A woman, who is forced to leave her matrimonial home due to harassment, can file a case against her estranged husband and in-laws at the place where she resides thereafter, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said that a woman, who is forced to leave her in-laws’ home due to commission of cruelty on her, is allowed to initiate criminal proceedings under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code from any place she sought shelter in — be it a temporary arrangement or from the residence of her parents.
The judgment, which comes as a big relief for the victims of dowry harassment, settles the debate on the issue regarding the place of filing of the case under the above section.
Earlier, criminal proceedings could only be initiated by complainant from the place where the offence occurred as Section 177 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) made it compulsory that a criminal case shall be filed and the trial should be conducted in courts which had jurisdiction over where a crime occurred.
In January 2014, the apex court had observed that a case connected to the cruelty in a dowry harassment case can be registered and the trial conducted in a different jurisdiction from where the woman’s matrimonial house was.
Tuesday’s judgement came on an appeal filed by Rupali Devi.
The Allahabad High Court had dismissed her plea in a dowry harassment case, as she had fled from her matrimonial home to her parents’ residence, observing that under Section 498A, cruelty is not an offence which is continuing, and therefore, it cannot be investigated, or eventually punished, in a jurisdiction other than the matrimonial house of the victim.
However, the apex court has identified cruelty as a continuing offence under Section 498A, and the woman can file a dowry harassment case from the place where she has sought shelter.