one odd incident of beating is not cruelty under 498A: Bombay HC

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.99 OF 1999
The State of Maharashtra ..Appellant.
V/s.
Chagan Kannu Bankar,
R/o. Rahtoli, Taluka Ulhasnagar,
District Thane. ..Respondent.
Mrs.M.M.Deshmukh, APP for appellant-State.
Mr. D.S.Sapkale for the respondent.
CORAM : A.M.BADAR, J.
DATED : 25TH APRIL, 2016
ORAL JUDGMENT

1. By this appeal, the appellant-State is challenging
the judgment and order passed by the learned 5th Jt. J.M.F.C.,
Ulhasnagar on 19th November, 1998 in Regular Criminal Case
No.135/1998 thereby acquitting the respondent / accused for
the offence punishable under section 498A of the Indian Penal
Code, 1860.
2. Facts leading to the institution of the present
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appeal can be summarized thus :-
(a) The respondent / accused Chhagan Bankar married
informant Chandabai Chhagan Bankar on 16th March, 1997.
Thereafter, informant Chanda started co-habiting with the
respondent / accused at Village Rahtoli, Taluka Ulhasnagar,
District Thane. According to the prosecution case, after initial
nice treatment for four months, married life of Chanda had
seen rough weather. Her husband Chhagan started subjecting
her to cruelty by asking her to bring golden necklace from her
mother. She was reached to her maternal house thereafter.
When she returned to her matrimonial home after stay of
eight months with her parents, the accused again subjected
her to cruelty by assaulting her. Thereafter, informant Chanda
was again required to take shelter at her parental home. Then,
she was again reached to her matrimonial house. Thereafter,
her husband Chhagan questioned her as to why she had not
brought an amount of Rs.10,000/- from her father. Then
accused is stated to have assaulted Chandabai. Fed-up with
the constant ill-treatment and harassment at the hands of her
husband / accused, Chanda lodged report against her
husband on 30th April, 1998 resulting in registration of crime
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No.I-6/1998 against the respondent / accused at Kulgaon
police station, Badlapur, Taluka Ulhasnagar, District Thane. In
pursuance to the investigation of the said offence, chargesheet
was filed against the respondent / accused and
ultimately Regular Criminal Case No.135/1998 was registered
against him.
(b) Charge for the offence punishable under section
498A of the Indian Penal Code was framed against the
respondent / accused, who pleaded not guilty. In support of
the charge, the prosecution has examined in all five
witnesses. Neibhourer Vishnu Ramchandra Pawar came to be
examined as PW1 at Exhibit-7. Informant Chanda Bankar was
examined PW2 at Exhibit-8. Report lodged by her is at Exhibit-
9. Father of Chanda, Motiram Daji Mhase came to be
examined as PW3 at Exhibit-13. Investigating Officer
Madhukar Dhiga Patil was examined as PW4 at Exhibit-15.
Medical Officer Dr.Bhausaheb Shankar Bhondve was examined
as PW5 at Exhibit-17 and medical certificate issued by him is
at Exhibit-18.
(c) After hearing the parties, by the impugned
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judgment and order the learned trial Court came to the
conclusion that evidence on record does not show that
accused has subjected the informant to cruelty and, therefore,
he came to be acquitted.
3. Heard the learned Additional Public Prosecutor
appearing for the State. She vehemently argued that the
evidence of informant Chanda coupled with that of her father
PW3 Motiram as well as the evidence of the Medical Officer
PW5 Bhausaheb Bhondve is sufficient to hold that the
informant was subjected to cruelty by her husband and,
therefore, the learned trial Court erred in acquitting the
accused.
4. As against this, the learned counsel appearing for
the respondent / accused argued that if it is assumed that
there was some ill-treatment to the informant at the hands of
the accused, the same does not amount to cruelty as defined
in the explanation to section 498A of the Indian Penal Code
and, therefore, the learned trial Court correctly acquitted the
accused of the offence alleged against him.
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5. Now, let us examine whether the learned trial Court
has taken a probable view based on evidence on record. It will
have to be seen whether there are compelling and substantial
reasons to interfere with the judgment of acquittal.
6. At the outset, it would be appropriate to quote the
definition of the term ‘cruelty’. The Explanation to section
498A defined the term ‘cruelty in the following manner:-
“(a) any willful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely
to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave
injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or
physical) of the woman; or
(b) harassment of the woman where such harassment is
with a view to coercing her or any person related to her
to meet any unlawful demand for any property or
valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any
person related to her to meet such demand.
7. Bare reading of the term ‘cruelty’ as explained in
section 498A makes it clear that the same may be mental as
well as physical. At this juncture, it needs to be mentioned
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that the meaning of the term ‘cruelty’ varies from place to
place and individual to individual. The status of the parties is
always relevant while determining whether the acts
complained of can constitute ‘cruelty’ as explained in section
498A of the Indian Penal Code. For determining this aspect,
the Court is always required to consider the whole facts of
relationship between the parties. Suffice to state that cruelty
postulates such treatment as to cause reasonable
apprehension in the mind of the wife that her living with the
husband and in-laws will be harmful and injurious to her life.
Torture alleged is required to be of such a nature that would
drive a married lady to commit suicide or to cause grave
injury or danger to her life. Needless to mention that normal
pitfalls in the married life cannot constitute legal cruelty as
