Court concerned over misuse of law

A Delhi court has expressed concern over growing propensity to rope in innocent persons as accused in cases relating to cruelty against married women and sought a vigilant approach from lower courts in prosecuting relatives of the accused husband.

“A tendency has emerged to rope in family members of the husband in cases of Section 498A (cruelty against women), of the IPC. Concrete allegations with regard to the date, the place, the manner, the act of cruelty should be present in the evidence in order to frame charge,” Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) S K Sarvaria said.

Upholding an order of a magistrate who discharged the husband and his family members in a harassment case lodged by his estranged wife, the ASJ said, “Because of the present propensity to rope in innocent persons, the trial courts have to be vigilant while framing charges for offence of cruelty.

The prosecution had challenged the lower court’s order discharging five accused from the charges of subjecting complainant Kiran to cruelty in 2002 here.

After filing of the chargesheet, the Magistrate had discharged them of the charges saying it did not find concrete evidence to proceed with the case.

The “judicial mind” needed to be applied considering the facts and circumstances of each case while framing the charges, the ASJ said upholding the findings of the lower court.

The ASJ said that the courts were empowered to differ with the findings of probe agencies if they found lacunae in their investigation.

“The court is not expected to act as the Post Office to the decision of investigating agency. When there is some suspicion but not grave suspicion, it is empowered to discharge the accused if the circumstances so warrant,” he said.

The court said that “vague and bald” statements cannot be the foundation for framing of charge.

“When allegations are levelled, the courts are not expected to accept them without applying a judicial mind to the facts and circumstances of the case. The framing of a charge is not a knee-jerk reaction, but is an application of the judicial mind to the evidence before the court,” it said.

The court said that the woman had failed to come up with any specific instance of cruelty in her complaint.

Facing a criminal trial is not an easy task, it is an ordeal. A person accused of an offence is not only socially stigmatised, but also has to invest time, money and energy in protecting his liberty and reputation,” it said.