JURISDICTION in a lay mans language means ‘The official power to make legal decisions and judgements’. However, in a deeper sense it means ‘The authority given to a court to try cases and rule on legal matters within a particular geographic area over certain types of legal cases’.

Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty: Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a 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.

“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.

Normally, every criminal offense is inquired into and tried by a court within whose local jurisdiction it is committed. However, as per section 179 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, an offense can also be tried by a court within whose jurisdiction the consequence of the offense ensues.

Taking the spirit of Section 179 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, in a landmark judgment in Rupali Devi V State of Uttar Pradesh and Others (AIR 2019 Supreme Court 1790), Supreme Court held that the ‘Complaint alleging cruelty can be filed in the courts where wife takes shelter after leaving or driven away from matrimonial home’
The Hon’ble Supreme Court was of the view that even if the acts of physical cruelty committed in the matrimonial house may have ceased and such acts may not occur at the parental home, there can be no doubt that the mental trauma and psychological distress caused by the acts of the husband including verbal exchanges that compelled the wife to leave the matrimonial home and take shelter with her parents would continue to persist at the parental home. Therefore, the mental cruelty borne out of physical cruelty or abusive and humiliating verbal exchanges would continue in the parental home even though there may not be any overt act of physical cruelty at such place.
It is further opined that, even the silence of the wife may have an underlying element of an emotional distress and mental agony. The wife’s sufferings at the parental home though may be directly attributable to commission of acts of cruelty by the husband at the matrimonial home would, undoubtedly, be the consequences of the acts committed at the matrimonial home. Such consequences, by itself, would amount to distinct offences committed at parental home where she has taken shelter. The adverse effects in the mental health in the parental home though on account of acts committed at the matrimonial home amount to commission of cruelty within the meaning of Section 498-A at the parental home.

The three-judge bench interpreted the legal provision during a reference made in 2012, to decide whether a woman forced to leave her matrimonial home on account of cruelty can initiate and access the legal process within the jurisdiction of the courts where she was forced to take shelter.

In reference, the court held that the case can be lodged by the wife at her parental home even when no overt act of cruelty or harassment is committed by the husband there. The offences of such kind are contemplated under Section 179 CrP.C.

Therefore, the courts at where the wife takes shelter after leaving or driven away from matrimonial home on account of acts of cruelty committed by the husband or his relatives, would, dependent on factual situations, also have jurisdiction to entertain a complaint alleging commission of offences under Section 498-A of Indian Penal Code.

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