The Bombay high court upheld the acquittal of a man accused of abetting his wife’s suicide holding that demanding articles of insignificant value — in this case, some hens — does not amount to cruelty or harassment.
HC was hearing an appeal filed by the state challenging the acquittal of Madhukar Kambari, who was accused of harassing and abetting the suicide of his wife Vandana.
Charges of harassment or cruelty can be pressed only if there are repeated instances of such treatment and if it relates to an article or property of “significant value”.
According to the petition, Madhukar had married Vandana in May 1995. In November the same year, Vandana had committed suicide by setting herself ablaze. The prosecution had argued that Vandana had on two occasions complained to her father that she was assaulted after she refused to obey her husband’s demand that she bring him some hens from her father’s house.
Madhukar’s counsel, however, argued that Vandana had committed suicide not because of the alleged harassment, but in a fit of rage following a fight with her husband. Most couples fight, he contended, in view of which the suicide cannot be attributed to harassment.
Noting the arguments, justice Pramod Kode said, “Just because a demand of an insignificant nature is followed by suicide, it cannot not be covered with section 498 (A) [of the Indian Penal Code] (that relates to harassment).”
Apart from the fact that evidence regarding the precise nature of harassment was vague, it could not be construed as cruelty within the meaning of the section, the court concluded.