MP High Court Upholds Wife's Silence As Noble, Rejects Claim Of Retaliation In Cruelty Complaint Amid Divorce Proceedings

The Madhya Pradesh High Court rejected the FIR filed against the Husband’s relatives for their cruelty towards the wife, emphasizing that the wife’s decision to stay silent and not file a complaint to safeguard the marital status should be protected. 

The Madhya Pradesh High Court rejected the FIR filed against the Husband’s relatives for their cruelty towards the wife, emphasizing that the wife’s decision to stay silent and not file a complaint to safeguard the marital status should be protected.

Justice Gurpal Singh Ahluwalia, presiding over the single-judge bench, highlighted that the FIR alleging cruelty should not be disregarded as a retaliatory action in response to the divorce petition, solely due to the elapsed time between the filing of the criminal complaint and the divorce petition. In this instance, the timing of the cruelty complaint coincided with the husband’s filing for divorce.

“If the wife had maintained silence to save her marital life and did not lodge the report, then her silence for the noble cause should not be considered against her…Once, the wife had realized that all the chances of reconciliation have vanished on account of filing of the divorce petition and if she decided to take action by law, then she cannot be blamed for the same…”, the bench sitting at Jabalpur held.

Justifying the wife’s hesitance to file a complaint at first, the single-judge bench observed that she couldn’t be left at the losing end for her ‘good gestures of maintaining silence’. She was merely trying to save her marital life, if possible, by withholding information about the cruelty meted out to her, the court explained. There is nothing wrong in filing the complaint for the in-laws’ cruelty only after realizing that the marriage was beyond repair, the court remarked.

Such delay in filing the complaint does not make it a mere retaliation from the wife against the husband who filed a divorce petition, the court inferred.

The court added that specific allegations had been leveled in the FIR against the elder brother-in-law and the sister-in-law, who are applicants in the current writ petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C. The averments include that they demanded a Fortuner Car and 20 Tolas of Gold within four months of the marriage that was solemnized in 2017. The FIR states that the complainant had been forcefully evicted from the matrimonial home in 2021 on account of non-payment of the dowry demanded by the applicants. All these elements constitute the offense of mental cruelty in the preliminary analysis, the court concluded while refusing to interfere with the criminal proceedings.

On another aspect, the court also pointed out that the woman alone is the owner of her stridhan, and she can’t be faulted for taking the said stridhan along with her to her parent’s house.

The applicant-relatives had submitted before the High Court that the wife previously assaulted the husband with a knife, and the FIR for cruelty was a mere ‘counterblast’ to the divorce petition. The husband filed the divorce petition on 16th November, 2021. Upon receiving notice of the divorce proceedings, the wife went on to lodge a complaint on 31st November 2021, it was contended by the applicants.

During the wife’s period of stay at the matrimonial house that spanned over four years, she never once made a complaint to the police, as admitted by the complainant herself, the applicants argued.

On the aspect of the abdomen injury, the court pointed out that the husband himself mentioned in the written complaint given to Shahdol SP that the injury was self-inflicted. No criminal case has been registered against the wife based on the said complaint. This written complaint has also been produced along with the writ petition.

“…Although, the counsel for applicants had read the complaint, in which it was specifically mentioned by …..that he himself had caused injury by Knife on his abdominal region, in spite of that the counsel for applicants tried to mislead this Court by making a submission that it was the respondent No.2 who had given a knife blow in the abdominal region of her husband…”, the court further added about the misrepresentation made.

In support of the wife, the High Court single judge bench took the stance to justify the wife’s decision to remain silent over the crime and emphasized that her efforts to safeguard relationship must not be penalized. The court clarified that her silence was an attempt to salvage her marriage, if possible, by refraining from disclosing the cruelty she endured. The court asserted that there was no wrongdoing in lodging the complaint against her in-laws for their mistreatment, especially after realizing that the marriage was irreparable.

Addressing the notion that the delayed complaint was a mere retaliation to the husband’s divorce petition, the court concluded otherwise. It noted that the FIR contained specific allegations against the elder brothers-in-law and sister-in-law, who are applicants in the ongoing writ petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C. These allegations include demands for a Fortuner Car and 20 Tolas of Gold shortly after the marriage in 2017, and the forceful eviction of the complainant from her matrimonial home in 2021 due to non-payment of dowry. The court determined that these actions constituted mental cruelty, thus justifying the continuation of the criminal proceedings.

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Additionally, the court highlighted the woman’s right to her stridhan, emphasizing that she cannot be faulted for taking it with her to her parent’s house.

Regarding the applicant-relatives’ claims that the cruelty FIR was retaliatory and baseless, the court countered by pointing out inconsistencies. It noted that the husband himself stated in a written complaint to the Shahdol SP that his abdominal injury was self-inflicted, without any criminal case registered against the wife based on his complaint. The court criticized the attempt to mislead the court by misrepresenting facts.