Section 498A came into existence for the upliftment of women. But, with time it has lost its credibility. Nowadays women use it as a weapon for acquiring maintenance or to defame not only the husband but also the in-laws in society and to harass them with rigorous trial procedures. They include the family members also as a party in the FIR and even those relatives involved who never met the woman or do not live with her.
In order to protect from such false cases of Section 498-A the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India gave a Landmark Judgement in Kahkashan Kausar @ Sonam vs. State of Bihar on 08.02.2022. In this blog, we will discuss how we can protect ourselves if a false Section 498-A case is filed against us by relying on this judgment and how the FIR can be quashed under Section 482 Cr.P.C.
Brief facts in Kahkashan Kausar @ Sonam vs. the State of Bihar
- The Complainant Tarannum Akhtar @ Soni was married to Md. Ikram on 18.09.17. The appellants herein are the in-laws of the complainant. On 11.12.17, the said complainant initially instituted a criminal complaint against her husband and the appellants before the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Purnea alleging a demand for dowry and harassment. Thereafter, when the file was put up before the Sub Divisional Judicial Magistrate Court, Purnea, for passing order at the stage of issuance of summoning, the Ld. The magistrate concluded that upon perusal of material evidence no prima-facie case was made against the in-laws and that the allegations leveled against them were not specific in nature. The said court, however, took cognizance of the offense under Section 498A, 323 IPC against the husband Md. Ikram, and issued summons. This dispute was eventually resolved and the complainant herein came back to the marital home.
- Subsequently, on 01.04.19, the complainant herein gave another written complaint for registration of FIR under Sections 341, 323, 379, 354, and 498A read with Section 34 IPC against her husband Md. Ikram and the appellants herein. The complaint inter-alia alleged that all the accused were pressurizing the complainant herein to purchase a car as dowry, and threatened to forcibly terminate her pregnancy if the demands were not met.
- Aggrieved, the Husband and appellant herein filed a criminal writ petition under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. before the Patna High Court, for quashing of the said FIR dated 01.04.19, which was dismissed. The High Court observed that the averments made in the FIR prima-facie disclosed the commission of an offense and therefore the matter was required to be investigated by the police.
- Dissatisfied with the order, a Special Leave Petition was filed by the niece, Mother-in-law, Sister-in-law, and brother-in-law of the complainant who was the appellants filed an appeal at the Supreme Court on grounds that the FIR had been made by the complainant with a revengeful intent, merely to harass them.
- The appellants in this case who were the relatives of the complainant’s husband contended that the Police Officer was duty-bound to conduct a preliminary inquiry before registering the FIR as this instant case falls within the categories of cases on which a preliminary inquiry may be made, as mandated by this court in Lalita Kumari Vs. Government of U.P. & Ors. Preliminary inquiry generally means a complaint is filed in the women’s cell, known as ‘Parivaad’ in Hindi. It is pertinent to note that an FIR is not registered first in this case by the police. Notice is sent to the opposite party namely the husband and his family members who are accused in the complaint. The case is presented before the mediation center of the concerned police station.
The issue before the Supreme Court was whether allegations made against the appellants are general omnibus allegations that are liable to be quashed.
What are omnibus allegations?
In common parlance, omnibus allegations mean that the allegations put on all the accused are the same and not different. a situation wherein one fails to ascertain the role played by each accused in furtherance of the offense.
The Bench of Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari before moving into the details of the case stated that the purpose of Section 498A of IPC was to prevent cruelty inflicted upon a woman by her husband and in-laws, by facilitating rapid state intervention. They also noted that with the rising matrimonial litigations in the country, there has also been an increased tendency to misuse the provisions like this, to settle personal scores against the husband and his relatives.
Furthermore, referring to the judgments in
- Rajesh Sharma and Ors. vs. State of U.P. & Anr,
- Arnesh Kumar vs. State of Bihar and Anr,
- Preeti Gupta & Anr. vs. State of Jharkhand & Anr.,
- Geeta Mehrotra & Anr. vs. State of UP & Anr. and
- K. Subba Rao vs. The State of Telangana
the Hon’ble Supreme Court stated in Para 18 that,
“The above-mentioned decisions clearly demonstrate that this court has on numerous instances expressed concern over the misuse of section 498A IPC and the increased tendency of implicating relatives of the husband in matrimonial disputes, without analyzing the long-term ramifications of a trial on the complainant as well as the accused. It is further manifest from the said judgments that false implication by way of general omnibus allegations made in the course of matrimonial dispute if left unchecked would result in misuse of the process of law. Therefore, this court by way of its judgments has warned the courts from proceeding against the relatives and in-laws of the husband when no prima facie case is made out against them.”
The landmark judgment discussed above has helped in deciding crucial points in law related to false cases under Section 498-A. In this case, going through the FIR, the Bench noted that there was no distinct or specific allegation made by the wife and hence allowed the appeal by quashing criminal proceedings against the appellants stating that the allegations were general and omnibus and were made because of small clashes between them. It highlighted that a criminal trial that leads to eventual acquittal inflicts severe scars upon the accused which should be discouraged.
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