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HC says calling somebody ‘bhoot, pisach’ is not cruelty, sets aside conviction of two in dowry case

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By Alok Mohit

Patna: The Patna High Court recently held that calling a person “bhoot (ghost)” and “pisach (evil spirit)” was not an act of cruelty.

While setting aside the conviction of two people in a 30-year-old dowry harassment case, Justice Bibek Chaudhuri said “in matrimonial relation, especially in failed matrimonial relations, there are incidents where both the husband and wife abuse each other saying filthy language. However, all such accusations do not come within the veil of “cruelty”.

The case, originating from a complaint filed in Nawada district by Kanhaiya Lal against Sahdeo Gupta and Naresh Kumar Gupta, alleged instances of physical and mental harassment inflicted upon Lal’s daughter over dowry demands, including a car. The trial court had convicted the accused under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, sentencing them to rigorous imprisonment.

The court, while quashing the conviction, noted the lack of concrete evidence linking the accused to the alleged harassment and highlighted inconsistencies in the complainant’s statements. Additionally, the court cited previous Supreme Court observations regarding the misuse of dowry harassment laws.

Justice Bibek Chaudhuri said the Supreme Court had earlier observed: “It is a matter of common experience that most of the complaints under Section 498-A of IPC are filed in the heat of the moment over trivial issues without proper deliberations. We come across a large number of such complaints which are not even bona fide and are filed with oblique motive. At the same time, rapid increase in the number of genuine cases of dowry harassment is also a matter of serious concern.”

The court said the case appeared to stem from personal disputes between the parties involved rather than genuine instances of dowry harassment. It also questioned the reliance on statements made under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, emphasising their corroborative nature rather than substantive evidence.

In light of these observations, the court exercised its powers under Section 482 of the CrPC to quash the conviction, stating that the possibility of conviction was remote and continuation of the case would cause extreme prejudice to the accused.

Author Alok Mohit is former senior News Editor of Hindustan Times Patna and Chandigarh editions; can be contacted at mohit.alok19@gmail.com 

 

 

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