In the Supreme Court of India
Criminal Appeal No. 71 of 2012
Petitioner
Rupali Devi
Respondent
State of Uttar Pradesh
Date of Judgement
09 April 2019
Bench
Hon’ble Justices Ranjan Gogoi, L.Nageswara Rao, Sanjay Kishan Kaul

THE FACTS

The brief facts of the case are:

Marriage of petitioner and respondent: December, 1997

 The petitioner who had her parental house in Deoria, Uttar Pradesh was married to respondent no.2 in December, 1997 who used to live in Mau along with his family members. Sufficient cash and dowry articles were given at the time of marriage, but the accused persons were not satisfied and started maltreating and harassing the petitioner in her sasural on account of demand of Rs. 2 lacs in cash and a Car. She informed her father about the same. Her father came to Mau and tried to pacify the accused persons, who remained adamant on their demand.

Petitioner gave birth to a child: 12 May, 1998

On 12.5.1998, the petitioner gave birth to a son, who is presently 7 years of age. Even after birth of a son, the harassment of the petitioner continued. When she again became pregnant, the accused persons admitted her at Ladies Clinic of Dr. Saxena at Mau and forcibly got her aborted. 

Petitioner thrown out of Matrimonial home (Mau): July 2002

In July, 2002, the petitioner was turned out of her matrimonial home and the accused persons kept the male child with them. Her father took her to Deoria and continuously tried to pacify the accused persons.

Petitioner went back to her matrimonial house: 14 April 2005

On 14.4.2005, at about 4:00 p.m., the accused persons accompanied by some responsible persons of Mau came to the house of the petitioner at Deoria for compromise and expressed their willingness to take the petitioner with them. After initial reluctance, the petitioner again went to her sasural, but after reaching there, she found that one stranger woman was also living with the family of the accused and on inquiry, it was revealed that she was the second wife of petitioner’s husband. When the petitioner protested, the accused persons beat her and confined her in a room and made her to sign some blank papers.

Petitioner again turned out of Matrimonial house:27 May 2005

After signing divorce paper, the petitioner thereafter, she was turned out of their house on 27.5.2005. The petitioner came to Deoria and disclosed all the facts to her father.

Petitioner lodged an F.I.R at Police Station Kotwali, Deoria: 17 September 2005

On 17.09.2005 Petitioner lodged an F.I.R at Police Station Kotwali, Deoria against respondent for offences under Sections 498A, 494, 313, 504, I.P.C.

ISSUES RAISED

Rupali Devi Vs. State of Rajasthan has acted as a milestone to understand whether a woman forced to leave her matrimonial home on account of acts and conduct that constitute cruelty can initiate and access the legal process within the jurisdiction of the courts where she is forced to take shelter with the parents or other family members. 

STATUES DISSCUSSED

Section 177 (CrPc), Section 178 (CrPc), Section 179 (CrPc), 498A (IPC)

ARGUMENT ADVANCED 

ARGUMENT FROM PETITIONER SIDE (Rupali Devi):

In the aforesaid case, submission was advanced on behalf of the Learned counsel for the petitioner that part of the cause of action arose in District Deoria. The petitioner further submitted that mental cruelty is a continuing offence. According to the facts of the case the respondent along with his family members used to maltreat and harass the petitioner in her sasural on account of demand of Rs. 2 lacs in cash and a Car. Therefore, above case is of cruelty and thus falls under the provision of 498A of the Indian Penal Code.

According to sec 178 (b) that the offence of harassment is committed partly in Deoria and partly in Mau. Even though the acts of physical cruelty was committed in the matrimonial house and there may not be any overt act of physical cruelty in the parent home, but there is  no doubt that the mental trauma and the psychological distress caused by the acts of the husband including verbal exchanges, if any, that had compelled the wife to leave the matrimonial home and take shelter with her parents would continue to persist at the parental home. Therefore, the Court at Deoria (parental home) has the jurisdiction to entertain the complaint and to try the respondent.

ARGUMENT FROM RESPONDENT SIDE (State of Uttar Pradesh)

 Learned counsel for the respondent submitted that from the perusal of the F.I.R. itself, there were no allegations made on behalf of the aggrieved wife that any overt act of cruelty or harassment had been caused to her at the parental home after she had left the matrimonial home. It appears that the whole story of harassment and mental cruelty etc. on account of demand of dowry is alleged to have taken place at Mau where the family members of the husband of the petitioner reside and no part of cause of action took place at Deoria and, therefore, Chief Judicial Magistrate, Deoria had no jurisdiction to try the case. It is clear from the offences were tried by that court within whose local jurisdiction the offence was committed.

JUDGEMENT

The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that, Section 178 creates an exception to the “ordinary rule” engrafted in Section 177 by permitting the courts in another local area where the offence is partly committed to take cognizance. Also, if the offence committed in one local area continues in another local area, the courts in the latter place would be competent to take cognizance of the matter. Under Section 179, if by reason of the consequences emanating from a criminal act an offence is occasioned in another jurisdiction, the court in that jurisdiction would also be competent to take cognizance. Thus, if an offence is committed partly in one place and partly in another; or if the offence is a continuing offence or where the consequences of a criminal act result in an offence being committed at another place, the exception to the “ordinary rule” would be attracted and the courts within whose jurisdiction the criminal act is committed will cease to have exclusive jurisdiction to try the offence.

The Supreme Court permitted the appeal and set aside the acquittal ordered by the High Court. It convicted the respondent for the offence punishable Under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code and held that the courts at the place where the wife takes shelter after leaving or driven away from the matrimonial home on account of acts of cruelty committed by the husband or his relatives also have jurisdiction to entertain a complaint alleging commission of offences Under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.  

CRITICAL ANALYSIS

The Supreme court should be applauded to lay down categorically; that women can file criminal matters pertaining to cruelty from the place where they have taken shelter after leaving or being driven out of their matrimonial home. The Supreme Court held that Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) encompasses both mental as well as the physical well-being of the wife. Even if a wife leaves her matrimonial house and returns to her parental house, there are still adverse effects on her mental health in the parental home though account of the acts committed by the husband in the matrimonial home which amount to commission of cruelty within the meaning of Section 498A.

 This decision of Supreme Court was necessary to combat the increasing cases of cruelty and domestic violence on the wife which leads to commission of suicides or grave injury to the wife. This judgement by the Hon’ble court will protect the helpless women who are regularly abused and tortured by their respective husbands and husband’s family members.

Finally, the researcher concludes by basing on present study that: the decision should be recognised as of great legal significance as it has helped to remove the ambiguity which in a way will stop the accused to get the benefit of doubt caused due to problem of jurisdiction in such type of heinous offences.

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Pragya Champawat is a student at the law school at the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai. 

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