Onkar Nath Mishra v. State (NCT of Delhi) & Anr.

Read this case analysis to learn how the Supreme Court held that use of Section 498-A for devious motives was wrong and re-iterated the reasoning for introduction of Section 498A. The court also discusses the extent to which a case has to be established in order to justify framing of charges against an accused.
CITATION(2008) 2 SCC 561
COURTSupreme Court of India
JUDGES/CORAMJustice Ashok Bhan and Justice D.K. Jain
DATE OF JUDGEMENT14.12.2007

Introduction

The present case pertains to quashing of proceedings under Sections 406 and 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The Court in this case discussed the essential ingredients of both the sections as well as the extent to which a case has to be established in order to justify framing of charges against an accused.

Facts

The facts of the case are as follows: The complainant and appellant no. 3 had gotten married on 5.12.1993 in Delhi, after which the complainant started residing in her matrimonial home in Delhi. However, shortly thereafter, there was some dispute between the two, which led to a complaint being filed by the complainant on 17.5.1994 in the Crime against Women Cell, Delhi. In this complaint, allegations of harassment were made against the husband and in-laws. On 26.6.1994, the parties compromised, and the complainant joined her husband at Bijnore (UP) where he was posted. However, in mid- August 1994, the complainant returned to her parental home in Delhi as she was expecting a child. On 8.11.1994, she lodged one more complaint at the CAW Cell. This complaint became the basis of the FIR registered, alleging commission of offences by the appellants under Sections 498A, 406/34 of IPC. In the complaint, it was alleged that the husband told the complainant to get Rs. 50,000 and VCR with her or else, she will be given beatings. Among other things, it was also alleged that he took away all the belongings of the complainant.

Before registration of the FIR, another statement of the complainant was recorded in which she alleged that her father in law (appellant no. 1) refused to “keep” her unless she brings the money and VCR with her. She also alleged that they refused to return her stridhan. After investigation, a charge sheet was filed. It was noted here that despite issue of notice under Section 160 Cr.P.C. to the complainant and her father by the ASI, neither of them turned up to take back her Stridhan.

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Issues

The main issue in the case was: Whether charges can be framed against any/all of the appellants under Section 498A and/or Section 406?

Summary of court decision and judgment

At the stage of framing of charges, the Metropolitan Magistrate concluded that no case was made under Section 406 against any of the accused and that no case was made under Section 498A against appellant no.1 (father in law) and no. 2 (sister in law). They were accordingly discharged.

Against this order, the State preferred a Revision Petition to the Sessions Court. The Court held that a prima facie case was made out against all the accused under Sections 498A and 406 IPC. Accordingly, the Court directed the trial court to proceed with the case under Sections 498A/406/34 IPC. The appellants then filed a Revision Petition before the High Court, praying for quashing of the charges. However, this petition was dismissed. This order of the High Court was appealed against, in the present case.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court made the following observations:

  • For deciding whether a charge is to be framed against the accused, it has to be considered whether there is ground for presuming that the offence has been committed. At this stage, even strong suspicion founded on material is enough and the court need not go deep into the probative value of the material on record.
  • There are two essential ingredients of criminal breach of trust- creation of an obligation in relation to the property over which dominion or control is acquired by the accused; and misappropriation or dealing with the property dishonestly and contrary to the terms of the obligation created. In the present case, the Court held that there are no allegations with regard to entrustment or misappropriation of the property by any of the appellants and thus, no case is made outunder Section 406 IPC.
  • In order to establish the offence under Section 498A, the consequences of cruelty which are either likely to drive a woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury, danger to life, limb or health, whether mental or physical of the woman or the harassment of a woman, where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand, are required to be shown. It was observed that there is no allegation of wilful conduct of harassment by appellants 1 and 2 so as to attract the section. Further, the Court held the allegation on misbehaviour on their part and demand of money and VCR, to be an afterthought and not bona fide.
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Thus, the Court allowed the appeal partly. All charges against appellants 1 and 2 were quashed. Additionally, the charge framed under Section 406 against appellant no. 3 was also quashed. However, appeal by appellant no. 3 against framing of charge under Section 498A was dismissed, and the trial court was directed to proceed with the trial accordingly.

Analysis

To make out a case u/s 406, the following conditions must be fulfilled:

  1. Entrustment: the accused must be entrusted with property or dominion over it, and
  2. He must have dishonestly misappropriated the property or converted it to his own use or disposed of it in violation of such entrustment.[1]

Similarly, the Court has also discussed the ingredients of Section 498A. The Court made a very important observation about framing of charges. It has been time and again held that for framing of charges a strong suspicion is enough, and the Court isn’t expected to delve deep into the evidence.

Conclusion

While to convict an accused for any offence, the case must be proved beyond reasonable doubt, at the initial stage if there is a strong suspicion which leads the court to think that there is ground for presuming that the accused has committed an offence then it is not open to the court to say that there is no sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.[2] However, when there are two views possible and the Judge is satisfied that there is some suspicion but not grave suspicion against the accused, benefit of doubt should be given and the Judge has the power to discharge the accused.[3]


[1]VP Shrivastava v. Indian Explosives, (2010) 10 SCC 361.

[2]Dinesh Tiwari v. State of Uttar Pradesh, Criminal Appeal No.1365 of 2014 arising out of SLP (CRL.) No.3051/2008.

[3]Sheoraj Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, Criminal Appeal No. 1803 of 2012 arising out of S.L.P. (CRL.) No.4649 of 2010.

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