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whether it was a fit case to send the appellants for trial when the FIR failed to make out a prima facie case against them regarding the allegation of inflicting physical and mental torture to the complainant demanding dowry from the complainant. We, therefore, deem it just and legally appropriate to quash the proceedings initiated against the appellants Geeta Mehrotra and Ramji Mehrotra as the FIR does not disclose any material which could be held to be constituting any offence against these two appellants. Merely by making a general allegation that they were also involved in physical and mental torture of the complainant-respondent No.2 without mentioning even a single incident against them as also the fact as to how they could be motivated to demand dowry when they are only related as brother and sister of the complainant’s husband, we are pleased to quash and set aside the criminal proceedings in so far as these appellants are concerned and consequently the order passed by the High Court shall stand overruled. The appeal accordingly is allowed.

REPORTABLE

English: The supreme court of india. Taken abo...

English: The supreme court of india. Taken about 170 m from the main building outside the perimeter wall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1674 OF 2012
(Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No. 10547/2010)

Geeta Mehrotra & Anr. ..Appellants
Versus
State of U.P. & Anr. . Respondents

J U D G M E N T
GYAN SUDHA MISRA, J.
1. This appeal by special leave in which we granted leave has
been filed by the appellants against the order dated 6.9.2010 passed
by the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad in Crl. Miscellaneous
Application No.22714/2007 whereby the High Court had been pleased to
dispose of the application moved by the appellants under Section 482
Cr.P.C. for quashing the order of the Magistrate taking cognizance
against the appellants under Sections 498A/323/504/506 IPC read with
Section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act with an observation that the
question of territorial jurisdiction cannot be properly decided by the
High Court under Section 482 Cr.P.C. for want of adequate facts. It
was, therefore, left open to the appellants to move the trial court
for dropping the proceedings on the ground of lack of territorial
jurisdiction. The High Court however granted interim protection to
the appellants by directing the authorities not to issue coercive
process against the appellants until disposal of the application filed
by the appellants with a further direction to the trial court to
dispose of the application if moved by the appellants, within a
period of two months from the date of moving the application. The
application under Section 482 Cr.P.C. was thus disposed of by the High
Court.
2. The appellants in spite of the liberty granted to them to
move the trial court, have filed this appeal for quashing the
proceedings which had been initiated on the basis of a case lodged by
the respondent No.2 Smt. Shipra Mehrotra (earlier known as Shipra
Seth) against her husband, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law
and sister-in-law. This appeal has been preferred by the sister-in-
law, who is appellant No.1 and brother-in-law of the complainant, who
is appellant No.2.
3. The case emerges out of the first information report
lodged by respondent No.2 Smt. Shipra Mehrotra under Sections
498A/323/504/506 IPC read with Section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition
Act bearing F.I.R.No. 52/2004. The F.I.R. was registered at Mahila
Thana Daraganj, Allahabad wherein the complainant alleged that she was
married to Shyamji Mehrotra s/o Balbir Saran who was living at Eros
Garden, Charmswood Village, Faridabad, Suraj Kund Road at Faridabad
Haryana as per the Hindu marriage rites and customs. Prior to
marriage the complainant and her family members were told by Shyamji
Mehrotra and his elder brother Ramji Mehrotra who is appellant No.2
herein and their mother Smt. Kamla Mehrotra and her sister Geeta
Mehrotra who is appellant No.1 herein that Shyamji is employed as a
Team Leader in a top I.T. Company in Chennai and is getting salary of
Rs.45,000/- per month. After negotiation between the parents of the
complainant and the accused parties, the marriage of the complainant
Shipra Seth (later Shipra Mehrotra) and Shyamji Mehrotra was performed
after which the respondent-complainant left for the house of her in-
laws.
4. It was stated that the atmosphere in the house was
peaceful for sometime but soon after the wedding, when all the
relatives left, the maid who cooked meals was first of all paid-off by
the aforesaid four persons who then told the complainant that from now
onwards, the complainant will have to prepare food for the family. In
addition, the above mentioned people started taunting and scolding her
on trivial issues. The complainant also came to know that Shyamji was
not employed anywhere and always stayed in the house. Shyamji
gradually took away all the money which the complainant had with her
and then told her that her father had not given dowry properly,
therefore, she should get Rupees five lakhs from her father in order to
enable him to start business, because he was not getting any job.
