In a significant verdict, the Supreme Court on Thursday held that a man having an extramarital affair cannot be prosecuted for subjecting his wife to cruelty if his actions force her to kill herself.
“Extramarital relationship, per se, or as such would not come within the ambit of Section 498-A IPC (cruelty to wife). It would be an illegal or immoral act, but other ingredients are to be brought home so that it would constitute a criminal offence,” said the bench headed by justice Dipak Misra, setting aside a Karnataka high court judgment that sent a man to jail for three years.
The man faced trial for being cruel to his wife and for abetment to suicide. Cruelty, the bench said, can be both physical and mental or might even include abnormal behaviour causing harassment to the partner.
“To explicate, solely because the husband is involved in an extramarital relationship and there is some suspicion in the mind of wife, cannot be regarded as mental cruelty, which would attract mental cruelty for satisfying the ingredients of Section 306 IPC (abetment to suicide),” the bench said. “It can surely be a ground for divorce.”