In matrimonial violence, evidence of woman’s relatives cannot be brushed aside by terming them to be ‘interested witnesses,’ says High Court

Judge points out that outsiders will seldom want to poke their nose into such disputes and adduce evidence in court even if they are aware of the incidents

October 04, 2022 12:20 am | Updated 12:20 am IST - CHENNAI

In cases of matrimonial violence, the evidence adduced by the relatives of the victim woman cannot be brushed aside by terming them to be ‘interested witnesses’ because it is only they who can describe the incidents cogently and the outsiders would seldom want to poke their nose into such disputes, the Madras High Court has observed.

Justice P. Velmuguran made the observation while confirming the conviction and two years simple imprisonment imposed on a person under Section 498A (subjecting wife to cruelty) of the Indian Penal Code. He held that there was no sound reason or ground to interfere with the judgement passed by a Mahila Court in Chennai on December 16, 2019.

The prosecution had booked the appellant P. Senthil as well as his family members under Sections 498A, 495 (concealing former marriage from the person with whom the subsequent marriage had been performed) and 313 (causing miscarriage without woman’s consent) of the IPC on the basis of the complaint lodged by his estranged wife.

However, the Mahila Court acquitted all other accused for want of sufficient evidence and convicted the appellant alone for the lone charge under Section 498A. Assailing such conviction, he contended that the trial court ought not to have convicted him by relying upon the evidence adduced by the prosecution witnesses who were the complainant’s relatives.

He also pointed out there was a delay of nearly 20 days in lodging the complaint since the day when the alleged cruelty was meted out to the complainant. Justice Velmurugan rejected both the contentions and did not find anything wrong with the prosecution not having examined any other witnesses but for the relatives of the victim woman.

“It is to be noted that in the matrimonial disputes, only the family members can notice the incidents which had occurred within the four walls of a home and only they can come forward to give evidence. The third parties, even if they too know about the incidents, will not be ready to give evidence because they would think it to be a family dispute.

“The third parties will think that the husband and wife will quarrel each other today and they might join together and therefore why should they poke their nose unnecessarily in the family dispute between a husband and wife,” the judge wrote and pointed out in the present case, the relatives had clearly spoken about the cruelty caused to the woman.

The judge added the delay of 20 days in lodging the complaint could also not be a reason to acquit the appellant since it was natural for a married woman to take time to disclose about the cruelty to others. Such women would not rush to the police station to lodge complaints and her parents too would only attempt to settle the dispute at the first instance.

“Therefore, mere non production of medical certificate or not lodging the complaint soon after the occurrence cannot be fatal to the case of the prosecution in a matrimonial dispute,” the judge concluded.

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