When the complainant clearly declined and stated that she will not ask
her parents for money, Shyamji, on instigation of other accused-family
members, started beating her occasionally. To escape every day torture
and financial status of the family, the complainant took up a job in a
Call Centre at Convergys on 17.2.2003 where the complainant had to do
night shifts due to which she used to come back home at around 3 a.m.
in the morning. Just on her return from work, the household people
started playing bhajan cassettes after which she had to getup at 7’o
clock in the morning to prepare and serve food to all the members in
the family. Often on falling asleep in the morning, Shyamji, Kamla
Devi and Geeta Mehrotra tortured the complainant every day mentally and
physically. Ramji Mehrotra often provoked the other three family
members to torture and often used to make the complainant feel sad by
making inappropriate statements about the complainant and her parents.
Her husband Shyamji also took away the salary from the complainant.
5. After persistent efforts, Shyamji finally got a job in
Chennai and he went to Chennai for the job in May, 2003. But, it is
alleged that there was no change in his behaviour even after going to
Chennai. The complainant often called him on phone to talk to him but
he always did irrelevant conversation. He never spoke properly with
the complainant whenever he visited home and often used to hurl filthy
abuses. The complainant states that she often wept and tolerated the
tortures of the accused persons for a long time but did not complain to
her family members, as that would have made them feel sad. At last,
when the complainant realized that even her life was in danger, she was
compelled to tell everything to her father on phone who was very upset
on hearing her woes. On 15.7.2003 complainant heard some conversation
of her mother-in-law and sister-in-law from which it appeared to her
that they want to kill the complainant in the night only. Thereupon
the complainant apprised her father of the situation on phone to which
her father replied that he will call back her father-in-law and she
should go with him immediately and he will come in the morning. The
father-in-law Satish Dhawan and his wife who were living in NOIDA
thereafter came in the night and somehow took the complainant to their
home who also came to know of everything. The complainant’s father and
brother later went to her matrimonial home on 16.7.2003. On seeing her
father and brother, Kamla Mehrotra and Geeta Mehrotra started speaking
loudly and started saying that Shyamji would be coming by the evening
and so he should come in the evening for talking to them. Her father
and brother then went away from there. That very day, her husband
Shyamji and brother-in-law Ramji also reached home. On reaching there,
Shyamji abused her on phone and told her to send her father.
6. When father and brother of the complainant went home in
the evening, they were also insulted by all the four and video camera
and tape were played and in the end they were told that they should
leave from here. Insulted, they came back from there and then came
back to Allahabad with the complainant. For many days the complainant
and her family members hoped that the situation would improve if the
matter was resolved. Many times other people tried to persuade the in
– laws but to no avail. Her brother went to their house to talk to her
in – laws but it came to his knowledge that the in – laws had changed
their house. After much effort, they came to know that the father-in-
law and mother-in-law started living at B-39, Brahma cooperative group
housing society, block 7, sector-7, Dwarka, Delhi. On 19.09.04
evening, her father talked to Kamla Mehrotra and Geeta Mehrotra
regarding the complainant using bad words and it was said that if her
daughter came there she will be kicked out. After some time Shyamji
rang up at complainant’s home but on hearing the complainant’s voice,
he told her abusively that now she should not come his way and she
should tell her father not to phone him in future. At approximately
10:30 pm in the night Ramji’s phone came to the complainant’s home. He
used bad words while talking to her father and in the end said that he
had got papers prepared in his defence and he may do whatever he could
but if he could afford to give Rs.10 lakhs then it should be conveyed
after which he will reconsider the matter. If the girl was sent to his
place without money, then even her dead body will not be found.
7. On hearing these talks of the accused, the complainant
believed that her in-laws will not let the complainant enter their home
without taking ten lakhs and if the complainant went there on her own,
she will not be safe. Hence, she lodged the report wherein she prayed
that the SHO Daraganj should be ordered to do the needful after
registering the case against the accused Shyam Mehrotra, Ramji
Mehrotra, Kamla Mehrotra and Geeta Mehrotra. Thus, in substance, the
complainant related the bickering at her matrimonial home which made
her life miserable in several ways and compelled her to leave her in-
law’s place in order to live with her father where she lodged a police
case as stated hereinbefore.
