NEW DELHI: Four years after it shocked women by ruling that kicking a daughter-in-law was not an act of cruelty as defined under Section 498A of Indian Penal Code, the Supreme Court on Thursday erased it from court records.
Allowing a plea by National Commission for Women (NCW), a bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justices P Sathasivam and G S Singhvi set aside the July 27, 2009 judgment by which it had quashed the charges under Section 498A against Bhaskarlal Sharma and his wife Vimla Sharma who were summoned by the trial court for allegedly kicking their daughter-in-law Monica Sharma.
A bench of Justices S B Sinha and Cyriac Joseph had said in the 2009 judgment, “Allegations that appellant No.2 (Vimla) kicked the respondent (Monica) with her leg and told her that her mother is a liar may make out some other offence but not the one punishable under Section 498A.
“Similarly, her allegations that the appellant No.2 poisoned the ears of her son against the respondent, she gave two used lady suits of her daughter to the complainant (Monica) and has been giving perpetual sermons to the complainant could not be said to be offences punishable under Section 498A.”
However, if the mother-in-law takes away the gifts given to the couple at the time of the marriage, it amounts to ‘breach of trust’ as specified under Section 406 IPC, the bench had said.
Appearing for NCW, senior advocate Indu Malhotra on Thursday argued that if allegations of physical violence and taking away of ‘stree-dhan’ (valuables of the bride) did not constitute an offence under Section 498A of IPC, then it would send a very wrong signal and have retrograde effect on the object of the provision to curb violence and cruelty against women in matrimonial homes.
Malhotra argued that the complaint filed by Monica Sharma against her in-laws was quashed by the apex court when the matter was at the initial stage of issuance of summons by the trial court. “This will send a very wrong signal,” she said.
Solicitor general Mohan Parasaran, appearing for the government, supported the NCW’s plea for setting aside of the judgment and requested the court to consider the petition filed by Bhaskarlal Sharma and his wife Vimla Sharma afresh.
Vimla’s counsel U U Lalit questioned the locus standi of NCW in a criminal case and said the apex court did not rule that kicking of a daughter-in-law was not an offence under Section 498A but merely said after appreciating the entire evidence that a case of cruelty against the daughter-in-law was not made out.
But the bench agreed with Malhotra and Parasaran, recalled its July 27 judgment and posted the matter for fresh hearing before another bench.