Ending the Abuse of Law to Harass Husband’s Family
While conceding the gross abuse of Section 498-A of the IPC, the Delhi High Court has in a most learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled Vikram Ruhal vs Delhi Police & Ors in W.P.(C) 5718/2023 that was reserved on May 26 and then finally pronounced on May 31, 2023 minced just no words to hold unequivocally that, “The Competent Authority as well as the learned Tribunal appear to have ignored the fact that there is a growing tendency amongst the women to rope in all the relatives including minors in case an FIR is lodged with reference to matrimonial disputes. Many of such complaints are eventually either settled between the families/spouses and are later on stated to have been filed in the heat of the moment over trivial issues. The abuse of the aforesaid provision has been substantially noticed though the salutary purpose of the enactment cannot be ignored in any manner. Merely naming in the FIR does not lead to an inference that the employer can keep in abeyance the employment of an applicant for an indefinite period, even if the applicant has been placed in column No. 12 of the charge-sheet and has not been summoned.” No denying it. We thus see that the Delhi High Court upheld the decision to keep the recruitment of a petitioner named Vikram Ruhal to the post of Sub Inspector (Exe) in Delhi Police pending the final outcome of a criminal case.
At the very outset, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by Hon’ble Mr Justice Anoop Kumar Mendiratta for a Division Bench of the Delhi High Court comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice V Kameswar Rao and himself sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “The challenge in this Writ Petition is to an order dated February 20, 2023 passed by the Central Administrative Tribunal (hereinafter referred to as the “Tribunal”) whereby the Tribunal declined to set aside order dated December 02, 2020 issued by the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Recruitment NPL, Delhi thereby keeping the recruitment of the petitioner to the post of Sub Inspector (Exe) in Delhi Police pending, till final outcome of the proceedings arising out of FIR No. 234/2018, under Sections 313/323/406/498A/506/34 I.P.C., P.S.: Women Police Station, Jind.”
To recapitulate, the Division Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “In brief, the petitioner applied for the post of Sub Inspector in Delhi Police in response to the recruitment notice dated April 22, 2017 issued by the Staff Selection Commission and successfully cleared all the examinations including Tier-1 exam, Physical Endurance Test (PET), Tier-2 exam and detailed medical examination which were held between May, 2017 and September, 2018. In the interregnum, before the announcement of final result, on October 11, 2018, an FIR No.234/2018 under Sections 313/323/406/498A/506/34 IPC was registered at PS: Women Police Station, Jind by sister-in-law (Bhabhi) of the petitioner, implicating all the family members including the petitioner.
Thereafter, on October 31, 2018 on announcement of final result by SSC, petitioner was recommended for appointment as Sub Inspector in Delhi Police, subject to verification. During verification carried out by Delhi Police, petitioner disclosed about the pendency of aforesaid FIR.”
Further, the Division Bench then mentions in para 3 that, “Thereupon a show-cause notice No.6352 was issued to the petitioner by the office of Deputy Commissioner of Police on May 31, 2019 as to why the candidature of the petitioner for the post of SI (EXE) Male in Delhi Police-2017 should not be cancelled due to alleged involvement in FIR No.234/2018 under Sections 498A/406/506/313/323/34 IPC registered at PS: Women Police Station, Jind, as disclosed by him at the time of verification.”
Furthermore, the Division Bench reveals in para 4 that, “In the meantime, on November 01, 2019 charge-sheet in the aforesaid FIR was filed by the police, wherein the name of the petitioner was reflected in ‘Column 12’. The cognizance was taken by the Court of JMIC, but the petitioner was not summoned since he was placed in Column 12 on investigation by the police.”
Do note, the Division Bench notes in para 5 that, “Vide letter dated September 11, 2020 issued by the office of Deputy Commissioner of Police, Recruitment, petitioner was informed that his reply dated June 18, 2019 to the show-cause notice was examined by the Screening Committee as per S.O. No.398/2018 and decided to keep his case pending till final decision of the criminal case and, thereafter, appeal, if any preferred.”