8. On the basis of the complaint, the investigating
authorities at P.S. Daraganj, Allahabad started investigation of the
case and thereafter the police submitted chargesheet against the
appellants and other family members of the complainant’s husband.
9. Hence, the appellants who are sister and brother of the
complainant’s husband filed petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C. for
quashing of the chargesheet and the entire proceedings pending in the
court of learned Judicial Magistrate, Court No.IV, Allahabad, inter-
alia, on the ground that FIR has been lodged with mala fide intentions
to harass the appellants and that no case was made out against the
appellants as well as other family members. But the principal ground
of challenge to the FIR was that the incident although was alleged to
have taken place at Faridabad and the investigation should have been
done there only, the complainant with mala fide intention in connivance
with the father of the complainant, got the investigating officer
to record the statements by visiting Ghaziabad which was beyond his
territorial jurisdiction and cannot be construed as legal and proper
investigation. It was also alleged that the father of the
complainant got the arrest warrant issued through George Town Police
Station, Allahabad, in spite of the cause of action having arisen at
Allahabad.
10. This appeal has been preferred by Kumari Geeta Mehrotra
i.e. the sister of the complainant’s husband and Ramji Mehrotra i.e.
the elder brother of the complainant’s husband assailing the order of
the High Court and it was submitted that the Hon’ble High Court ought
to have appreciated that the complainant who had already obtained an
ex-parte decree of divorce, is pursuing the present case through her
father with the sole purpose to unnecessarily harass the appellants
to extract money from them as all efforts of mediation had failed.
11. However, the grounds of challenge before this Court to
the order of the High Court, inter alia is that the High Court had
failed to appreciate that the investigation had been done by the
authority without following due process of law which also lacked
territorial jurisdiction. The relevant documents/parcha diary for
deciding the territorial jurisdiction had been overlooked as the FIR
has been lodged at Allahabad although the cause of action of the
entire incident is alleged to have taken place at Faridabad (Haryana).
It was, therefore, submitted that the investigating authorities of the
Allahabad have traversed beyond the territorial limits which is
clearly an abuse of the process of law and the High Court has failed to
exercise its inherent powers under Section 482 Cr.P.C. in the facts and
circumstances of this case and allowed the proceedings to go on before
the trial court although it had no jurisdiction to adjudicate the
same.
12. It was further averred that the High Court had failed
to examine the facts of the FIR to see whether the facts stated in the
FIR constitute any prima facie case making out an offence against the
sister-in-law and brother-in-law of the complainant and whether there
was at all any material to constitute an offence against the
appellants and their family members. Attention of this Court was
further invited to the contradictions in the statement of the
complainant and her father which indicate material contradictions
indicating that the complainant and her father have concocted the story
to implicate the appellants as well as all their family members in a
criminal case merely with a mala fide intention to settle her scores
and extract money from the family of her ex-husband Shyamji Mehrotra
and his family members.
13. On a perusal of the complaint and other materials on
record as also analysis of the arguments advanced by the contesting
parties in the light of the settled principles of law reflected in a
catena of decisions, it is apparent that the High Court has not
applied its mind on the question as to whether the case was fit to be
quashed against the appellants and has merely disposed of the petition
granting liberty to the appellants to move the trial court and raise
contentions on the ground as to whether it has territorial
jurisdiction to continue with the trial in the light of the averment
that no part of the cause of action had arisen at Allahabad and the
entire incident even as per the FIR had taken place at Faridabad.
