Girlfriends cannot be tried for dowry harassment: apex court

May 13th, 2009 - 9:19 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 13 (IANS) The girlfriend or mistress of a married man cannot be tried for harassing his wife for dowry because the law provides for prosecution of only the relatives of the husband and girlfriends are not relatives, the Supreme Court has ruled.
In a ruling delivered last Wednesday, a bench of Justice S.B. Sinha and Justice R.M. Lodh has held that a man’s wife cannot drag his girlfriend or mistress to the court on charges of torturing her for bringing insufficient dowry.

“Living with another woman may be an act of cruelty on the part of the husband for the purpose of judicial separation or dissolution of marriage but the same, in our opinion, would not attract the wrath of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code,” the bench said in its ruling released late Tuesday.

Section 498A of IPC prescribes punishment for the husband or his relatives including parents, brothers, sisters and even grandparents if they subject his wife to cruelty.

The apex court gave its ruling dismissing a Madras High Court ruling rejecting an appeal by a man’s girlfriend facing prosecution on a complaint of harassment lodged by his wife.

The court quashed the dowry harassment case against a woman from Chennai, Sutpa (name changed), under Section 498A of the IPC, lodged by the wife of a man with whom she allegedly had illicit relations.

The man’s wife had lodged the complaint that her husband had been mistreating her at the instance of his mother and the girlfriend and later left him to live with her mother-in-law at Cuddalore while he went to his place of work at Sivanangai.

“By no stretch of imagination a girlfriend or even a concubine in an etymological sense would be a ‘relative’. The word ‘relative’ brings within its purview a status. Such a status must be conferred either by blood or marriage or adoption. If no marriage has taken place, the question of one being relative of another would not arise,” the court observed.

“In the absence of any statutory definition, the term relative must be assigned a meaning as in completely understood,” the court said, adding ordinarily it would include father, mother, husband or wife, son, daughter, brother, sister, nephew or niece, grandson or grand-daughter of an individual or the spouse of any person.

The court said the meaning of the word “relative” would depend upon the nature of the statute and principally included a person related by blood, marriage or adoption.

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