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Dowry law role limited

Dowry law role limited
OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, July 8: Section 498A of the IPC, dealing with cruelty to a woman by her husband or his family, will only apply to the husband’s relatives by blood, marriage or adoption, the Supreme Court ruled today.

The term “relatives” will not apply to so-called foster parents or foster relatives, the court clarified, quashing cruelty charges under Section 498A brought by a wife against her husband’s supposed foster sister.

The ruling has come against the backdrop of complaints of misuse of the provision which makes any sort of cruelty and harassment for dowry an offence. The maximum punishment is a jail term of three years and a fine.

The high court had earlier rejected the plea by Delhi’s Vijeta Gajra, accused in the complaint, despite her lawyer’s contention that she could not be regarded as a “relative” and tried for “ill-treatment” under Section 498A. On that occasion, the court had said the word “relative” would not include a paramour or concubine.

But today, the apex court bench of Justices V.S. Sirpurkar and Cyriac Joseph overturned the high court decision and spiked the charges under Section 498A. It said Gajra would instead be tried for criminal breach of trust over the allegations.

An FIR had been filed against Gajra for offences under Sections 498A and 406 (criminal breach of trust) by Gunjan Sujanani, wife of Rohit Sujanani. Gunjan accused Gajra of harassing her and cheating her of her jewellery soon after her marriage in July 2003 to Rohit, a resident of Nigeria.

Gunjan said in her FIR that Rohit had introduced Sham and Lavina Daswani as his foster parents, and Vijeta Daswani-Gajra and Ritika Daswani, as his foster sisters to Gunjan before the marriage.

Rohit and Lavina harassed Gunjan for dowry, while Vijeta took away her necklace, Gunjan’s FIR said.

She also claimed she had a miscarriage as she was physically and mentally ill-treated.

Gajra, in her petition, has denied all the allegations and described them as “concocted, false and baseless”. She has claimed she had met Gunjan only in 2007. She also said Rohit was an employee of her father who ran a business in Sierra Leone

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