14. The High Court further overlooked the fact that during the
pendency of this case, the complainant-respondent No.2 has obtained
an ex-parte decree of divorce against her husband Shyamji Mehrotra and
the High Court failed to apply its mind whether any case could be
held to have been made out against Kumari Geeta Mehrotra and Ramji
Mehrotra, who are the unmarried sister and elder brother of the
complainant’s ex-husband. Facts of the FIR even as it stands indicate
that although a prima facie case against the husband Shyamji Mehrotra
and some other accused persons may or may not be constituted, it surely
appears to be a case where no ingredients making out a case against
the unmarried sister of the accused Shyamji Mehrotra and his brother
Ramji Mehrotra appear to be existing for even when the complainant
came to her in-law’s house after her wedding, she has alleged physical
and mental torture by stating in general that she had been ordered to
do household activities of cooking meals for the whole family. But
there appears to be no specific allegation against the sister and
brother of the complainant’s husband as to how they could be implicated
into the mutual bickering between the complainant and her husband
Shyamji Mehrotra including his parents.
15. Under the facts and circumstance of similar nature in the
case of Ramesh vs. State of Tamil Nadu reported in (2005) SCC (Crl.)
735 at 738 allegations were made in a complaint against the husband,
the in-laws, husband’s brother and sister who were all the petitioners
before the High Court wherein after registration of the F.I.R. and
investigation, the charge sheet was filed by the Inspector of Police
in the court of Judicial Magistrate III, Trichy. Thereupon, the
learned magistrate took cognizance of the offence and issued warrants
against the appellants on 13.2.2002. Four of the accused-appellants
were arrested and released on bail by the magistrate at Mumbai. The
appellants had filed petition under Section 482, Cr.P.C. before the
Madras High Court for quashing the proceedings in complaint case on
the file of the Judicial Magistrate III, Trichy. The High Court by
the impugned order dismissed the petition observing that the grounds
raised by the petitioners were all subject matters to be heard by
the trial court for better appreciation after conducting full trial as
the High Court was of the view that it was only desirable to dismiss
the criminal original petition and the same was also dismissed.
However, the High Court had directed the Magistrate to dispense with
the personal attendance of the appellants.
16. Aggrieved by the order of the Madras High Court
dismissing the petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C., the special leave
petition was filed in this Court giving rise to the appeals therein
where threefold contentions were raised viz., (i) that the allegations
are frivolous and without any basis; (ii) even according to the FIR,
no incriminating acts were done within the jurisdiction of Trichy
Police Station and the court at Trichy and, therefore, the learned
magistrate lacked territorial jurisdiction to take cognizance of the
offence and (iii) taking cognizance of the alleged offence at that
stage was barred under Section 468(1) Cr.P.C. as it was beyond the
period of limitation prescribed under Section 468(2) Cr.P.C. Apart
from the subsequent two contentions, it was urged that the allegations
under the FIR do not make out any offence of which cognizance could
be taken.
17. Their Lordships of the Supreme Court in this matter had
been pleased to hold that the bald allegations made against the sister
in law by the complainant appeared to suggest the anxiety of the
informant to rope in as many of the husband’s relatives as possible.
It was held that neither the FIR nor the charge sheet furnished the
legal basis for the magistrate to take cognizance of the offences
alleged against the appellants. The learned Judges were pleased to
hold that looking to the allegations in the FIR and the contents of
the charge sheet, none of the alleged offences under Section 498 A,
406 and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act were made against the
married sister of the complainant’s husband who was undisputedly not
living with the family of the complainant’s husband. Their Lordships
of the Supreme Court were pleased to hold that the High Court ought
not to have relegated the sister in law to the ordeal of trial.
Accordingly, the proceedings against the appellants were quashed and
the appeal was allowed.
18. In so far as the plea of territorial jurisdiction is
concerned, it is no doubt true that the High Court was correct to the
extent that the question of territorial jurisdiction could be
decided by the trial court itself. But this ground was just one of
the grounds to quash the proceedings initiated against the appellants
under Section 482 Cr.P.C. wherein it was also alleged that no prima
facie case was made out against the appellants for initiating the
proceedings under the Dowry Prohibition Act and other provisions of
the IPC. The High Court has failed to exercise its jurisdiction in so
far as the consideration of the case of the appellants are concerned,
who are only brother and sister of the complainant’s husband and are
not alleged even by the complainant to have demanded dowry from her.
The High Court, therefore, ought to have considered that even if the
trial court at Allahabad had the jurisdiction to hold the trial, the
question still remained as to whether the trial against the brother
and sister of the husband was fit to be continued and whether that
would amount to abuse of the process of the court.
