New Delhi: The Supreme Court has observed that taking a daughter-in-law’s jewellery in custody for safety cannot be termed as cruelty under the Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
A bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and J.K. Maheshwari said: “Failure to control an adult brother, living independently, or giving advice to the complainant (the wife) to adjust to avoid vindictive retaliation… cannot constitute cruelty on the part of the appellant (brother-in-law) within the meaning of Section 498A of the IPC.”
The top court made these observations during the hearing of an appeal challenging the Punjab and Haryana High Court order, which junked a plea by a woman’s brother-in-law to travel back to the US, where he is employed. A case was lodged by a woman against her husband and in-laws – mother, father, and husband’s brother — for subjecting her to cruelty.
The top court noted that the daughter-in-law made only a general omnibus allegation that her in-laws ruined her life by misrepresentation, concealment, etc. “On the face of the averments in the complaint, the complainant’s husband made certain misrepresentations to her. The appellant is not liable for the acts of cruelty, or any other wrongful and/or criminal acts on the part of his parents or brother,” it noted.
The bench added there is nothing specific against the brother-in-law except the vague allegation that he and his mother kept her jewellery, adding that the daughter-in-law has not given any particulars of the jewellery that had allegedly been taken by her mother-in-law and brother-in-law and there is not a whisper of whether any jewellery is lying with the brother-in-law. “It is not even alleged that the Appellant forcibly took away or misappropriated the complainant’s jewellery or refused to return the same inspite of request. Taking custody of jewellery for safety cannot constitute cruelty within the meaning of Section 498A of the IPC,” it said.
Section 498 A refers to the husband or relative of the husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.
“Having regard to the nature of the allegations, it is not understood how and why the appellant should have been detained in India.. The apprehension that the husband of the complainant (Accused No.1) who had been working in the US might leave the country cannot be ground to deny the appellant’s (brother-in-law) prayer to go back to the US to resume his duties in a Company in which he has been working for about 9/10 years,” noted the bench.
The bench said the high court order denying permission to the woman’s brother-in-law to leave the country is not sustainable in law and is set aside.
The petitioner was arraigned as an accused along with his brother and parents under various sections, including, Sections 420 (cheating) 498A and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC.