IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Criminal Appeal No.71 OF 2012
State of Uttar Pradesh and ors.
Date of Judgement
CJI Ranjan Gogoi; Justice L. Nageswara Rao; Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul
In the present case, the petitioner faced cruelty in her matrimonial home and went to her parental home. No overt act of cruelty or harassment took place in there but she still filed an FIR under Sec 498A of Indian Penal Code in the jurisdiction of her parental home.
“Whether a woman forced to leave her matrimonial home on account of acts and conduct that constitute cruelty can initiate and access the legal process within the jurisdiction of the courts where she is forced to take shelter with the parents or other family members.”
1. Sec 177 of the Criminal Procedure Code states that “every offence shall ordinarily be inquired into and tried by Court within whose local jurisdiction it was committed”. It is, therefore, clear that in the normal course, it is the court within whose local jurisdiction the offence is committed that would have the power and authority to take cognizance of the offence in question.
2. Section 178 of the Code creates an exception to the “ordinary rule” as enshrined in Section 177 by permitting courts in another local area where the offence is partly committed to take cognizance. Also if the offence committed in one local area continues in another local area, the courts in the latter place would be competent to take cognizance of the matter.
3. Section 179 of the Code states that if by reason of the consequence emanating from a criminal act an offence is occasioned in another jurisdiction, the court in that jurisdiction would also be competent to take cognizance.
4. To define a continuing offence, the court referred to the judgment of State of Bihar v. Deokaran Nenshi [1972 SC]
5. “5. A continuing offence is one which is susceptible of continuance and is distinguishable from the one which is committed once and for all. It is one of those offences which arises out of a failure to obey or comply with a rule or it requirement and which involves a penalty, the liability for which continues until the rule or its requirement is obeyed or complied with. On every occasion that such disobedience or non-compliance occurs and reoccurs, there is the offence committed. The distinction between the two kinds of offences is between an act or omission which constitutes an offence once and for all and an act or omission which continues, and therefore, constitutes a fresh offence every time or occasion on which it continues. In the case of a continuing offence, there is thus the ingredient of continuance of the offence which is absent in the case of an offence which takes place when an act or omission is committed once and for all.”
6. The court went on to defining cruelty and stated that cruelty can be both physical and mental. To understand the scope of Section 498A, the court said that it was imperative to understand the impact on the mental health of the wife by the overt acts by the husband and his relatives, the mental stress of being driven away from the matrimonial home and her helplessness to go back to the same house. The emotional stress continues to traumatize the wife even when she leaves the matrimonial home and seeks shelter in her parental home even though there may not be any over the act of physical cruelty in her parental home.
7. The Explanations A & B of Section 498A defines cruelty which undoubtedly encompasses the mental and physical well-being of the wife. Her sufferings at the parental home though may be directly attributable to commission of acts of cruelty by the husband at the matrimonial home would be the consequences of the acts committed at the matrimonial home. “Such consequences, by itself, would amount to distinct offences committed at the parental home where she has taken shelter.” Such offences are contemplated in Section 179 of the Criminal Procedure Code which is applicable in the present case.
8. Therefore, the court held that the courts at the place where the wife takes shelter after leaving or being driven away from the matrimonial home on account of acts of cruelty committed by the husband or his relatives, would also have jurisdiction to entertain a complaint alleging commission of offences under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.
Edited by Sree Ramya
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje