The Supreme Court Bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul were answering a reference that was pending for almost seven years on the issue of applicability of Section 498A of IPC beyond the territorial limits of the matrimonial home. The Bench concluded that the complaint under Section 498A by the wife is allowed and can be entertained by the Court where the wife is residing after leaving or after being driven out of her matrimonial home.

The question before the Bench under reference was as follows:
“Whether a woman forced to leave her matrimonial home on account of acts and conduct that constitute cruelty can initiate and access the legal process within the jurisdiction of the courts where she is forced to take shelter with the parents or other family members”.

The Bench primarily referred to the provisions of Section 177 of the CrPC which states that “every offence shall ordinarily be inquired into and tried by a Court within whose local jurisdiction it was committed” and also referred to the provisions of Section 178 and 179 of the CrPC and interpreted the scope and applicability of cases being entertained even beyond the territorial limits on the following reasoning:

“Section 178 creates an exception to the “ordinary rule” engrafted in Section 177 by permitting the courts in another local area where the offence is partly committed to take cognizance. Also if the offence committed in one local area continues in another local area, the courts in the latter place would be competent to take cognizance of the matter. Under Section 179, if by reason of the consequences emanating from a criminal act an offence is occasioned in another jurisdiction, the court in that jurisdiction would also be competent to take cognizance. Thus, if an offence is committed partly in one place and partly in another; or if the offence is a continuing offence or where the consequences of a criminal act result in an offence being committed at another place, the exception to the “ordinary rule” would be attracted and the courts within whose jurisdiction the criminal act is committed will cease to have exclusive jurisdiction to try the offence.”

The Bench further proceeded to the main question arising out of the reference on the aspect of cruelty under Section 498A and its wide implications on the wife thereby affirming to the reference in the affirmative subject to the factual situation presented in each case as follows:

“15. ………..The provisions contained in Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, undoubtedly, encompasses both mental as well as the physical well-being of the wife. Even the silence of the wife may have an underlying element of an emotional distress and mental agony. Her sufferings at the parental home though may be directly attributable to commission of acts of cruelty by the husband at the matrimonial home would, undoubtedly, be the consequences of the acts committed at the matrimonial home. Such consequences, by itself, would amount to distinct offences committed at the parental home where she has taken shelter. The adverse effects on the mental health in the parental home though on account of the acts committed in the matrimonial home would, in our considered view, amount to commission of cruelty within the meaning of Section 498A at the parental home. The consequences of the cruelty committed at the matrimonial home results in repeated offences being committed at the parental home.”

 

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