19. Coming to the facts of this case, when the contents of the
FIR is perused, it is apparent that there are no allegations against
Kumari Geeta Mehrotra and Ramji Mehrotra except casual reference of
their names who have been included in the FIR but mere casual reference
of the names of the family members in a matrimonial dispute without
allegation of active involvement in the matter would not justify taking
cognizance against them overlooking the fact borne out of experience
that there is a tendency to involve the entire family members of the
household in the domestic quarrel taking place in a matrimonial dispute
specially if it happens soon after the wedding.
20. It would be relevant at this stage to take note of an
apt observation of this Court recorded in the matter of G.V. Rao vs.
L.H.V. Prasad & Ors. reported in (2000) 3 SCC 693 wherein also in a
matrimonial dispute, this Court had held that the High Court should
have quashed the complaint arising out of a matrimonial dispute
wherein all family members had been roped into the matrimonial
litigation which was quashed and set aside. Their Lordships observed
therein with which we entirely agree that:
“there has been an outburst of matrimonial dispute in recent
times. Marriage is a sacred ceremony, main purpose of which is
to enable the young couple to settle down in life and live
peacefully. But little matrimonial skirmishes suddenly
erupt which often assume serious proportions resulting in
heinous crimes in which elders of the family are also involved
with the result that those who could have counselled and
brought about rapprochement are rendered helpless on their
being arrayed as accused in the criminal case. There are many
reasons which need not be mentioned here for not encouraging
matrimonial litigation so that the parties may ponder over
their defaults and terminate the disputes amicably by mutual
agreement instead of fighting it out in a court of law where
it takes years and years to conclude and in that process the
parties lose their “young” days in chasing their cases in
different courts.”
The view taken by the judges in this matter was that the courts would
not encourage such disputes.
21. In yet another case reported in AIR 2003 SC 1386 in the
matter of B.S. Joshi & Ors. vs. State of Haryana & Anr. it was
observed that there is no doubt that the object of introducing Chapter
XXA containing Section 498A in the Indian Penal Code was to prevent
the torture to a woman by her husband or by relatives of her husband.
Section 498A was added with a view to punish the husband and his
relatives who harass or torture the wife to coerce her relatives to
satisfy unlawful demands of dowry. But if the proceedings are
initiated by the wife under Section 498A against the husband and his
relatives and subsequently she has settled her disputes with her
husband and his relatives and the wife and husband agreed for mutual
divorce, refusal to exercise inherent powers by the High Court
would not be proper as it would prevent woman from settling earlier.
Thus for the purpose of securing the ends of justice quashing of FIR
becomes necessary, Section 320 Cr.P.C. would not be a bar to the
exercise of power of quashing. It would however be a different
matter depending upon the facts and circumstances of each case whether
to exercise or not to exercise such a power.
22. In the instant matter, when the complainant and her
husband are divorced as the complainant-wife secured an ex-parte
decree of divorce, the same could have weighed with the High Court to
consider whether proceeding initiated prior to the divorce decree was
fit to be pursued in spite of absence of specific allegations at
least against the brother and sister of the complainant’s husband
and whether continuing with this proceeding could not have amounted
to abuse of the process of the court. The High Court, however, seems
not to have examined these aspects carefully and have thus side-
tracked all these considerations merely on the ground that the
territorial jurisdiction could be raised only before the magistrate
conducting the trial.
23. In the instant case, the question of territorial
jurisdiction was just one of the grounds for quashing the
proceedings along with the other grounds and, therefore, the High
Court should have examined whether the prosecution case was fit to be
quashed on other grounds or not. At this stage, the question also
crops up whether the matter is fit to be remanded to the High Court to
consider all these aspects. But in matters arising out of a criminal
case, fresh consideration by remanding the same would further result
into a protracted and vexatious proceeding which is unwarranted as
was held by this Court in the case of Ramesh vs. State of Tamil Nadu
(supra) that such a course of remand would be unnecessary and
inexpedient as there was no need to prolong the controversy. The
facts in this matter on this aspect was although somewhat different
since the complainant had lodged the complaint after seven years of
delay, yet in the instant matter the factual position remains that the
complaint as it stands lacks ingredients constituting the offence
under Section 498A and Section 3/4 Dowry Prohibition Act against the
appellants who are sister and brother of the complainant’s husband and
their involvement in the whole incident appears only by way of a
casual inclusion of their names. Hence, it cannot be overlooked that
it would be total abuse of the process of law if we were to remand
the matter to the High Court to consider whether there were still any
material to hold that the trial should proceed against them in spite of
absence of prima facie material constituting the offence alleged
against them.