As we see, the Division Bench lays bare in para 6 that, “Petitioner preferred two separate representations dated September 22, 2020 and September 26, 2020 before the Commissioner of Police, Delhi thereby requesting to consider his candidature to the post of Sub Inspector, reiterating that no criminal case is pending against him as his name was reflected in Column 12 of the charge-sheet. Since no response was received from respondents, petitioner left with no other option preferred O.A. No. 1605/2020 before the Tribunal, challenging the Order No. 3042/Rectt. Cell/SI (DA-I)/NPL dated September 11, 2020 issued by the respondent No.1.”
Be it noted, the Division Bench notes in para 14 that, “Keeping in perspective the guidelines laid down in Avtar Singh (supra), the Competent Authority in the present case, was required to consider the suitability of the petitioner having regard to result of investigation and cognizance taken thereupon on the charge-sheet, in FIR No. 234/2018, under Section 313/323/406/498A/506/34 IPC, PS: Women Police Station, Jind. The Competent Authority was accordingly under obligation to examine the nature of offence, the evidence appearing against the petitioner and the attendant circumstances. All matters in this regard cannot be placed in a straitjacket and a degree of flexibility and discretion does vest with the authorities, who are expected to exercise the same with care and caution.”
It cannot be glossed over that the Division Bench points out in para 15 that, “In the instant case, admittedly the petitioner had truly disclosed on verification regarding FIR No. 234/2018, under Section 313/323/406/498A/506/34 IPC, PS: Women Police Station, Jind, which was registered before announcement of result. There has been no concealment or suppression in this regard by the petitioner. The aforesaid FIR arises out of a matrimonial dispute between the brother of the petitioner namely Praveen Kumar Ruhal and his wife Anju, wherein the petitioner and all other family members have been named as an accused. Petitioner being the brother-in-law of complainant is only a “collateral accused” and not the main accused. It may also be noticed that the investigating agency had removed Section 313 of the IPC on investigation and the surviving offences relate only to Sections 498-A/406/506/323/34 IPC. The allegations against the petitioner were generic in nature who was just aged about 19/20 years at the time of the alleged incident. As per the charge-sheet, petitioner was placed in column No. 12 and it was categorically observed that from the statement of the witnesses and record, case is only made out against the accused Parveen, Karamveer and Sarla and accordingly the challan is being forwarded to the concerned Court. It was further concluded that during verification and investigation, the allegations of demand of dowry and harassment from Vikram (petitioner) and Rekha, were found false and both Vikram and Rekha were innocent, whose names are placed in column No. 12.”
Most forthrightly, the Division Bench expounds in para 16 that, “Having said so, it may be observed that the Standing Order No. 398/2018 dated October 18, 2018 of the respondents does provide for a policy for deciding cases of provisionally selected candidates in Delhi Police who have disclosed their involvement in criminal cases / acquittal / discharge etc. However, mere possibility of being summoned after filing of chargesheet, when the petitioner has been placed in Column 12 of chargesheet, has no legal foundation for withholding the appointment, specially in matrimonial offences under Sections 498-A/406 IPC. The petitioner appears to have already suffered ignominy due to registration of FIR and also the appointment stands deferred despite the investigation pointing to his innocence. Criminal trials are generally long and protracted and appointment in such a case should not have been ordinarily deferred for an indefinite period till the conclusion of trial, despite the findings in the investigation being in favour of the petitioner. The case of the petitioner is better placed than the cases involving trial as an accused, wherein after summoning, the proceedings need to be evaluated on the yardstick of honourable acquittal, technical acquittal or if the benefit of doubt has been extended to accused. Unfortunately, in the present case, the learned Tribunal misdirected itself by assuming that the petitioner could be summoned having being placed in Column No. 12 of the charge-sheet or may be summoned under Section 319 Cr.PC during the course of trial. The proposition of law as referred by the learned Tribunal in SWIL Ltd. vs. State of Delhi & Anr. (2001) 6 SCC 670, Bhawna Bai Vs. Ghanshyam (2020) 2 SCC 217, Nahar Singh Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh in C.A. 443/2002 (arising out of petition for Special Leave to Appeal (Crl.) No.8447/2015) decided on March 16, 2022, Commissioner of Police Vs. Raj Kumar Civil Appeal No.4960/2021 on decided on August 25, 2021 and Kahkashan Kausar @ Sonam & Ors. Vs. State of Bihar & Ors. Crl. Appeal No. 195/2022 (arising out of S.L.P. (Crl.) No.6545/2020), is undisputed and needs no deliberations. It is pertinent to note that at the time of taking of cognizance on the charge-sheet, the learned Judicial Magistrate having applied its mind to the facts of the case and on the basis of the evidence on record, did not deem it appropriate to summon the petitioner. If the petitioner whose name is placed in Column No. 12 had not been summoned after taking of cognizance by the learned JMIC, a presumption could not have been drawn that the petitioner may be summoned at a later stage under Section 319 Cr.PC. It may be clarified that even if a person is neither arrayed as an accused nor placed in Column No. 12 of the charge-sheet, he/she may still be summoned under Section 319 Cr.PC, where in the course of any trial into an offence, it appears from the evidence that the said person has committed any offence for which he could be tried together with other accused.”
