March 27, 2023

Omnibus dowry allegations don’t merit prosecution: Supreme Court | India News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: Citing misuse of penal provisions for dowry harassment to settle personal scores by dragging in-laws and other relatives in criminal proceedings, the Supreme Court on Tuesday held that general and omnibus allegations cannot be a ground for prosecution and asked courts to be careful and cautious in dealing with such complaints.
A bench of Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari said the apex court in its numerous judgements had expressed concern and warned courts not to proceed against the relatives of the husband when no prima facie case is made out against them. The court passed the order while quashing criminal proceedings lodged by a woman in Bihar against her husband and in-laws. As the husband, who was also made an accused did not challenge the FIR, the court refrained from dealing with the allegations against him and granted relief to his five relatives in the case.
“….this court has at numerous instances expressed concern over the misuse of section 498A of IPC and the increased tendency of implicating relatives of the husband in matrimonial disputes, without analysing the long term ramifications of a trial on the complainant as well as the accused. It is further manifest from the said judgments that false implication by way of general omnibus allegations made in the course of matrimonial dispute, if left unchecked, would result in misuse of the process of law. Therefore, this court by way of its judgments has warned the courts from proceeding against the relatives and in-laws when no prima facie case is made out against them,” it said.
While granting relief to the petitioner, the court noted that there was no specific allegation against the in-laws and the woman’s allegations were general in nature which was not sufficient enough to hold trial.
“Upon a perusal of the contents of the FIR, it is revealed that general allegations are levelled against the appellants. The complainant alleged that ‘all accused harassed her mentally and threatened her of terminating her pregnancy’. Furthermore, no specific and distinct allegations have been made against either of the appellants herein, i.e., none of the appellants have been attributed any specific role in furtherance of the general allegations made against them. This simply leads to a situation wherein one fails to ascertain the role played by each accused in furtherance of the offence,” the bench said.
“The allegations are therefore general and omnibus and can at best be said to have been made out on account of small skirmishes. Insofar as the husband is concerned, since he has not appealed against the order of the high court, we have not examined the veracity of allegations made against him. However, as far as the appellants are concerned, the allegations made against them being general and omnibus, do not warrant prosecution,” it said..
The court said facing trial leaves a person with a permanent scar even after getting acquitted and holding trial in such cases should be discouraged.
“Therefore, upon consideration of the relevant circumstances and in the absence of any specific role attributed to the accused appellants, it would be unjust if the they are forced to go through the tribulations of a trial, i.e., general and omnibus allegations cannot manifest in a situation where the relatives of the complainant’s husband are forced to undergo trial. It has been highlighted by this court in varied instances, that a criminal trial leading to an eventual acquittal also inflicts severe scars upon the accused, and such an exercise must therefore be discouraged,” the bench said.

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