Banerjee, J. -
(1.)Maintainability of a charge under Section 498-A of the Code by reason of an order of acquittal under Section 306 of the Code, is the core question to be decided in the appeal against the judgment of the High Court at Bombay.
(2.)Before, however, adverting to the factual score, it is to be noticed at this juncture that Section 498A has been engrafted on to the statute book by way of a separate Chapter in terms of the provisions of Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, 1983 (Act 46 of 1983). The above amendment stands incorporated by reason of present trend in the society and to meet the requirement of the society, the legislature thought it fit to incorporate a new Chapter being Chapter XXA in the statute book consisting of Section 498-A in the Indian Penal Code. For convenience sake, Section 498-A is set out herein below:-
"498-A. Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty - Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
Explanation - For the purpose of this section, "cruelty" means -
(a) any willful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or
(b) harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.
(3.)The basic purport of the statutory provision is to avoid 'cruelty' which stands defined by attributing a specific statutory meaning attached thereto as noticed herein before. Two specific instances have been taken note of in order to ascribe a meaning to the word 'cruelty' as is expressed by the legislatures : Whereas explanation (a) involves three specific situations viz., (i) to drive the woman to commit suicide or (ii) to cause grave injury or (iii) danger to life, limb or health, both mental and physical, and thus involving a physical torture or atrocity, in explanation (b) there is absence of physical injury but the legislature thought it fit to include only coercive harassment which obviously as the legislative intent expressed is equally heinous to match the physical injury : whereas one is patent, the other one is latent but equally serious in terms of the provisions of the statute since the same would also embrace the attributes of 'cruelty' in terms of Section 498-A.