The Rajasthan High Court recently quashed an FIR against the parents-in-law in a case of alleged dowry harassment (among other allegations), opining that it was a clear case of over-implication, given that the in-laws did not ordinarily reside with the estranged couple. (Komal Narang v. the State of Rajasthan)
In doing so, Justice Pushpendra Singh Bhati placed substantial reliance on the Rajasthan High Court ruling in Hari Ram Sharma & Ors. Vs. State of Rajasthan & Anr.
In the said case, the High Court had observed that it is not uncommon to implicate all immediate relations of the husband in matrimonial cases. Justice Bhati went on to recount that in Hari Ram Sharma's case, the Court had concluded that, if the couple was not residing with the in-laws and the focus of the allegations was upon the husband only, then it would not be proper to prosecute such family members, as the in-laws. In the case before Justice Bhati, the couple had moved to Bangkok and stayed there after the marriage. The wife had visited her in-laws from time to time, but only stayed with them for a few days at a time, the Court was told.
In 2019, the wife had also invited her in-laws to Bangkok, months before an FIR was lodged citing Sections 406 (punishment for criminal breach of trust), 498-A (cruelty to woman), 313 (punishment for causing miscarriage), and 377 (unnatural offenses) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
After factoring in certain WhatsApp conversations as well, the Judge concluded that the retrospective allegations against the in-laws only cropped up after there was matrimonial disharmony between the estranged husband and wife.
The Judge noted that the allegation against the In-laws was that they turned the wife out of their house, that they induced the wife into the marriage on wrongful facts, and thereafter, kept on making the demands of dowry.
However, these allegations were sporadic and very vague, since no specific incident was mentioned in the FIR, the Court found.
Against this backdrop, the Court went on to conclude that the implication of the old aged and ill in-laws by the present complainant-wife is nothing but an expansion of the matrimonial dispute with an ulterior motive to exert unnecessary pressure upon them.
The court added that even if the complaint was taken on face value, it indicates that the complainant-wife never resided with her in-law, except for short visits, the Judge observed. The allegations, prima facie, stood primarily against her husband and not the in-laws.
The judge said that this Court is also of the opinion that the long-distance relationships, on the face of it, cannot cover the allegations leveled in the FIR in question against the in-laws. Thus, though the allegations leveled in the FIR against the accused petitioner- husband may be genuine, but the same, as leveled against the petitioners/in-laws, at the threshold itself, are nothing but pure abuse of the process of law.
Therefore, the case against the in-laws was quashed. However, the case filed against the husband was not interfered with. Senior Advocate Hardev Singh Sidhu assisted by advocates Dr. RDSS Kharlia, Deepender Rajpurohit, and Kinjal Purohit appeared for the petitioners. Public Prosecutor Mahipal Bishnoi and advocates CS Kotwani and Deepak Kankar appeared for the State.