Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Keeping a mistress inflicts mental cruelty on wife: Bombay HC

MUMBAI: Keeping a mistress amounts to inflicting mental cruelty on the wife, the Bombay high court has ruled. Sixteen years after a young Chandrakala, a resident of Nashik, committed suicide, Justice AR Joshi upheld the six month jail term awarded to her husband Ratan Jagzap on grounds of subjecting her to cruelty.

"In the opinion of this court, the trial court has rightly appreciated the evidence of prosecution witnesses inasmuch as the proof of the offence concerning mental cruelty due to illicit relations of (Ratan) with another woman," said Justice Joshi.

Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code is more popularly known as the provision to book men accused of harassing their wives for dowry. The same law also has a provision that can be invoked against a man and his relatives for subjecting his wife to cruelty. The cruelty can be physical or mental and, if found guilty, a person can be punished with a maximum jail term of three years.

In November 1995, Chandrakala had committed suicide by consuming insecticide. Police investigations reveled that a few days earlier, she had made enquiries and found out that her husband had a mistress and was living with her.

Ratan had moved in with another woman, Ujwala, in Dhule. She was the wife of one Rajmal, who used the transport services run by Ratan. Ujwala and Ratan started meeting thanks to this link and an extra-marital affair ensued. Soon, Ratan and his son began living with Ujwala and her son.

Following Chandrakala's death, police charged Ratan with subjecting his wife to cruelty and abetting her suicide.

The trial court held him guilty of the cruelty but acquitted him of the charge of driving Chandrakala to suicide. The trial court said Chandrakala may have become sentimental after knowing that her husband had kept a mistress and out of desperation she had taken the extreme step of committing suicide.

Ratan was on bail during the pendency of his appeal in the high court. When the matter came up for hearing recently, Ratan or his lawyers failed to appear before the judge. A warrant was issued and Ratan was taken into custody as the high court heard his appeal.

"Deceased Chandrakala tried to stop her husband from having illicit relations with Ujwala but in vain. This conduct of the accused is considered as mainly cruelty to his wife and for this reason punishment was awarded," said Justice Joshi, while upholding the trial court's verdict sentencing Ratan to six months in jail and asking him to pay a fine of Rs 500. Since the state had not filed any appeal challenging Ratan's acquittal on the charges of abetting his wife's suicide, the HC said it was not considering that aspect.

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