Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wife can't accuse husband's girlfriend of cruelty: SC

Wife can't accuse husband's girlfriend of cruelty: SC
Dhananjay Mahapatra, TNN, Sep 16, 2010, 02.06am IST

NEW DELHI: The other woman in a husband's life could universally be the major source of marital discord but the wife cannot accuse the girlfiend of causing mental cruelty to her under Section 498A of Indian Penal Code, the Supreme Court has ruled.

No case under Section 498A could be slapped against the other woman -- "be it the
husband's girlfriend or concubine" -- even if it was found that she lived with him after estrangement with his wife, it said. At best it could be a ground for seeking divorce, it held.

This decision was given by a Bench comprising Justices Altamas Kabir and A K Patnaik while allowing the appeal of a woman who was accused by a wife of causing her mental cruelty by living with her husband after the couple fell apart.

Significantly, the Bench set aside the decisions of the Jharkhand trial court and the High Court, both of which had held that the girlfriend was liable to face trial in the mental cruelty case.

The question which arose for adjudication before the Bench was a tricky one -- "If a husband was living with another woman besides his wife, whether the same would amount to `cruelty' within the meaning of Section 498A".

Justice Kabir, writing the judgment for the Bench, said, "If such other woman was not connected to the husband by blood or marriage, the same would not attract the provisions of Section 498A IPC, although it could be an act of cruelty for the purpose of judicial separation or dissolution of marriage under the marriage laws, but could not be stretched to amount to cruelty under Section 498A."

Referring to an earlier judgment, the Bench said the SC had categorically held that neither a girlfriend nor a concubine was a relative of the husband within the meaning of Section 498A of IPC as they were not related to him by blood or by marriage.

Under the provision, only the husband or his relatives who subjected her to cruelty could be charged under the section, it said.

Dismissing the case filed by the wife under Section 498A against the husband's girlfriend, the Bench said, "If no marriage has taken place, the question of one being relative of the other would not arise."


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