This recent judgment of Supreme Court (SC) in BHASKAR LAL SHARMA Versus MONICA case has made it to front columns of most newspapers.
Full judgment is here:
Given that it is an SC judgment, it automatically sets binding precedent for further cases which may have similarity. For purpose of IPC 498A, following portion of judgment could be of value in setting precedent about what constitutes Cruelty under IPC 498A:
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The allegations relating to the place where the marriage took place has nothing to do with an offence under Section 498A of the IPC. Allegations that appellant No.2 kicked the respondent with her leg and told her that her mother to be a liar may make out some other offence but not the one punishable under Section 498A. Similarly her allegations that the appellant No.2 poisoned the ears of her son against the respondent; she gave two used lady suits of her daughter to the complainant and has been given perpetual sermons to the complainant could not be said to be offences punishable under Section 498A. Even threatening that her son may be divorced for the second time could not bring out the offence under Section 498A of the IPC.
Basically all above acts have been alleged to be done by appelant No. 2 MIL to DIL. But according to SC these acts do not fall under Cruelty as defined under IPC 498A.
IPC 498A bare act is given below:
186[CHAPTER XXA : OF CRUELTY BY HUSBAND OR RELATIVES OF HUSBAND
498A. 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.
Explanation- For the purpose of this section, “cruelty” means-
(a) any wilful 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.]
As per my understanding, the SC has tried to narrow down the definition of this subclause (a) of 498A:
to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman
This means above acts of MIL to DIL were not deemed to cause grave injury whether mental or physical to DIL.
Since these acts were done by MIL is SC judgment here is applicable to MIL only? Probably not, since the judgment is about IPC 498A which includes both husband and relatives of husband. So if it can be applied to MIL it will be applicable to husband and husband’s relatives too.