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NEW DELHI: Observing that a woman’s in-laws should not be prosecuted for cruelty for not controlling her abusive husband and advising her to “adjust” with him, the Supreme Court allowed a plea of an NRI who was restrained from leaving the country after a complaint was filed against him and other family members by his sister-in law. It also said taking custody of jewellery for safety cannot constitute cruelty under IPC Section 498A.
A bench of justices Indira Banerjee and J K Maheshwari modified the chief judicial magistrate’s order to the extent that the NRI was directed not to leave the country without the court’s nod.
The court noted that there was no substantial charge against him and “there is only a general omnibus allegation that all the accused ruined the life of the complainant by misrepresentation, concealment, etc”.
“There is not even any allegation against the appellant of any demand or threat or torture for dowry or property. Failure to control an adult brother, living independently or giving advice to the complainant to adjust to avoid vindictive retaliation from accused No. 1 (husband) cannot constitute cruelty on the part of the appellant within the meaning of Section 498A of IPC,” the bench said. “The complainant has not given any particulars of the jewellery that had allegedly been taken by her mother-in-law and brother-in-law. There is not a whisper of whether any jewellery is lying with the appellant. It is not even alleged that the appellant forcibly took away or misappropriated the complainant’s jewellery or refused to return the same in spite of request. Taking custody of jewellery for safety cannot constitute cruelty within the meaning of Section 498A,” it said.
The complainant had filed a case of dowry harassment against her husband and in-laws after coming to India and the lower court in an interim order restrained them from leaving the country. Alleging that there was no substantial allegation against him, the brother-in-law moved Punjab and Haryana HC which dismissed his plea, after which he moved the Supreme Court.
The court, after examining the allegation, passed the order in his favour and noted that the warring husband and wife have compromised.
“From the complaint itself, it is patently clear that the appellant does not reside in the same premises as his brother, being the husband of the complainant. The averments in the pleadings in the courts below read with the complaint show that they do not even live in the same place. The appellant works in Texas whereas his brother lives and works in North Carolina,” it said.
“There is nothing specific against the appellant except the vague allegation that the appellant and his mother, i.e., the complainant’s mother-in-law, kept her jewellery. The only other allegation is that the appellant had not done anything when the complainant had spoken to him about his brother’s conduct and behaviour… In any event, a deed of compromise has now been executed between the complainant and her husband,” it said.

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