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‘Married woman told to do household work will not be seen as maid servant’: Bombay HC

While quashing a FIR filed against husband and family, the Bombay HC remarked that household work done for the family does not make the wife a maid

Sabrangindia 28 Oct 2022

Maid Servant
Image Courtesy:maharashtratimes.com

On October 21, the Bombay High Court dismissed a domestic abuse case after ruling that Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code does not apply when a married woman is ordered to do household duties. The Bombay High Court's Aurangabad bench, which delivered the decision, stated that when asked to perform home duties, a married lady is not being viewed as a "maid servant."

The division bench of Justices Vibha V. Kankanwadi and Rajesh S. Patil further noted that the complainant's FIR did not mention the fact that a housemaid was already employed, adding that if the woman had any reservations about performing household duties, she should have communicated those before marriage to the groom's family as the prior knowledge may alter their decision.

"If a married lady is asked to do household work definitely for the purpose of the family, it cannot be said that it is like a maid servant. If she had no wish to do her household activities, then she ought to have told it either prior to the marriage so that the bride-groom can rethink about the marriage itself or if it is after marriage, then such problem ought to have been sorted out earlier", the court stated in Para 7 of its order.

The woman alleged her complaint that since her marriage in December 2019, she has been treated like a housemaid. The woman had also alleged that her in-laws had tormented her physically and mentally after she refused to give them Rs. 4 lakh after the wedding to buy a car since she said her father was not wealthy.

An FIR was filed in Nanded Police station on June 27, 2020, alleging that the woman had been physically tortured. In the said FIR, she had further claimed that the husband's family took her to a doctor for the birth of a son. The doctor said that the gestation period is not complete. Thereafter her mother-in-law and sister-in-law assaulted her and accused her of defrauding them, as reported by LiveLaw.

The victim's husband and his family were charged under several IPC provisions, including Sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (intentional insult) and 506 (criminal intimidation) were also added in the domestic violence case.

The husband and his family filed a motion with the court asking for the FIR to be dismissed, arguing that the woman had brought identical claims against her former husband and his family and that they had been found not guilty.

Advocate Sagar Bhingare, appearing for the husband and his family members, further added that the marriage between the parties took place on December 12, 2019, while the wife filed a report on September 9, 2020. The claimed event took place on June 27, 2020, at her father's home. It seems unlikely that such an incidence would have occurred within the first five or six months of the marriage.

Additionally, Advocate Bhingare submitted that, on February 28, 2020, the spouse had bought a four-wheeler for more than 17 lakhs. Therefore, it should not even be a consideration that the husband had coerced the wife into asking her father for money in order to buy a car.

The wife's advocate as well as APP S. J. Salgare for the state both argued that since the inquiry had already been completed and there was sufficient evidence to support the charges, the FIR should not be quashed.

The court rejected the allegations, not before noting that the woman's use of the judicial system in the past did not indicate that she had a pattern of filing complaints of this nature. The HC dismissed the FIR based on the reasoning that the evidence was insufficient to hold the husband and his family accountable for the alleged crimes unless the allegations of mental and physical harassment were "detailed."

“The allegations that have been made and the collection of evidence is not sufficient even at this prima facie stage to attract the ingredients of offence punishable under Section 498 A of the IPC,” stated the bench in its order.

The wife's FIR only obliquely claims that she was treated like a maid servant after being treated decently for a month, the judge noted.

“According to her own FIR, which is then supported by in stereotype way by her parents and other relatives that she was treated properly for about a month, it is then vaguely stated that she was treated like a maid servant. She has not given details of the same,” the judge stated in Para 7 of the order.

The court added that she has not provided any information on the alleged verbal and physical harassment she has experienced.

"Mere use of the word harassment "mentally and physically" are not sufficient to attract ingredients of Section 498-A of IPC", the court stated in Para 8 of the order.

The wife's failure to explicitly disclose in her FIR how she learned she was pregnant was also observed by the court. There is no question about the pregnancy's end and the child's delivery unless she was carrying the baby. According to the court, these details appear to be deliberately kept ambiguous. The court noticed that no information on the assault by the husband accusing her of cheating on them was provided in the FIR. The court concluded that when such omnibus accusations are made, they do not meet the requirements of Section 498-A of the IPC.

The court also observed that if the alleged assault by the wife's mother-in-law and sister-in-law occurred at her father's house, the evidence does not demonstrate why the wife traveled to her parents home and why she remained silent for more than two months before filing the report.

"The allegations those have been made and the collection of evidence is not sufficient even at this prima facie stage to attract the ingredients of offence punishable under Section 498-A of IPC, further as regards offence under Section 323, 504, 506 read with Section 34 of IPC is concerned, it is in fact already conferred under Section 498-A of IPC and unless those other offences are shown which would amount to "cruelty", offence under Section 498-A of IPC cannot be made out and, therefore, it would be a futile exercise to ask the applicants to face the trial," the court stated in Para 8 of the order.

With the aforementioned observations, the court dismissed the FIR and the cases against the husband and his family that were being heard by Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Nanded.

The order can be read here.

