New Delhi: According to Supreme Court of India husband's unlawful relationship with another woman cannot be termed as 'cruelty' towards his wife and count as a ground for her suicide.
Supreme Court ruling came after a case from Gujarat. In Gujarat a husband and wife had a strained relationship and were contemplating divorce. The woman had resigned to her fate and had told her sister that she was facing breakdown of marriage. She had also said that she would leave her marital home. But, later, she consumed poison and committed suicide.
The prosecution accused the husband and his parents of cruelty and alleged that the woman was driven to suicide as the man was having an illicit relationship with another woman. The trial court and the high court had convicted the accused.
After hearing appellant's counsel H A Raichura, a bench of Justices S J Mukhopadhaya and Dipak Misra said, "In the present case, in fact, there is no demand of dowry. If the evidence is appropriately appreciated, the deceased was pained and disturbed as the husband was having an illicit affair with a woman. Will such a situation amount to cruelty under Section 498A of IPC?"
"True, there is some evidence about the illicit relationship and even if the same is proven, we are of the considered opinion that cruelty, as envisaged under the first limb of Section 498A IPC, would not get attracted. It would be difficult to hold that the mental cruelty was of such a degree that it would drive the wife to commit suicide," it said.
While giving judgment Justice Misra said, "Mere extra-marital relationship, even if proved, would be illegal and immoral, as has been held by the Supreme Court earlier but it would take a different character if the prosecution brings some evidence on record to show that the accused had conducted in such a manner to drive the wife to commit suicide.
"In the instant case, the accused may have been involved in an illicit relationship with a woman, but in the absence of some other acceptable evidence on record that can establish such high degree of mental cruelty, the explanation to Section 498A which includes cruelty to drive a woman to commit suicide, would not be attracted." The bench acquitted the accused.