A man who is having an extra-marital affair cannot be held guilty of cruelty and sentenced to three-year imprisonment, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. The court also held a man cannot be declared guilty of abetting suicide of his wife if she takes the extreme step after knowing about his extra-marital relationship.
“Extra-marital relationship, per se, or as such would not come within the ambit of Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). It would be an illegal or immoral act, but other ingredients are to be brought home so that it would constitute a criminal offence,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy said.
According to Section 498-A of the IPC, a husband or his relative subjecting a woman to physical or mental cruelty can be sentenced to maximum period of three years of jail with fine.
The court said some additional evidence would be required to hold a man guilty of cruelty as having an extra-marital relationship was not enough for it, though it may be a ground to seek divorce.
Even if the illicit relationship is proven by the prosecution, unless some other acceptable evidence is brought on record to establish such high degree of mental cruelty that would compel a woman to commit suicide, a man cannot be convicted under Section 306 of the IPC, the court said. Under Section 306, a man held guilty of abetting a suicide can be jailed for maximum period of 10 years.
“Solely because the husband is involved in an extra-marital relationship and there is some suspicion in the mind of wife, that cannot be regarded as mental cruelty which would attract mental cruelty for satisfying the ingredients of Section 306, IPC,” the bench said.
The apex court explained the legal position while acquitting K V Prakash Babu from Karnataka’s Kolar district. He was sentenced to four years in jail for abetting suicide of wife Anjanamma.
The woman hanged herself after hearing from people around the locality that her husband had an extra-marital relationship. After her death, her mother and brother also committed suicide, and the husband was held guilty under Sections 498-A and 306 of the IPC.
The court said there was no evidence on record to show that the man treated his wife with cruelty. It noted that the seed of suspicion planted in the woman’s mind led to the tragedy.
SOURCE: Deccan Herald