Related:

Accused under POSCO granted bail on condition of marriage to victim: Allahabad HC
Kerala HC: “Even if a woman wears a ‘provocative dress’ that cannot give a licence to a man to outrage her modesty”
BREAKING: SC stays Bombay HC’s controversial POCSO judgment
Groping minor without physical contact, not sexual assault under POCSO Act: Bombay HC
National commissions for women and child rights decry Bom HC POCSO judgment

‘Married woman told to do household work will not be seen as maid servant’: Bombay HC

While quashing a FIR filed against husband and family, the Bombay HC remarked that household work done for the family does not make the wife a maid

Maid Servant
Image Courtesy:maharashtratimes.com

On October 21, the Bombay High Court dismissed a domestic abuse case after ruling that Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code does not apply when a married woman is ordered to do household duties. The Bombay High Court's Aurangabad bench, which delivered the decision, stated that when asked to perform home duties, a married lady is not being viewed as a "maid servant."

The division bench of Justices Vibha V. Kankanwadi and Rajesh S. Patil further noted that the complainant's FIR did not mention the fact that a housemaid was already employed, adding that if the woman had any reservations about performing household duties, she should have communicated those before marriage to the groom's family as the prior knowledge may alter their decision.

"If a married lady is asked to do household work definitely for the purpose of the family, it cannot be said that it is like a maid servant. If she had no wish to do her household activities, then she ought to have told it either prior to the marriage so that the bride-groom can rethink about the marriage itself or if it is after marriage, then such problem ought to have been sorted out earlier", the court stated in Para 7 of its order.

The woman alleged her complaint that since her marriage in December 2019, she has been treated like a housemaid. The woman had also alleged that her in-laws had tormented her physically and mentally after she refused to give them Rs. 4 lakh after the wedding to buy a car since she said her father was not wealthy.

An FIR was filed in Nanded Police station on June 27, 2020, alleging that the woman had been physically tortured. In the said FIR, she had further claimed that the husband's family took her to a doctor for the birth of a son. The doctor said that the gestation period is not complete. Thereafter her mother-in-law and sister-in-law assaulted her and accused her of defrauding them, as reported by LiveLaw.

The victim's husband and his family were charged under several IPC provisions, including Sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (intentional insult) and 506 (criminal intimidation) were also added in the domestic violence case.

The husband and his family filed a motion with the court asking for the FIR to be dismissed, arguing that the woman had brought identical claims against her former husband and his family and that they had been found not guilty.

Advocate Sagar Bhingare, appearing for the husband and his family members, further added that the marriage between the parties took place on December 12, 2019, while the wife filed a report on September 9, 2020. The claimed event took place on June 27, 2020, at her father's home. It seems unlikely that such an incidence would have occurred within the first five or six months of the marriage.

Additionally, Advocate Bhingare submitted that, on February 28, 2020, the spouse had bought a four-wheeler for more than 17 lakhs. Therefore, it should not even be a consideration that the husband had coerced the wife into asking her father for money in order to buy a car.

The wife's advocate as well as APP S. J. Salgare for the state both argued that since the inquiry had already been completed and there was sufficient evidence to support the charges, the FIR should not be quashed.

The court rejected the allegations, not before noting that the woman's use of the judicial system in the past did not indicate that she had a pattern of filing complaints of this nature. The HC dismissed the FIR based on the reasoning that the evidence was insufficient to hold the husband and his family accountable for the alleged crimes unless the allegations of mental and physical harassment were "detailed."

“The allegations that have been made and the collection of evidence is not sufficient even at this prima facie stage to attract the ingredients of offence punishable under Section 498 A of the IPC,” stated the bench in its order.

The wife's FIR only obliquely claims that she was treated like a maid servant after being treated decently for a month, the judge noted.

“According to her own FIR, which is then supported by in stereotype way by her parents and other relatives that she was treated properly for about a month, it is then vaguely stated that she was treated like a maid servant. She has not given details of the same,” the judge stated in Para 7 of the order.

The court added that she has not provided any information on the alleged verbal and physical harassment she has experienced.

"Mere use of the word harassment "mentally and physically" are not sufficient to attract ingredients of Section 498-A of IPC", the court stated in Para 8 of the order.

The wife's failure to explicitly disclose in her FIR how she learned she was pregnant was also observed by the court. There is no question about the pregnancy's end and the child's delivery unless she was carrying the baby. According to the court, these details appear to be deliberately kept ambiguous. The court noticed that no information on the assault by the husband accusing her of cheating on them was provided in the FIR. The court concluded that when such omnibus accusations are made, they do not meet the requirements of Section 498-A of the IPC.

The court also observed that if the alleged assault by the wife's mother-in-law and sister-in-law occurred at her father's house, the evidence does not demonstrate why the wife traveled to her parents home and why she remained silent for more than two months before filing the report.

"The allegations those have been made and the collection of evidence is not sufficient even at this prima facie stage to attract the ingredients of offence punishable under Section 498-A of IPC, further as regards offence under Section 323, 504, 506 read with Section 34 of IPC is concerned, it is in fact already conferred under Section 498-A of IPC and unless those other offences are shown which would amount to "cruelty", offence under Section 498-A of IPC cannot be made out and, therefore, it would be a futile exercise to ask the applicants to face the trial," the court stated in Para 8 of the order.

With the aforementioned observations, the court dismissed the FIR and the cases against the husband and his family that were being heard by Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Nanded.

The order can be read here.

Related:

Accused under POSCO granted bail on condition of marriage to victim: Allahabad HC
Kerala HC: “Even if a woman wears a ‘provocative dress’ that cannot give a licence to a man to outrage her modesty”
BREAKING: SC stays Bombay HC’s controversial POCSO judgment
Groping minor without physical contact, not sexual assault under POCSO Act: Bombay HC
National commissions for women and child rights decry Bom HC POCSO judgment

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