Mere Recovery Of Stridhan Can’t Be Sole Ground For Arresting A Person For Offences U/S 498A, 406 IPC: Delhi HC
In a very significant, suave and sagacious decision titled Pooran Singh vs State of Delhi in Bail Appln. 2029/2018 which shall have far reaching implications in matrimonial cases and that was delivered as recently as on December 10, 2021, the Delhi High Court has minced just no words to state in simple, straight and suave language that the mere fact that recovery of stridhan is to be made from a person cannot be the sole ground for arresting him for offences under Section 498-A (related to dowry demand) and 406 (criminal breach of trust) of the IPC. It must be mentioned here that a single Judge Bench of Justice Subramonium Prasad observed that in such cases, police are empowered under CrPC to conduct searches of premises of the accused. The Bench also made it crystal clear that, “Custodial interrogation of the Petitioner is being sought only for recovery of stridhan. The recovery of stridhan alone cannot be a reason to deny anticipatory bail to the Petitioner. The police are vested with sufficient powers under the CrPC to conduct searches of premises.”
To start with, the single Judge Bench of Justice Subramonium Prasad of the Delhi High Court who authored this noteworthy judgment sets the ball rolling by first and foremost mentioning about the purpose of the application stating in para 1 that, “This application under Section 438 Cr.P.C. has been filed for grant of bail to the petitioner in the event of arrest in FIR No. 56/2018 dated 11.02.2018, registered at PS Model Town for offences under Sections 498-A, 406 and 34 of IPC.”
As we see, the Bench then puts forth in para 2 that, “The relevant portion of the impugned order vide application no – 1680/2018 in FIR no – 56/2018 passed by the Additional Special Judge, Rohini, as extracted from the impugned order dated 04.08.2018 is as follows:
“….. Since, the custodial interrogation of the applicant is required to recover the dowry articles and stridhan and the complainant is receiving the threat constantly on whatsapp from the applicant. I find no ground to admit the accused on bail, at this stage…..”
Aggrieved by this impugned order, the petitioner herein has filed the present bail application.”
To put things in perspective, the Bench then while elaborating on the facts of the case envisages in para 3 that, “The factual matrix which has transpired in this case is as under –:
(a) A complaint was filed by Anjali Sogarwal on 13.04.2017 to the SHO, PS Model Town, The DCP, Model Town and the Deputy Commissioner of Police, EOW office stating that her husband Pooran Singh who is the petitioner herein, her mother-in-law Ratna Devi and both her sisters-in-law Kamlesh and Lata had insulted, beaten, pressurized, harassed and tortured the complainant for more dowry and threatened that if the complainant wanted a peaceful life, her father must further arrange a dowry amount of Rs. 50 Lacs.
(b) It was also stated that the petitioner herein illegally procured the complainant’s SIM card from the service provider and uploaded pictures of his wife i.e. the complainant on social media websites and it is also stated that the petitioner sent abusive/insulting messages from the complainant’s social media accounts to the friends of the complainant with malafide intentions. Based on the said complaint, FIR No. – 56/2018, dated 11.02.2018 was registered at PS Model Town, North West Delhi for offences under Sections 498-A, 406 and 34 of IPC.
(c) It is stated that on 16.02.2017, the complainant’s father transferred Rs. 90 thousand into the accused’s account and Rs. 1.5 Lacs into the complainant’s account which was further transferred into her husband’s account.
(d) It is further stated that on 21.01.2017, the petitioner herein invited three female friends of the complainant, one male friend, both the complainant’s brothers and one relative of the accused, namely, Ravi. It is stated that the petitioner herein mixed alcohol and served it to all her friends and took inappropriate photos and threatened them that he would upload it on the internet.
(e) It is also stated that the petitioner herein has taken the stridhan of the complainant and forcibly given it to his mother. It is stated that on 09.03.2017, the petitioner herein fought with the complainant and threw her out of the house and that the passport, ID and clothes of the complainant is with her husband who is the petitioner herein. It is also stated that the petitioner herein used all these documents to procure the SIM card from the service provider and logged into the complainant’s social media accounts by using the mobile number.
(f) It is also stated that the petitioner herein forced the complainant to bring money from her parents and the complainant had to go through physical, mental and emotional torture.
(g) It is also stated that the petitioner herein forcibly committed explicit and unnatural relationship and also showed inappropriate pictures to her.
(h) It is also stated that on 25.03.2017, the petitioner herein was harassing the complainant after which the complainant called the Women helpline number 1091.”
As it turned out, the Bench then states in para 4 that, “A Complaint was filed by the petitioner herein dated 20.03.2018 to the Commissioner of Police, I.P. Estate, ITO, New Delhi against the complainant i.e. Anjali Sogarwal, the complainant’s father i.e. Ramphal Singh, the complainant’s mother i.e. Sarngi, complainant’s brothers Amit Sogarwal and Mohit Sogarwal. It was stated in the complaint that Anjali Sogarwal (wife of petitioner) was not happy with her marriage and used to abuse her husband who is the petitioner. It is stated in the complaint that the petitioner was threatened by the complainant’s father stating that he works as an officer in Delhi Police Department and the accused should obey the complainant’s wishes, otherwise he would face dire consequences. It is also stated that on 10.03.2017, the wife of the petitioner left the house without giving any reason. It is also stated that the complainant lodged a written complaint at the CAW Cell, New Delhi against the petitioner herein under Section 12 of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005, which is pending before Rohini, District Court, Delhi and also filed the present FIR no – 56/2018.”
