The bond of marriage is sacrosanct. All faiths of our world enshrine that men and women love each other to further the cause of this institution. However, for those who fail, what is the recourse in law for a woman who is subjected to domestic violence and is forced out of her matrimonial home by her husband? In times of such unfamiliar pain, she may want to seek shelter amidst the familiarity of her paternal home; however, can she file a criminal suit against her husband from this place? The answer is actually more complicated than it seems.

adult alone anxious black and white
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

I am bringing this up only because of the judgment pronounced by the Supreme Court on the 09th of April, 2019, in Rupali Devi v. State of Uttar Pradesh [Criminal Appeal 71/2012 before the Supreme Court of India]. Rupali Devi was born in the district of Deoria, Uttar Pradesh, and she has married a man residing within the neighbouring district of Mau, Uttar Pradesh. The couple was blessed with a male child as well; but the marriage suffered a nosedive soon after. Rupali was forced out of her matrimonial home on the count of dowry and she had no option but to seek shelter in her paternal home. Rupali, immediately, filed a criminal case against her husband before the Chief Judicial Magistrate (‘CJM’) at Deoria. The CJM at Deoria took cognizance of this matter and he issued a summoning-order against the husband of Rupali. The issue begins here, for the said husband approached the High Court of Allahabad contending that the purported offense of domestic violence has transpired at Mau and thus the CJM at Deoria has no territorial jurisdiction to issue a summoning-order in this case. The High Court of Allahabad agreed with the husband and quashed the complaint filed against him by declaring that the CJM at Deoria has no territorial jurisdiction in this case. Rupali has approached the Supreme Court in appeal, and this case was referred to a Three-Judge Bench of the Court for an authoritative pronouncement.

The Supreme Court has now established that “the emotional distress or psychological effect on the wife, if not the physical injury, is bound to continue to traumatize the wife even after she leaves the matrimonial home and takes shelter at the parental home. Even if the acts of physical cruelty committed in the matrimonial house may have ceased and such acts do not occur at the parental home, there can be no doubt that the mental trauma and the psychological distress caused by the acts of the husband, including verbal exchanges, if any, that had compelled the wife to leave the matrimonial home and take shelter with her parents would continue to persist at the parental home. We, therefore, hold that the courts at the place where the wife takes shelter after leaving or driven away from the matrimonial home on account of acts of cruelty committed by the husband or his relatives, would, dependent on the factual situation, also have jurisdiction to entertain a complaint alleging commission of offences under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.

The law is just refined common sense. The words of the Supreme Court extracted here might seem obvious to most readers, but kindly remember that we could authoritatively establish the same within our country during the year 2019! A woman suffering unfamiliar pain deserves the support of her family resting in familiar places. We may not have been able to give this relief to our women sooner, but we are capable of it now. I pray that we spread this word and ensure that no woman within our Republic is subjected to these sorts of double jeopardy again.

धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः |

By Pradeep Phaniraj

Law Clerk to the Chief Justice of India Sri. Ranjan Gogoi

Email ID – pradeep.phaniraj@gmail.com

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