New Delhi: A person cannot be held guilty of dowry harassment if the marriage is doubtful, a Delhi court has said while acquitting a man of the charge of subjecting cruelty to his partner, who died due to burn injuries in mysterious circumstances.
Metropolitan Magistrate Shivani Chauhan said the woman was deserted by her first husband and it was not clear whether she obtained divorce from him and without legal separation she could not have got married with the accused.
The court said evidence does not show that the accused and the woman had contracted a valid marriage.
The woman`s parents had filed a complaint against Delhi resident Rajbir alleging that he used to harass and cruelly treat their daughter to meet his demand for dowry.
The court gave benefit of doubt and acquitted Rajbir of the offence under Section 498A (husband or relative of husband subjecting woman to cruelty) of the IPC saying for application of this provision, it is necessary that cruelty is done by the husband or his relatives.
"For the application of section 498A IPC, it is necessary that the cruelty complained of must be inflicted by the `husband` or the `relative of husband`. Thus, the subsistence of a valid marriage is a sine qua non to bring home the offence under Section 498A IPC.
"In the instant case, the marriage between the victim and the accused itself is doubtful, the accused cannot be said to be the husband of the victim," the court said.
"The woman was merely deserted by her earlier husband and not divorced and in these circumstances, she could not have contracted a valid marriage with the accused. A deserted spouse does not get a right to remarry, as the previous marriage continues to subsists," the court said.
A complaint was lodged at Sri Niwas Puri Police Station by the victim`s father against Rajbir for allegedly cruelly treating the woman to get his demand for dowry fulfilled.
The woman had died in June 1997 after suffering 90 per cent burns in her house.