The Supreme Court (SC) has rushed to the rescue of a man hounded by criminal proceedings initiated by his estranged wife alleging fake charges relating to the period when they were together in Canada.
“We, in the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case, have absolutely no doubt in our mind that the allegations in the FIR had been made with an ulterior motive to harass the appellants (husband),” said a bench of justices SB Sinha and Mukundakam Sharma. “Continuance of the criminal proceeding against them (husband and his parents) would, therefore, amount to abuse of process of the court,” the bench said.
The apex court passed the order while upholding an appeal by Punjab resident Harmanpreet Singh Ahulwalia, challenging registration of criminal cases under Sections 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) IPC against him and his parents.
Though the police chief had recommended withdrawal of the complaint and the charge-sheet saying if any offence was committed it was within the jurisdiction of Ontario, Canada, the trial court concerned continued with the prosecution. The apex court also wondered why, when the alleged offence was committed in Canada, Kaur’s father filed the case in India. Kaur’s father, Inter Pal Singh, is a retired police inspector and permanent resident of Canada. Kaur had married Harmanpreet in Jalandhar in 2000 after divorcing her earlier husband in Canada.
After a month’s stay in India, she left for Canada. In 2001, she gave birth to a girl child in Canada. Harmanpreet went to Canada on her sponsorship in 2001. He got the job of a driver there. Soon, differences surfaced between Kaur and her new husband. In 2003, she allegedly left with all her belongings and withdrew Canadian $24,500 from the joint account she held with Harmanpreet.
Harmanpreet initiated divorce proceedings before the Ontario court saying his wife left home to live with her parents in India while he had gone to work. She took with her all her personal belongings, like jewellery. He also alleged that she was “threatening to hurt herself and get him involved with the police to deport him from Canada”.
Differences between the couple were sorted out for some time, after Kaur admitted to her mistake. But they surfaced again and the couple started living separately. During a visit to India in 2006, Interpal Singh lodged a complaint against Harmanpreet under Section 406 and 420 IPC along with an affidavit from Kauri alleging that he demanded dowry and misappropriated dowry articles.
Elaborating on false cases being filed in recent times, the CJI said that relatives not involved with a matrimonial dispute were unfairly implicated. “In some cases, 498A is grossly misused,’’ he said. Balakrishnan was speaking at a seminar, ‘Marriage laws — issues and challenges’, organised by the National Commission for Women.
The IPC section allows for immediate arrest of the husband and in-laws by the police on the basis of a woman’s complaint and has been controversial. Several pro-male organisations have been protesting against the section saying that the law is being misused by women for selfish gains and should include a penalty provision against its misuse. But women activists have been lobbying for no change in the law.
Faced with adverse comments from the CJI, National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Girija Vyas said that it was lack of awareness that led to false cases under 498A. “I would not like to use the term misuse. There is lack of awareness amongst people that is exploited by lawyers and police. We feel there is no need to review the law,’’ Vyas said. TNN