Offence of cruelty by husband not applicable to live-in relationships: Kerala HC

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Kochi, Jul 11 (PTI) The penal offence of cruelty against a woman by her husband or his relatives will not be applicable when a couple is in a live-in relationship, according to a recent ruling by the Kerala High Court.

The High Court said that section 498A of the IPC provides the punishment for subjecting a woman to cruelty by a husband or his relative and since a couple in a live-in relationship are not married, the man will not be covered by the term 'husband'.

"... in order to attract an offence punishable under section 498A of IPC, the most essential ingredient is, subjecting a woman to cruelty by her husband or relative/relatives of the husband. The term 'husband @ hubby' means, a married man, woman's partner in marriage.

"Thus, marriage is the constituent which takes the woman's partner to the status of her husband. Marriage means a marriage in the eye of law. Thus, without a legal marriage, if a man becomes a woman's partner, he will not be covered by the term 'husband' for the purpose of section 498A of IPC," Justice A Badharudeen said in his order of July 8.

The order came on a man's plea to quash the proceedings initiated against him under section 498A of the IPC.

According to the case against him, while he was in a live-in relationship with a woman, he had mentally and physically harassed her between March 2023 to August 2023 at his house.

Seeking to quash the case against him, the man had contended that he was in a live-in relationship with the complainant-woman and there was no legal marriage between them and therefore, the offence under section 498A of the IPC was not made out.

Agreeing with the petitioner, the HC said that as he was not wedded to the woman, he would not come within the purview of the definition of 'husband' provided in section 498A of the IPC.

"Therefore, the cognizance taken by the magistrate acting on the final report filed in crime no. 939/2023 of Quilandy Police Station, alleging commission of offence punishable under section 498A of IPC by the petitioner herein is illegal and the same is liable to be quashed. Accordingly, this petition stands allowed.

"The final report and all further proceedings in crime no.939/2023 of Quilandy Police Station, Kozhikode, now pending on the files of the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court, Quilandy stand quashed," the High Court said. PTI HMP HMP ROH

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