On 23.12.2020, Jammu & Kashmir High Court pronounced that if a complaint is made under Article 498A of Ranbir Penal Code (hereinafter referred to as “RPC”), it is to be maintained even if the marriage between the complainant woman with the accused man is void, and him or his family and still be prosecuted.
Justice Sanjay Dhar, in the present matter of Karnail Chand and others V. State of J&K and another, held that, “irrespective of the legitimacy of marriage” a man falls under the definition of ‘husband’ once he has entered into a martial arrangement with a woman, as stated in Article 498A, RPC, and hence the void nature of the said marriage shall not lift the consequences of an offence committed while it was bona fide. Article 498A of RPC states that if the husband or any relatives of the husband of a woman subject such woman to cruelty, they shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
There were a total of four Petitioners in the case, parents of the accused, sister of the accused and the woman who claimed to be the legally wedded wife of the accused; who were challenging the FIR on behalf of the accused. The Respondent was the woman who alleged to have entered into wedlock with the accused, and had also alleged that she was subjected to harassment and cruelty by her husband and his relatives (petitioners in the instant matter).
The Petitioners thus challenged the credibility of the FIR itself, on the grounds that the accused, Mr. Kuldeep Kumar, was already married and could not have married another woman while his first wife (petitioner) was still alive. Therefore, it was alleged the validity of his second marriage, to the respondent, stood void ab initio.
Here, the Court decided to rely on the Apex Court’s judgement in the cases of “Reema Aggarwal V. Anupam and others (2004), 3 SCC 199” and “A. Subash Babu V. State of A.P. and another (2011), 7 SCC 616”, and held that, “Even if respondent (Complainant) is not the legally wedded wife of accused Kuldeep Kumar, still then, petitioner Nos. 1 to 3, who happen to be the relatives of the accused Kuldeep Kumar as also accused Kuldeep Kumar can be prosecuted for an offence under Section 498-A RPC on the basis of allegations made by respondent No.2 in the subject FIR.”
Lastly, the Court instituted in its judgement that the prima facie offence contained by the FIR fell under Article 498A RPC, and for the foregoing reasons, “the Court did not find any good ground to interfere with the investigation of the impugned FIR and that the petition was found without any merit. Hence, the same along with connected applications stands dismissed.” Therefore upholding the validity of the FIR made and not quashing the investigation to be run for the same.
Order: Jammu and Kashmir HC Ruling