The Supreme Court on Tuesday held that a woman, who had fled the cruelty of her marital home, can file a case of dowry harassment under Section 498 IPC against her husband and in-laws at the place where she is currently sheltered.
In a judgment further expanding the jurisdiction of courts to provide relief to victims of dowry harassment, a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi relaxed the rigours of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). Section 177 of the Code mandates that criminal cases can be filed and tried only in courts within whose jurisdiction the crime occurred.
The judgment comes on a reference made by the Supreme Court in January 2014 on the question “whether a case of cruelty on account of dowry harassment punishable under Section 498A of the IPC can be registered, investigated and punished in a jurisdiction different from the one from which the aggrieved spouse has been forced out on account of such harassment.”
The appeal was by Rupali Devi whose efforts to file a dowry harassment case from her parents’ place of residence was dismissed by the Allahabad High Court. The court held that cruelty punishable under Section 498A of the IPC was not a “continuing offence,” and could not be investigated or punished in a jurisdiction outside the one in which the the victim’s marital house is situated. But the SC said the horrifying memories of the marital home would continue to haunt her, . This amounts to continuing cruelty.
“The adverse effects on the mental health in the parental home, though on account of the acts committed in the matrimonial home, would, in our considered view, amount to commission of cruelty within the meaning of Section 498A at the parental home. The consequences of the cruelty committed at the matrimonial home results in repeated offences being committed at the parental home,” the court interpreted.
With this judgment, the apex court has established that cruelty under Section 498A is a continuing offence, considering the facts and circumstances of each case.