Can Wife From Void Marriage Lodge FIR Under Section 498A?

Recently, the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir has ruled that a man and his relatives can be booked for the offence of cruelty u/s 498A of Ranbir Penal Code, even if the marriage between the accused and the complainant woman was void.

Hon’ble Court held that when a man enters into a marital arrangement with a woman, he will be defined as a husband as contained in 498A RPC, even if the marriage was illegitimate.

Background:

In her complaint, the responded woman stated that she married one Kuldeep Kumar two years back and a child was born out of wedlock.

The complainant alleged that her husband and in-laws used to harass and assault her and she was thrown out of her matrimonial home. It was also alleged that the husband who was in the army refused to pay maintenance to her.

The FIR was challenged by the Petitioners ( parents, wife, and another woman who claims to be legally wedded to the man) in the J&K High Court.

Learned Counsel for the Petitioners submitted that since the accused was already married to a woman, there was no scope of him marrying until the first wife was alive.

The Petitioners further argued that an offence u/s 498Acannot be made out since the complainant was not legally married to Kuldeep Kuma(Husband).

Documents supporting the aforesaid claim were placed before the Court. It was submitted that the investigative agency also confirmed that Kumar was already married to another lady when married the complainant.

A reference was made to Hindi Law, which states that a second marriage would be void ab initio if the first wife were still alive.

The Petitioners further argued that since the husband cannot be recognised as a legally recognised husband, he and his parents cannot be booked u/s 498A of RPC.

Decision of the Court

Hon’ble Court relied on A Subhash Babu vs State of AP & Anr and held that when a man enters into a marriage with a woman, he is covered by the definition of ‘husband’ as mentioned u/s 498A even if the marriage was not legitimate.

Therefore, even if the complainant was not married to the accused, the accused and his relatives can be prosecuted for offences u/s 498A.

The Court dismissed the petition and directed the police to investigate the case. Interim stay on the probe was lifted as well.

Case Details:-

Title: Karnail Chand & Ors vs State of J&J & Anr

CaseNo.: CRMC 560/2018,CrlM No. 1496/2020

Date of Order: 23.12.2020

Coram: Hon’ble Justice Sanjay Dhar

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