Single-judge bench of Bombay High Court highlighted the grounds on which a Legal terrorism was intended to be unleashed on an innocent family u/s 498A IPC, and thwarted it royally.
From Paras 9 and 10
9 Admittedly, complainant (PW-1) led a very happily married life with accused no.1. Their date of marriage is 27th June 1990 and PW-1 left the matrimonial home on 28th March 2001. As per PW-1, accused was given lot of gold, household appliances and Rs.50,000/- within three months of her marriage, which means that these things were given in the year 1990. There is no explanation as to why the complaint was then lodged only on 4th January 2002. According to PW-1, accused no.1 demanded Rs.1 lakh when he saw the retirement benefits cheque in the hand of her father and her father retired on 28th February 2001. The complaint has been lodged on 4th January 2002. The delay is not explained. Moreover, complainant left the house leaving behind her children, who were on the date she left the house were 9 years and 6 years, respectively. PW-1 never filed any custody petition or any petition for divorce. PW-1 filed maintenance petition on 10th March 2003. The delay again has not been explained.
10 It is settled law that delay in lodging the complaint cannot be used as a ritualistic formula for doubting the prosecution case and discarding the same solely on the ground of delay in lodging the complaint. At the same time, delay has the effect of putting the Court in its guard to search if any explanation has been offered for the delay, and if offered, whether it is satisfactory. If prosecution fails to satisfactorily explain the delay, the delay could be fatal to prosecution.
From Para 11,
11 In this case, there is not even an attempt by the prosecution to explain the delay. It appears that PW-1 had no problems living alone with her
parents but when PW-1 heard from her father that accused no.1 has married accused no.5 (which again has not proved), PW-1 decided to teach accused no.1 a lesson. It is unfortunate that in matters like this even the family members are getting dragged. Prosecution should refrain from dragging allfamily members unless there is enough specific evidence against the family members otherwise provisions of Section 498-A will unfortunately bemisused as a weapon.
Finally, in Para 15,
State of Maharashtra Vs Ramchandra Bhikaji Wagh on 26 February 2020
15 There is an acquittal and therefore, there is double presumption in favour of the accused. Firstly, the presumption of innocence available to the accused under the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that every person shall be presumed to be innocent unless they are proved guilty by a competent court of law. Secondly, accused having secured their acquittal, the presumption of their innocence is further reinforced, reaffirmed and strengthened by the Trial Court. For acquitting the accused, the Trial Court rightly observed that the prosecution had failed to prove its case.
Citations: [2020 SCC ONLINE BOM 331]
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