If a man is involved in an illicit relationship, it amounts to cruelty to his wife, the Bombay high court said last week, while upholding a six-month sentence given in 1997 by a sessions court judge.
Justice AR Joshi said the husband had committed an offence under section 498A (husband or husband's relative subjecting woman to cruelty) of the Indian Penal Code by having an affair, which was known to his wife.
The court was hearing an appeal filed by Nashik resident Ratan Jagzap, who had challenged the six-month sentence imposed on him after his wife, Chandrakala, committed suicide on learning about the affair.
Jagzap has been out on bail since 1995. More than 15 years after his wife committed suicide, he will now spend six months in jail.
In November 1995, Chandrakala killed herself by consuming pesticide. A few days before the incident, she had complained to her parents that Jagzap was ill-treating her. The police had then booked him for cruelty and abetment to suicide.
During trial, the prosecution had said that Jagzap got involved with his business partner's wife, and the duo left their homes and started living together in Dhule along with their sons from their respective marriages.
Chandrakala had gone to Dhule to convince Jagzap to return but in vain.
Though the sessions court convicted Jagzap for subjecting Chandrakala to cruelty, it acquitted him from charges of abetment to suicide, considering the "material deficient of bringing home the charge".
An aggrieved Jagzap had filed an appeal in the high court.
Justice Joshi upheld the conviction for cruelty.
However, as neither the government nor the victim's parents had challenged Jagzap's acquittal for abetment to suicide, the high court did not interfere with it.
"The trial court did not consider the mental cruelty as sufficient for Chandrakala to end her life. It said Chandrakala became over-sentimental and out of desperation she took the extreme step," the high court observed.