A suicide is not necessarily a proof of harassment of the person by those around him/her, the Bombay High Court recently held, absolving a husband of the charge of subjecting wife to cruelty.

Justice R.C. Chavan of the Nagpur bench of the High Court also held that a mere marital discord does not amount to criminal harassment under section 498 A of IPC (subjecting woman to cruelty).

One Kamalkishor Agarwal, resident of Gondia, had filed an appeal before the High Court against his conviction by the lower court under 498 A. His wife, Seema, had committed suicide by setting herself afire in March 1998, six years after their marriage.

Prosecution argued that Seema’s relations with the husband had soured, which led to her mental “degradation“.

The Prosecutor argued that it was not necessary that there must be a physical violence for proving cruelty; Seema would not have become mentally sick unless she was subjected to some sort of harassment.

However, the Court disagreed with this view, and acquitted Kamalkishor of the charge.

Justice Chavan held, “It is known that several persons have suicidal tendencies and they go to form opinions about persons or events, which a man of ordinary prudence would not form. That does not mean that persons around him or her would be guilty.”

“Though it appears that the victim and the applicant had marital discord running over a long period of time, which led to mental degradation of the victim, that in itself cannot justify the conclusion that the victim was subjected to such mental or physical cruelty as to drive her to death,” the judge held

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