Rajendra Bhagat vs State of Jharkhand, SC 2022
FACTS – The appellant and the respondent No. 2 were married on 25.05.2013. Certain disputes having arisen, the respondent No. 2 lodged an FIR bearing at Police Station, Sisai against the appellant and his family members with the allegations of demand of dowry, mental and physical torture etc.
In 2014, the chargesheet was filed for offences under Sections 498-A, 323, 417, 34 IPC against the accused persons and charges were framed accordingly. After trial, the learned Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Gumla, convicted the appellant of the offence under Section 498-A IPC and the other accused persons of the offence under Section 323 IPC. All the accused persons were acquitted of the charges under Sections 417, 34 IPC. Except the appellant, all other accused persons were given the benefit of Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 but, the appellant was sentenced to undergo simple imprisonment of three years.
The appeal preferred by the appellant, was dismissed by Sessions Judge, Gumla. Thereafter, the appellant preferred a revision petition before the High Court, being Criminal Revision.
While the said revision petition was pending, two significant events took place. The first had been sanction of competent authority for dismissal of the appellant from his military service w.e.f. 14.07.2020 for having been convicted of the offence under Section 498-A IPC. In the second relevant event, on 24.11.2020, the appellant and the respondent No. 2 submitted a joint application before the High Court, inter alia, stating that with the intervention and advice of family members, common relatives and friends, they had entered into settlement and resolved all their disputes.
It was submitted that upon the appellant approaching his wife for settlement with assurance to keep her with full honour and dignity, the proposal was accepted by the wife (respondent No. 2) with some conditions, while also undertaking to discharge her matrimonial duties. It was submitted that the parties were residing together with love and affection and with no dispute between them. It was, therefore, jointly prayed that since the dispute was a family dispute that arose due to miscommunication and misunderstanding,
The High Court took up the matter for consideration and, after taking note of the submissions of the parties that they had resolved the marital discord and were residing together while enjoying a happy conjugal life, indeed observed that continuance of the proceedings might lead to disharmony but then, merely ordered modification of sentence to the period of imprisonment already undergone by the appellant while affirming his conviction.
CAUSE – Judgment and order passed by the High Court of Jharkhand at Ranchi in Criminal Revision, has confirmed the conviction of the appellant under Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 while reducing the sentence to the period of imprisonment already undergone by the appellant.
ARGUMENTS – The learned counsel appearing for the appellant and the respondent No. 2 both have reiterated their stand that they have resolved their disputes and are living together while leading a happy conjugal life.
ISSUE – Whether the High Court, even after taking note of the settlement of the parties resolving their marital disputes, has erred in not setting aside the order of conviction altogether.
DECISION – Having examined the matter in its totality, it appears that the High Court, while disposing of the revision petition with the application moved by the parties, did not pause to consider that maintaining of conviction of the appellant of the offence under Section 498-A IPC would not be securing the ends of justice and with such conviction being maintained and the appellant losing his job, the family would again land itself in financial distress which may ultimately operate adverse to the harmony and happy conjugal life of the parties.
Taking note of the object of Section 498-A IPC, the expected approach of the High Court in the event of bona fide settlement of disputes had been duly exposited by the Supreme Court in the case of B.S. Joshi and Others v. State of Haryana and Another (2003) 4 SCC 675, where the Supreme Court has underscored the duty of the Court to encourage the genuine settlement of matrimonial disputes.
Taking note of the terms of settlement as stated in the application moved before the High Court which include the undertaking of the appellant that he would be nominating the respondent No. 2 as the nominee in his service record; and where the parties are said to be leading a happy conjugal life, the Supreme Court was clearly of the view that the High Court should have accepted the settlement and quashed all the proceedings with annulment of the orders against the appellant.
The Supreme Court allowed the appeal all the proceedings arising out of the FIR were quashed qua the appellant. The order of conviction of the appellant was set aside.