The Bombay High Court’s Aurangabad bench has observed that a married woman being asked to do housework would not amount to cruelty towards her under Indian Penal Code section 498A, and quashed a domestic violence case.
“If a married lady is asked to do household work definitely for the purpose of the family, it cannot be said that it is like a maid servant. If she had no wish to do her household activities, then she ought to have told it either prior to the marriage so that the bridegroom can rethink about the marriage itself or if it is after marriage, then such a problem ought to have been sorted out earlier. Her FIR is also silent on the point as to whether there was a maid servant at her matrimonial home for doing the work of washing utensils, washing clothes, sweeping etc, which is generally given to the maid servant,” a bench of Justice Vibha V Kankanwadi and Justice Rajesh S Patil observed on October 21.
The woman alleged that since about one month after her marriage in December 2019, she had been treated like a maid by her husband and in-laws. She said they had demanded Rs 4 lakh from her for buying a four-wheeler. When told that her father did not have the money, her husband physically and mentally harassed her, she alleged.
The woman further said that she was taken to a doctor so that “she could give birth to a son”. After the doctor told them the gestation period was not complete, her mother-in-law and sister-in-law allegedly assaulted the woman saying she had cheated them. Thereafter, the woman alleged, they told her father that she would be allowed to live with her husband and in-laws only if she brought Rs 4 lakh with her. She was allegedly assaulted on June 27, 2020, after which the complaint was lodged with the Nanded police. Charges under IPC sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (intentional insult) and 506 (criminal intimidation) were also added in the domestic violence case.
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The husband along with his mother and elder sister approached the court seeking the quashing of the FIR. He claimed the woman had lodged similar complaints against her former husband and in-laws and that they had been acquitted by court.
However, the bench noted that earlier complaints or litigation did not mean she was in the habit of levelling such allegations. The husband will have to prove such claims, it said.
The bench, nonetheless, rejected the woman’s allegations against her husband and in-laws. “Mere use of the word harassment ‘mentally and physically’ are not sufficient to attract ingredients of Section 498 A of the IPC. Unless those acts are described, it cannot be concluded whether those acts amounted to harassment or subjecting a person to cruelty,” it said. “The allegations that have been made and the collection of evidence is not sufficient even at this prima facie stage to attract the ingredients of offence punishable under Section 498 A of the IPC.”
The bench also held that “it would be futile to ask the petitioner (husband) to face trial” in connection with the other offences and thus quashed the FIR and set aside the criminal proceedings pending before a magistrate court.