Section 498-A IPC | Second Wife Can't Maintain Complaint/FIR Against Husband, In-Laws For 'Cruelty': Chhattisgarh High Court

Chambers of Ishaan Garg

Ch. No. 217, Western Wing, District & Sessions Court, Tis Hazari, New Delhi, Delhi 110054

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The Chhattisgarh High Court has held that a complaint/FIR under Section 498A of the IPC filed by the second wife against the husband and her in-laws is not maintainable.

A bench of Justice Sanjay K. Agrawal and Justice Sachin Singh Rajput held thus while answering a reference made by a Single Judge to the division bench on the following question:

“Whether the complaint/FIR lodged by the second wife for commission of offence punishable under Section 498A of the I.P.C. would be tenable or not ?”

The reference was made as the single judge found conflict with two judgments rendered by the three Judges Bench of the Supreme Court in the matters of Shivcharan Lal Verma & Another v. State of Madhya Pradesh and Rajinder Singh v. State of Punjab 2015.

The question came up before the single judge while dealing with a case wherein the complainant had lodged a written complaint against petitioners alleging that she was married to co-accused Subhash Sharma in July 2018.

It was further alleged in the complaint that Subhash Sharma was already married to petitioner No.1 and immediately after her marriage, the petitioners and co-accused Subhash Sharma started harassing her and treating her with cruelty.

Now, challenging the complaint filed by the complainant, the petitioners moved a section 482 CrPC plea before the Single Judge.

Examining the question referred to by the single judge, the division bench took into account the Supreme Court's ruling in the case of Shivcharan Lal Verma (supra), which was recently followed by the Supreme Court in P Sivakumar vs State 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 116 wherein it has been held that when the marriage is null and void, the conviction under Section 498-A of IPC would not be sustainable.

For context, in Shivcharan Lal Verma (supra), the Top Court had noted that since the marriage of the appellant-husband therein with Mohini, second wife, during the subsistence of a valid marriage with Kalindi, first wife, was null and void, therefore, the conviction of the appellant-husband therein for Section 498-A of IPC was liable to be quashed.

Further, regarding the Top Court's ruling in the case of Rajinder Singh (supra), the division bench noted that in the said case, certain observations were regarding the provisions contained under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 concerning the meaning of 'marriage' and hence, the said observations cannot be applied as principle applicable when examining the issue as to whether prosecution under Section 498A of IPC is maintainable at the instance of the second wife.

As such, the Court noted that there was absolutely no apparent conflict between the three judges' bench judgment of the Supreme Court in Shivcharan Lal Verma (supra) and Rajinder Singh (supra).

The division bench added that even if, there is a conflict between the two judgments, it is the earlier one which is to be followed by the Court, and accordingly, in the instant case Shivcharan Lal Verma (supra) has to be followed.

In view of this, the Court held thus:

“The complaint or FIR lodged by second wife for commission of offence punishable under Section 498A of the IPC would not be tenable in light of principles of law laid down by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Shivcharan Lal Verma & Another v. State of Madhya Pradesh.”

Accordingly, the matter was directed to be placed before the Single Judge for deciding the petition under Section 482 CrPC in light of the question answered herein above.

Case title - Suman Sharma and others vs. State Of Chhattisgarh and others (2024 Chattisgarh HC)