The Supreme Court has ruled that a girlfriend or a concubine is not a relative and therefore cannot be prosecuted for an offence under section 498 (A) of the IPC (cruelty for dowry).
A bench comprising Justices S P Sinha and R M Lodha, while allowing the appeal of U Suvetha, the alleged girlfriend of Tutus Gunaraj the husband of the complainant, in its judgment noted," By no stretch of imagination, a girlfriend or even a concubine in an etymological sense would be relative.
"The word relative brings within its purview a status. v Such a status must be conferred either by blood, marriage or adoption. If no marriage has taken place, the question of one being relative of another would not arise." Suvetha had filed an appeal against the judgment of the Madras High court August 1, 2008, which dismissed her petition for discharging the case.
Justice Sinha, while writing the 18-page judgment for the bench, however, noted," It is not the case of the first informant that the appellant had any role to play with regard to demand of dowry.
The word cruelty having being defined in terms of the aforesaid explanation, no other meaning, can be attributed there too.
Living with another woman may be an act of cruelty on part of the husband for the purpose of judicial separation or dissolution of marriage but the same, in our opinion , would not attract the wrath of section 498 (A) of the Indian Penal Code.
In the absence of any statutory definition, the term relative must be assigned a meaning as is commonly understood." The apex court set aside the impugned judgment of the High Court and concluded by saying, "We would assume that the term husband would bring within its fold a person who is said to have contracted a marriage with another woman and subjected her to cruelty."
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