Furthermore, the Bench then discloses in para 5 that, “Status report was filed which stated that on 10.06.2017, the complainant received a text message from the petitioner admitting that he was lying throughout. He also admitted that all the jewellery, passport and other personal belongings of the complainant are with the petitioner and that the petitioner hacked the Facebook account of the complainant by using her SIM which was illegally procured. Further, he exerted pressure on the complainant’s friends to extract more information on the complainant. On 30.08.2018, the petitioner herein moved an anticipatory bail application before this Hon’ble Court and this Court granted interim protection to the petitioner herein, subject to him joining the investigation. The petitioner herein joined the investigation, but did not cooperate during the investigations.”
On the one hand, the Bench points out in para 6 that, “Mr. S.V. Rateria, Learned counsel for the Petitioner, states that the wedding of the petitioner and the complainant took place on 08.12.2016 and the complainant left her matrimonial house on 10.03.2017 without any rhyme or reason, and since then she has been residing at her parental house. The learned counsel submitted that the father of the complainant is Assistant Sub Inspector in Delhi Police and that he is threatening the petitioner herein and his family with dire consequences. He also submitted that the petitioner herein has joined the proceedings before the CAW Cell and the investigation before the concerned Investigating Officer. The learned counsel for petitioner also stated that the FIR no – 56/2018 does not contain any specific allegations regarding the entrustment of stridhan against the accused. The Learned Counsel for the Petitioner relied on the case of Neera Singh v. State, CRLMC-7262/2006 regarding the justification of marriage expenses, observing that the complainant needs to provide necessary documents to make a prima facie case in her favour. The Learned Counsel for the Petitioner prayed to enlarge the Petitioner on bail in case of his arrest in FIR no – 56/2018.”
On the other hand, the Bench then also notes in para 7 that, “Per contra, Mr. Amit Chadha, Learned APP for the State, and Ms. Mallika Parmar, Learned Advocate for the complainant, vehemently opposed the Bail Application by submitting that custodial interrogation of the Petitioner is required to recover the dowry/stridhan articles and the recovery of the mobile phone which was used for sending messages to the complainant and from which the complainants Facebook account’s hacking was done.”
Most significantly, what must capture maximum eyeballs is that the Bench then holds in para 9 after hearing both sides and perusing the material on record that, “The Petitioner is accused of offence under Sections 498-A, 406 IPC. The perusal of the status report shows that the custodial interrogation of the Petitioner is being sought only for recovery of stridhan. The recovery of stridhan alone cannot be a reason to deny anticipatory bail to the Petitioner. The police are vested with sufficient powers under the Cr.P.C to conduct searches of premises. Further, the material on record shows that there are cross-complaints. The petitioner had filed a complaint in 2018 stating that the complainant’s father is threatening him. There is nothing on record to show that the Petitioner and his family are in such a position that they would be able to threaten the witnesses. It is trite law that the Police Officer before arresting the accused who is accused of offence which is punishable with imprisonment for a period of seven years has to be satisfied that such arrest is necessary to prevent a person from committing any further offence; or for proper investigation of the case; or to prevent the accused from causing the evidence of the offence to disappear; or tampering with such evidence in any manner; or to prevent such person from making any inducement, threat or promise to a witness so as to dissuade him by disclosing such facts to the Courts or the Police Officer; or unless such accused person is arrested, his presence in the court whenever required cannot be ensured. As stated earlier, the mere fact that the recovery of stridhan cannot be the sole ground for arresting a person for an offence under Sections 498-A and 406 IPC.”
As a corollary, the Bench then invariably finds no difficulty in holding in para 10 that, “For the above said reasons, this Court is inclined to grant bail to the Petitioner in the event of arrest on the following conditions:
(a) The Petitioner shall furnish a personal bond in the sum of Rs.50,000/- with two sureties of the like amount, one of them should be a relative of the Petitioner, to the satisfaction of the Investigating Officer/SHO concerned;
(b) The Petitioner is directed to reside at the address mentioned in the Memo of Parties i.e. House No. – C – 4/7, 3 rd Floor, Street No.-1, Acharya Niketan, Mayur Vihar, Delhi, 110091. If there is any change in the address, he is directed to intimate the same to the Investigating Officer;
(c) The Petitioner is directed to report to the concerned Police Station twice in a week i.e. every Tuesday and Friday and shall join the investigation as and when required by the Investigating Officer and an advance intimation of 24 hours be given to the Petitioner;
(d) The Petitioner is directed to give all his mobile numbers to the Investigating Officer and to keep them operational at all times;
(e) The Petitioner is directed to attend all the proceedings of the Trial Court through Virtual Court or physically.
(f) The Petitioner is directed not to threaten and contact the complainant or her family. In case Petitioner attempts to do so, his protection shall stand forfeited.
(g) Violation of any of the above conditions by the Petitioner would result in the immediate cancellation of the bail granted.”
Finally and for the sake of clarity, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 12 that, “Be it noted that this Court has not made any observations on the merits of the case.”
In conclusion, the Single Judge Bench of Justice Subramonium Prasad has made it ostensibly clear that the mere recovery of stridhan can’t be sole ground for arresting a person for offences under Section 498A and 406 of IPC. But it was also made clear that in such cases, the police are empowered under CrPC to conduct search of premises of the accused. Of course, the Delhi High Court also made it abundantly clear that there have to be compelling ground for arresting the accused person for offences under Section 498A and 406 of IPC and not otherwise. Very rightly so!