Most significantly, the Division Bench then propounds in para 17 that, “Considering that the petitioner had been placed in Column No. 12 of charge-sheet and the fact that evidence did not establish his involvement in aforesaid offences after investigation, he should have been logically considered suitable for appointment. Merely being named in the FIR cannot be treated as an impediment for public appointment, unless the involvement is substantiated on investigation, specially in relation to matrimonial offences. The Competent Authority as well as the learned Tribunal appear to have ignored the fact that there is a growing tendency amongst the women to rope in all the relatives including minors in case an FIR is lodged with reference to matrimonial disputes. Many of such complaints are eventually either settled between the families/spouses and are later on stated to have been filed in the heat of the moment over trivial issues. The abuse of the aforesaid provision has been substantially noticed though the salutary purpose of the enactment cannot be ignored in any manner. Merely naming in the FIR does not lead to an inference that the employer can keep in abeyance the employment of an applicant for an indefinite period, even if the applicant has been placed in column No. 12 of the charge-sheet and has not been summoned.”
It would be germane to note that the Division Bench notes in para 18 that, “In the facts and circumstances, the Competent Authority as well as the learned Tribunal, failed to consider the facts and circumstances in a correct perspective and were merely swept by the factum of the petitioner being named in the FIR. There is nothing else on record to reflect that the antecedents of the petitioner disqualify him in any manner for appointment to the post of Sub-Inspector (Exe) in Delhi Police. It is difficult to presume that the petitioner would be a threat to the discipline of Police Force merely on account of registration of the aforesaid FIR wherein he has even not been summoned.”
As a corollary, the Division Bench then holds in para 19 that, “For the foregoing reasons, we are unable to agree with the reasons accorded by the learned Tribunal declining the relief to the petitioner. Accordingly, we set aside the order dated September 11, 2020 and December 02, 2020 passed by the respondents along with the impugned order dated February 20, 2023 passed by the Tribunal in O.A. No. 45/2021 deferring the consideration of appointment of petitioner till disposal of FIR No. 234/2018. Respondents are hereby directed to appoint the petitioner to the concerned post, subject to his satisfying all other conditions within a period of four weeks from the passing of this order. Petitioner shall be further entitled to all consequential benefits including seniority on notional basis, but the payment of salary shall be due from the date of joining.”
Finally, the Division Bench concludes by holding in para 20 that, “Petition accordingly stands allowed. Considering the facts and circumstances, no order as to costs. Pending applications, if any, also stand disposed of.”
In conclusion, we thus see that it is frankly conceded by the Delhi High Court that there is a growing trend in matrimonial disputes to rope in all relatives of husband in Section 498A IPC. It is high time and Centre and lawmakers must now step in and insert necessary safeguard to check the rampant misuse of Section 498A IPC and those who dare to file false cases must be jailed for at least an year and so also fined so that it acts as a potential deterrent from the gross abuse of the law! No denying it!