The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court recently quashed a cruelty case under Section 498A of Indian Penal Code (IPC) against a woman judicial officer (applicant) booked for cruelty against her brother's wife [Vrushali Jayesh Kore vs State of Maharashtra].
A division bench of Justices Anuja Prabhudessai and RM Joshi said that 'bruised' reputation of a person cannot be restored even after judicial reprieve.
The Court invoked William Shakespeare to explain how unfounded criminal charges and long drawn criminal prosecution can have serious consequences on a person's life.
"A person subjected to such litigation suffers immense mental trauma, humiliation and monetary loss. Reckless imputations can also result in serous repercussion on career progression and future pursuits and most importantly it stigmatizes reputation, brings disrepute and lowers the image of a person amongst friends, family and colleagues. It is to be noted that loss of character or bruised reputation cannot be restored even by judicial reprieve," the bench observed in the order passed on December 7, 2022.
In its order, the bench quoted Shakespeare:
“Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, is the immediate jewel of their souls: Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing; ’twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands: But he that filches from me my good name Robs me of that which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed.”
In legal parlance, the bench said the right to reputation and dignity of an individual is held to be an integrated part of Articles 21 and 19(2) of the Constitution.
"Therefore, it is imperative for the Court in fit cases, to safeguard and protect the rights of every person subjected to such litigation and prevent misuse of criminal process for personal vendetta," the bench added.
The judicial officer was booked in a first information report (FIR) lodged in June 2019 along with her bother and other family members.
She was accused of subjecting her sister-in-law to mental and physical cruelty.
The sister-in-law, in her FIR, had pointed out to certain instances wherein the applicant had tortured her. One of the instances cited was that the applicant had ordered chicken biryani for herself and her brother and asked her sister-in-law to prepare her own food.
Other instances included compelling the sister-in-law to get ready in an unused washroom, not to raise voice against in-laws etc.
Another such instance was when complainant stated that since the applicant is a judicial officer, she ought to have intervened the dispute between her brother and sister-in-law, impartially rather than being biased and supporting her brother and blaming his wife.
The bench having considered the contentions, held that the FIR was a classic example of roping in family members of the husband under Section 498A to settle personal scores with the husband.
"The unfounded proceedings, qua the applicant, need to be quashed to prevent the abuse of the process of the Court, to protect the right of the applicant and thus to secure the ends of justice," the bench said.
With these observations, the bench quashed the FIR and the subsequent proceedings.
Advocate AR Devkate appeared for the Applicant.
Additional Public Prosecutor PG Borade represented the State.
Advocate TK Sant appeared for the complainant.