Justice S Vaidyanathan said, “Mental cruelty which is engraved in the first limb of Section 498-A of the IPC has nothing to do with the demand of dowry. It is associated with mental cruelty that can drive a woman to commit suicide and it depends upon the conduct of the person.
“Extra-marital relationship, per se would not come within the ambit of Section 498-A of the IPC. In this case, even if the alleged illicit relationship is proved, there is no acceptable evidence on record to establish such high degree of mental cruelty, which drove the wife of the accused to commit suicide. Hence, the office under Section 498-A is not attracted,” he added.
Citing an SC order that extramarital relationship may not in all circumstances invite conviction under section 306 of the IPC, which refers to abetment of suicide, but can definitely be a ground for divorce in a matrimonial dispute, Justice Vaidyanathan said, “To constitute an offence under Section 306 of the IPC, the prosecution has to establish that the deceased committed suicide and the accused abetted it. But, for the alleged extra marital relationship, nothing has been brought out by the prosecution to show the accused had provoked the wife to commit suicide.”
As per the case, Manickam and Sangeetha of Salem married in 2000 and had a daughter Roshini. Thereafter, Manickam allegedly had an illicit affair with Sarasu. Though Sangeetha’s parents questioned him, he failed to heed to their advice and Sangeetha along with her daughter committed suicide by jumping into a well in 2003 at Morappankadu.
Thereafter, the Mahila Court in Salem convicted Manickam to undergo three years imprisonment under 498-A for three years and 10 years rigorous imprisonment under 306 of the IPC. Incidentally, with the substantive sentence imposed on the accused being suspended and enlarged on bail by the HC through an order on January 28, 2008, Manickam married another woman and has three children.