegations to the effect that he was an undeserving judicial officer. A complaint was also made to the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Mumbai, purportedly in the name of one, Sanyogita Mishra.
(9) The High Court dismissed both the Petitions filed by the Appellants-Accused seeking quashing of FIR, vide separate Orders dated 03.03.2015.
(10) Aggrieved by the High Court Orders dated 03.03.2015 in vide M.Cr.C. No. 6585 of 2013 and M.Cr.C. No. 2647 of 2014, the Appellants-Accused, namely, Kusum Lata, Sourabh and Abhishek filed Civil Appeals No. 1456 and 1457 of 2015 before the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The Apex Court passed a Common Order dated 30.10.2015 in both the Appeals and stayed further proceedings. The Supreme Court by way of Final Order dated 31.08.2023, made the following observations:
Supreme Court Analysis
i) The Complainant, during her examination-in-chief, in the Divorce Petition filed by her Husband in Civil Suit No. 153A of 2015 before the Family Court, filed on 27.10.2018, t claimed that all of her stridhan jewellery was with her Husband and that despite her repeated requests, he was refusing to give it back to her because he wanted to steal and misuse her jewellery. In addition, she acknowledged during her cross-examination that she had filed a Complaint against Abhishek with the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
ii) That the Supreme Court in Ravi Kumar vs. State represented by Inspector of Police, District Crime Branch, Salem, Tamil Nadu and others [(2019) 14 SCC 568] held that the power to quash criminal proceedings under Section 482 Cr.P.C. are well defined and that it is utterly unlawful for the High Court to exercise its inherent jurisdiction in cases where an accused seeks to have the FIR quashed.
iii) In Preeti Gupta and Another vs. State of Jharkhand and Another [(2010) 7 SCC 667], the Apex Court held that complaints filed under Section 498A of IPC frequently accuse the husband and all of his close relatives. It was noted that often such complaints make allegations of harassment against the husband’s close relatives who lived in different cities and never really visited the complainant’s place and as such, those complaints and allegations would have to be scrutinised by the Courts with great care and caution.
iv) That in State of Haryana and others vs. Bhajan Lal and others [(1992) Supp (1) SCC 335], the Supreme Court had set out, by way of illustration, the broad categories of cases in which the inherent power under Section 482 Cr.P.C. could be exercised. Para 102 of the Judgment read as follows:
‘102. In the backdrop of the interpretation of the various relevant provisions of the Code under Chapter XIV and of the principles of law enunciated by this Court in a series of decisions relating to the exercise of the extraordinary power under Article 226 or the inherent powers under Section 482 of the Code which we have extracted and reproduced above, we give the following categories of cases by way of illustration wherein such power could be exercised either to prevent abuse of the process of any court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice, though it may not be possible to lay down any precise, clearly defined and sufficiently channelised and inflexible guidelines or rigid formulae and to give an exhaustive list of myriad kinds of cases wherein such power should be exercised.
(1) Where the allegations made in the first information report or the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety do not prima facie constitute any offence or make out a case against the accused.
(2) Where the allegations in the first information report and other materials, if any, accompanying the FIR do not disclose a cognizable offence, justifying an investigation by police officers under Section 156(1) of the Code except under an order of a Magistrate within the purview of Section 155(2) of the Code.
(3) Where the uncontroverted allegations made in the FIR or complaint and the evidence collected in support of the same do not disclose the commission of any offence and make out a case against the accused.
(4) Where, the allegations in the FIR do not constitute a cognizable offence but constitute only a non-cognizable offence, no investigation is permitted by a police officer without an order of a Magistrate as contemplated under Section 155(2) of the Code.
(5) Where the allegations made in the FIR or complaint are so absurd and inherently improbable on the basis of which no prudent person can ever reach a just conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.
(6) Where there is an express legal bar engrafted in any of the provisions of the Code or the Act concerned (under which a criminal proceeding is instituted) to the institution and continuance of the proceedings and/or where there is a specific provision in the Code or the Act concerned, providing efficacious redress for the grievance of the aggrieved party.
(7) Where a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with mala fide and/or where the proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the accused and with a view to spite him due to private and personal grudge.’
v) That the Apex Court observed that there were blatant contradictions and differences in the Complainant’s version. The Complainant had previously claimed that her Mother-In-Law and her Brother-In-Law-Abhishek had taken all of her jewellery away after her marriage under the guise of safekeeping, but she made it clear in her deposition before the Family Court, that her entire stridhan jewellery was with her Husband and in spite of her repeated requests, he was not returning it to her. Additionally, she acknowledged during her cross-examination before the Family Court that she had filed a complaint against Abhishek with the High Court, despite the fact that the complaint was intended to be anonymous. This feature bears out her animosity against her in-laws and more particularly, Abhishek.
vi) That although the Complainant admittedly left her matrimonial house and her in-laws in February 2009, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, she did not decide to file any complaint against them for dowry harassment until 2013. The dated 09.02.2013 states that the offence occurred between 02.07.2007 and 05.02.2013, although the Complainant made no claims against Appellants after she left her marital residence in February 2009.
vii) Further, the Complainant reported that she only interacted with her in-laws 3 or 4 times, mostly during holidays.
viii) The Complainant’s Architect Brother-in-Law-Sourabh was working in Delhi since 2007, but the Complainant never made any concrete accusations against him. She only made a broad accusation that he also tormented her physically and mentally for dowry. She didn’t give any concrete examples of how he harassed her from Delhi etc.
ix) The Bench further observed that the Complainant clearly wanted to wreak vengeance against her in-laws. The allegations levelled by the Complainant against her mother-In-Law with regard to the manner in which she taunted her when she wore a maxi is wholly insufficient to constitute cruelty in terms of Section 498A of IPC.
x) Further, the Complainant did not to file any complaint citing dowry harassment against the Accused persons after leaving her marital home in February 2009, until 2013 i.e. shortly before her Husband started the divorce process.
Thus, based on the aforesaid observations, the Supreme Court held that as there were several contradictions in the Complainant’s version, the Criminal Case No. 11954 of 2014 filed before the Family Court against the Appellants-Accused was dismissed and thereby, the FIR was also quashed. As a result, the Appeals filed by the Appellants-Accused were allowed and the High Court Orders dated 03.03.2015, refusing to quash the FIR, were set aside.
The Indian Lawyer