envisaged by section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, Keeping
in mind this position of law, let us examine whether informant
Chanda was subjected to cruelty by the accused constituting
offence punishable under section 498A of the Indian Penal
Code. Naturally, therefore, evidence of informant Chanda
would assume great importance. It is in her evidence that she
was treated nicely by the accused for a period of four months
in the beginning and thereafter, the accused demanded
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Rs.10,000/- from her. She further deposed that because of her
poor financial condition, she was unable to satisfy the demand
of Rs.10,000/- by the respondent / accused-husband. Her
evidence further goes to show that when she informed the
accused that she has not brought an amount of Rs.10,000/-,
the accused had beaten her and threatened to kill her. PW2
Chanda then concluded her chief-examination by stating that,
therefore, she has lodged the report against the accused by
going to the police station at the instance of her father.
8. Even without adverting to her cross-examination,
evidence of PW2 Chanda makes it crystal clear that accused
had not subjected her to any ill-treatment for demanding
money or amount of Rs.10,000/-. Her version shows that when
she ultimately disclosed him that she is unable to bring the
amount of Rs.10,000/-, her husband i.e. the accused had
beaten her. The requirement of definition of cruelty found in
explanation (b) to section 498A is harassment of a women
with a view to coerce her or any person related to her to
meet the unlawful demand of any property or valuable
security. It is thus clear that there should be harassment or illtreatment
of a married women in order to coercing her to
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meet the unlawful demand by the husband or in-laws. In the
case in hand, evidence of PW2 Chanda shows that her
husband demanded an amount of Rs.10,000/- to her. She does
not state that she was either coerced or harassed by her
husband while demanding amount. On the contrary, she
stated that when she disclosed to her husband that she is not
in a position to bring that amount, her husband had beaten
her. Except this, there is no material in chief-examination of
PW2 Chanda to show that she was coerced, harassed illtreated
or tortured by her husband while making demand of
money from her. Alleged beating given by her husband, PW2
Chand, as seen from the from her evidence, is only once
which has resulted in lodging report by her. Cruelty as
envisaged in section 498A of the Indian Penal Code requires
constant harassment and torture with some persistence,
causing reasonable apprehension in the mind of the wife that
living with her husband will be harmful or injurious to her.
This element is missing from the evidence of PW2 Chanda. As
such, her evidence is not sufficient to infer the act of legal
cruelty by the respondent / accused.
9. PW3 Motiram, is the father of PW2 Chanda. It is his
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evidence that after good treatment to his daughter for a
period of four months, the accused started demanding golden
necklace to PW2 Chanda and as he could not satisfy the
demand, she was subjected to cruelty by the accused.
Evidence of PW3 Motiram is totally inconsistent with evidence
of his daughter PW2 Chanda. She has not stated about the
demand of golden necklace by the accused in her evidence
before the Court. In the offence of the present nature under
section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, allegations are easily
made and once made, it is very difficult to dislodge. If
evidence fails to inspire confidence, then, it is always
advisable to look for corroboration. Evidence coming on record
from the mouth of the father of PW2 Chanda is not
corroborated by the information and, therefore, needs to be
ignored.
10. PW3 Motiram further deposed that his daughter
PW2 Chanda was reached to his house, where she stayed for
seven to eight months. Then, according to the version of PW3
Motiram, PW2 Chanda was reached to her matrimonial house
where she stated for two months. Thereafter, according to
PW3 Motiram, accused again started demanding money to his
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daughter PW2 Chanda and this fact of demand of Rs.10,000/-
was told to him by Chanda on 27th April, 1998. As per version
of PW3 when he went to the house of the accused, he saw
bleeding from ear of PW2 Chanda, who informed him that on
account of failure to bring Rs.10,000/-, she was assaulted by
the respondent / accused.
11. In the instant case, all evidence available against
the accused as far as alleged cruelty is concerned, is coming
from the near and dear once of the informant. There is not a
single piece of any independent evidence and as such, in
order to gain corroboration, the testimony of PW3 Motiram is
required to be compared with that of PW2 Chanda. Whatever
is stated by PW3 Motiram is not vouched by PW2 Chanda in
her deposition. She has not stated that her father came to her
matrimonial home to see her, she was bleeding from ear.
Evidence of PW2 Chanda and PW3 Motiram is not at all
consistent and cogent to infer cruelty. Isolated overt act of
the accused is not sufficient to infer cruelty as defined by
explanation to section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.
Therefore, even though PW5 Medical Officer Bhausaheb
Bhondve has deposed that upon examination of PW2 Chanda
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on 29th April, 1998, he found contusion on the intra scapular
region and bleeding from ear of PW2 Chanda, it cannot be
said that the prosecution has made out an offence under
section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.
12. For the foregoing reasons, it can be said that the
view adopted by the learned trial Court while acquitting the
accused of the offence punishable under section 498A of the
Indian Penal Code, is a plausible view requiring no substitution
at the hands of this Court. In the result, the appeal fails and
the same is hereby dismissed.
(A.M.BADAR, J.)

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