Simply because a woman commits suicide due to her husband’s extra-marital affair, the man cannot be held criminally liable for subjecting her to cruelty unless it is proved there was a wilful conduct on his part to drive her to take the extreme step, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday.
“We are of the view that the mere fact that the husband has developed some intimacy with another, during the subsistence of marriage and failed to discharge his marital obligations, as such would not amount to cruelty,” said a bench of Justice KS Radhakrishnan and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose.
The court, however, clarified that harassment of a wife (under section 498A of IPC) need not be in the form of physical assault. Even mental harassment came within the purview of criminal law. “But it must be of such a nature as is likely to drive the spouse to commit suicide,” the bench held.
With the ruling, the court acquitted a man, Pinakin Mahipatray Rawal, from Gujarat of subjecting his wife to mental cruelty by indulging in an alleged extra-marital relationship with a colleague. The top court reversed the concurrent findings of the trial court and High Court while setting him free of even abetting his wife’s suicide.
Rawal’s wife had jumped of a terrace within seven years of marriage. Though she had exonerated Rawal in her suicide note, she had mentioned about his alleged extra-marital relationship with a colleague.
Going by the facts of the case before it, the court was of the view that prosecution had failed to prove Rawal’s extra-marital relationship. Even if it was proved, the same could be immoral, the court said, adding there was no evidence to show that the relationship between Rawal and his colleague was of “such a nature which under normal circumstances would drive one to commit suicide.”