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‘Calling spouse ‘bhoot’, ‘pisach’ does not tantamount to cruelty’: Patna HC sets aside husband’s conviction in dowry harassment case

It is imperative to differentiate genuine cases of dowry harassment from those filed with ulterior motives, the Patna HC observed setting aside the order of conviction of the husband passed by the trial court under IPC Section 498A.

In a judgement passed on March 22, 2024, pertaining to a dowry harassment case, the Patna High Court observed that a husband calling his wife ‘Bhoot’ (ghost) or ‘Pisach’ (vampire) does not tantamount to cruelty.

The observations were made by Justice Bibek Chaudhuri’s single-judge panel, which was considering a petition submitted by Sahdeo Gupta and his son Naresh Kumar Gupta, both residents of Bokaro, Jharkhand.

Following a complaint from Naresh Gupta’s divorced wife in her hometown of Nawada, the father-son duo had challenged an order issued by a court in the Nalanda district of Bihar.

Back in 1994, Naresh Gupta’s father-in-law filed a complaint against him and his father, claiming that they demanded a Maruti car as a dowry from his daughter. The complaint went on to say that because his daughter couldn’t furnish the demand, she was beaten.

All of these instances, the complaint claimed, had been communicated to him via a series of letters.

Following their petition, the case was eventually moved from Nawada to Nalanda. The father-son duo was sentenced to one year of rigorous imprisonment under section 498A IPC and six months of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1,000 under Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act by the Chief Judicial Magistrate in 2008.

Their appeal to the Additional Sessions Court was turned down ten years later, after which the aggrieved petitioners moved to the High Court.

Meanwhile, in between all of this, the Jharkhand High Court granted the couple a divorce.

In the HC, the father-son duo contended that the trial court failed to identify particular allegations against them and that their conviction was based on an omnibus allegation.

They went on to say that the complainant’s daughter never received medical attention, despite claims of torture.

In opposition to the petition that was submitted to the Patna High Court by the father-son duo, the lawyer representing the woman contended that the petitioners used to call the woman “bhoot” and “pishach.

The lawyer further argued that calling a lady “bhoot” and “pishach” by her in-laws in the twenty-first century was “a form of immense cruelty.”

The Patna HC, however, observed that it was “not in a position to accept such an argument”.

“The learned Advocate for the Opposite Party No. 2 seriously urged that abusing a person saying “Bhoot” and “Pisach” itself is an act of cruelty. This Court is not in a position to accept such argument. In matrimonial relation, especially in failed matrimonial relations there are incidents where both the husband and wife abused each other saying filthy language. However, all such accusations do not come within the veil of “cruelty,” the Court said.

Further, the Court stated that the petitioners and the complainant’s daughter had a long-standing disagreement, and the complainants did not submit any documentation to support their demand for a dowry or the ensuing abuse. Consequently, it was determined that the case resulted from personal animosity and disagreements between the parties.

“It is imperative to differentiate genuine cases of dowry harassment from those filed with ulterior motives, as observed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in previous judgments,” Justice Chaudhuri added.

The Patna HC, therefore, allowed the revision petition, quashing and setting aside the order of conviction and sentence passed by the trial court under Section 498A of IPC (cruelty by husband or relatives of husband towards a married woman).

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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