Cautioning against the rampant misuse of the Domestic Violence (DV) Act, the Bombay high court (HC) has held that the ‘cruelty’ the act seeks to cover has to be of a “very “high degree”.
Allegations of cruelty can enable prosecution only if such cruelty “leads a woman to take her own life or, causes a grave and serious threat to her life,” the HC said.
The court held that not every difference in a marriage that causes some grief or distress to the wife can warrant legal action against the husband or his family.
The observation came while hearing an appeal filed by a woman challenging the acquittal of her husband and in-laws by a magisterial court.
The woman had filed several complaints against them under section 498A of the DV Act, alleging that in March 1992, about six months after her marriage, her husband and her in-laws began harassing her for dowry. She alleged she was repeatedly beaten up and even forced to undergo an abortion by her husband and his family. She subsequently registered an FIR against them and the matter went to trial.
During the trial, the magisterial court found most charges made her were fabricated. It found the woman had left her matrimonial home out of choice and had undergone the abortion under legal medical advice because of health problems. The court acquitted all the accused, after which she moved the high court.
Justice Abhay Thipsay, who was hearing her appeal, found no errors in the magisterial court order. After going through the evidence, justice Thipsay dismissed the woman’s complaints of ill-treatment as “vague” and fabricated.
“The truth of these allegations was rightly doubted by the magistrate. It may be added that the cruelty contemplated by section 498A is of a very high degree. The explanation attached to the section makes it clear that every dispute or difference in the matrimonial life that causes some anxiety and a feeling of distress to the wife cannot be brought within the purview of the penal provisions of section 498A of the IPC,” Justice Thipsay said.