HoneyBen Ashok Bhai Patel vs. State of Gujarat
Rakeshkumar Bhavsar got married with respondent No. 2 in 1995 and had two children with her. He died in 2001 and 9 years after that, respondent no. 2 got married to BhavinBhai who is also accused no. 1 therein. It was BhavinBhai’s second marriage. His first marriage was dissolved because of customary practices. After getting married, BhavinBhai went back to his first wife who is also applicant and accused no. 2 therein. And this led to some tensions between respondent no.2 and BhavinBhai. In this dispute, the first wife of BhavinBhai was arraigned as accused. This criminal case was pending before the additional chief judicial magistrate, Vadodara and accused no. 2 wanted to invoke the inherent powers of the court for quashing the proceedings against accused no. 1 for the offence of Section 498-A of Indian Penal Code.
- Whether the divorced wife will be counted as “relative of the husband” under Section 498-A of Indian Penal Code?
The Court held that as the marriage has been dissolved, the ex-wife cannot be considered as a relative of the husband under section 498-A of IPC. The Court stated, “let us assume for the moment that the husband of the respondent no. 2 went back to his first wife, i.e., the applicant herein, the fact remains that as the marriage was dissolved, the applicant herein would not fall within the ambit of ‘relative of the husband’.”
The Court said that none of the ingredients of the section 498-A of the IPC are being fulfilled to constitute the offence of cruelty. It further held that the present case may be a matrimonial dispute but does not, in any way, fall under section 498-A of IPC.
Section 498-A of the IPC states that “Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished”. “Relative of the husband” has always been contentious and brings lot of scrutiny before the Supreme Court and this is no different. Question of whether the former wife can be counted as “relative of the husband” first came up before the Kerala High Court in the case of M Abdul Sathar v. Aneesha in which court said that if the act of cruelty is committed by the husband on his divorced wife then in that section 498A of IPC cannot be invoked. The Court has very firmly held that former wife would not fall within the ambit of “relative of the husband”.