Bombay : A woman seeking action against her husband or in-laws for subjecting her to dowry harassment can only approach the local police station and court, the Bombay high court has ruled.
In a case filed by a Nashik-based family, the court recently observed that a complaint filed under section 498A of the IPC will have to be lodged at the place of offence, not at a place where the woman resides after leaving her matrimonial home.
Transferring the case to a court in Nashik, justice BR Gavai said: “It would be in the interest of justice to transfer the proceedings from the court of JMFC (judicial magistrate first class) Sahada to the court of learned chief judicial magistrate, Nashik.”
Shekhar Mahire, his parents and two sisters were booked by Sahada police in Nandurbar, after his wife, Sarika, lodged a case of dowry harassment against the family.
Sarika resided with her parents at Sahada, after she left her matrimonial house in 2007. After moving with her parents, Sarika filed a complaint under section 498A. A local court had initiated criminal proceedings against the husband and the in-laws.
The Mahires then moved the high court in 2008, seeking transfer of the case from Sahada to Nashik. The applicants claimed that the alleged offence took place at Nashik and hence only Nashik court had jurisdiction to hear it.
The court had appointed senior counsel Ashok Mundargi as an amicus curie (friend of court). Mundargi informed the court that the criminal procedure code (CrPC) states that every offence shall ordinarily be inquired into and tried by a court within whose local jurisdiction it was committed.
Mundargi also told the court that the CrPC has laid down certain exceptions in offences wherein it is not necessary to lodge the complaint at the place of offence. “Section 498A does not feature among these exceptions, and hence it cannot be lodged at a place other than the place of offence,” Mundargi informed the court.
According to the FIR, Sarika was allegedly subjected to ill-treatment at her matrimonial home in Nashik.
The judgment in the case has been stayed for eight weeks.
Criminal lawyer Satish Borulkar said: “The judgment would cause a lot of inconvenience to women, because if she is driven out of the matrimonial home she will have go to the place where she has been subjected to such a cruelty. This will defy the objective of 498A.”
Likewise, Uday Warunjikar, advocate, high court, pointed out: “This [the ruling] will create further hardship for victims under section 498A of the IPC. If the victim does not live in the same place or area where her matrimonial home is, she will be forced to be physically present in the same area.”