24. However, we deem it appropriate to add by way of caution
that we may not be misunderstood so as to infer that even if there are
allegation of overt act indicating the complicity of the members of
the family named in the FIR in a given case, cognizance would be
unjustified but what we wish to emphasize by highlighting is that, if
the FIR as it stands does not disclose specific allegation against
accused more so against the co-accused specially in a matter arising
out of matrimonial bickering, it would be clear abuse of the legal and
judicial process to mechanically send the named accused in the FIR to
undergo the trial unless of course the FIR discloses specific
allegations which would persuade the court to take cognisance of the
offence alleged against the relatives of the main accused who are prima
facie not found to have indulged in physical and mental torture of the
complainant-wife. It is the well settled principle laid down in cases
too numerous to mention, that if the FIR did not disclose the
commission of an offence, the court would be justified in quashing the
proceedings preventing the abuse of the process of law.
Simultaneously, the courts are expected to adopt a cautious approach
in matters of quashing specially in cases of matrimonial dispute
whether the FIR in fact discloses commission of an offence by the
relatives of the principal accused or the FIR prima facie discloses a
case of over-implication by involving the entire family of the
accused at the instance of the complainant, who is out to settle her
scores arising out of the teething problem or skirmish of domestic
bickering while settling down in her new matrimonial surrounding.
25. In the case at hand, when the brother and unmarried sister
of the principal accused Shyamji Mehrotra approached the High Court
for quashing the proceedings against them, inter-alia, on the ground
of lack of territorial jurisdiction as also on the ground that no
case was made out against them under Sections 498A,/323/504/506
including Sections 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, it was the legal
duty of the High Court to examine whether there were prima facie
material against the appellants so that they could be directed to
undergo the trial, besides the question of territorial jurisdiction.
The High Court seems to have overlooked all the pleas that were raised
and rejected the petition on the solitary ground of territorial
jurisdiction giving liberty to the appellants to approach the trial
court.
26. The High Court in our considered opinion appear to have
missed that assuming the trial court had territorial jurisdiction, it
was still left to be decided whether it was a fit case to send the
appellants for trial when the FIR failed to make out a prima facie
case against them regarding the allegation of inflicting physical and
mental torture to the complainant demanding dowry from the
complainant. Since the High Court has failed to consider all these
aspects, this Court as already stated hereinbefore, could have remitted
the matter to the High Court to consider whether a case was made out
against the appellants to proceed against them. But as the contents of
the FIR does not disclose specific allegation against the brother and
sister of the complainant’s husband except casual reference of their
names, it would not be just to direct them to go through protracted
procedure by remanding for consideration of the matter all over again
by the High Court and make the unmarried sister of the main accused and
his elder brother to suffer the ordeal of a criminal case pending
against them specially when the FIR does not disclose ingredients of
offence under Sections 498A/323/504/506, IPC and Sections 3/4 of the
Dowry Prohibition Act.
27. We, therefore, deem it just and legally appropriate to
quash the proceedings initiated against the appellants Geeta Mehrotra
and Ramji Mehrotra as the FIR does not disclose any material which
could be held to be constituting any offence against these two
appellants. Merely by making a general allegation that they were also
involved in physical and mental torture of the complainant-respondent
No.2 without mentioning even a single incident against them as also
the fact as to how they could be motivated to demand dowry when they
are only related as brother and sister of the complainant’s husband,
we are pleased to quash and set aside the criminal proceedings in so
far as these appellants are concerned and consequently the order passed
by the High Court shall stand overruled. The appeal accordingly is
allowed.
……………………………J
(T.S. Thakur)
……………………………J
(Gyan Sudha Misra)
New Delhi,
October 17, 2012
———————–
25

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