No cheating merely because a prospective groom marries someone else, holds Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has held that a prospective groom marrying someone other than a woman he was talking to is not enough to constitute the offence of cheating by itself.

EARLIER this month, the Supreme Court quashed a cheating case against a prospective bridegroom who married another woman while the talk about the marriage of the prospective bridegroom with the complainant was still on.

A Bench of Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and P.B. Varale observed that to make out an offence under cheating, there should be an intention to cheat or deceive right from the beginning and that there could be multiple reasons for initiating a marriage proposal and then the proposal not reaching the desired end.

The Bench was ruling on a petition filed by prospective bridegroom Raju Krishna Shedbalkar against a Karnataka High Court Order that partially allowed his petition in that it had quashed the proceedings against him under Sections 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating and dishonest delivery of property) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) but allowed the prosecution under Section 417 (punishment for cheating) of the IPC.

The complainant Sushmita had lodged a first information report (FIR) at the Malamaruti Police Station, Karnataka under Sections 406, 420 and 417 read with Section 34 of the IPC against six persons, including Shedbalkar.

In her FIR, Sushmita stated that she “is an M.Tech” and is working as a lecturer. The elders in her family were searching for a suitable bridegroom for her which they found in Shedbalkar.

Shedbalkar and Sushmita started talking to each other on the phone and her father had also given ₹75,000 in advance for the marriage hall, but this marriage never took place as she learnt from a newspaper report that Shedbalkar had married someone else.

The FIR was lodged against Shedbalkar and his brothers, sister and mother. All accused challenged the FIR in the Karnataka High Court. The high court quashed the case against all the accused but retained the case under 417 IPC against Shedbalkar. Against this Order, Shedbalkar approached the Supreme Court.

The high court opined that the father of Sushmita was induced to book a marriage hall by Shedbalkar alone; therefore, there was prima facie material which made out a case under Section 417 of the IPC.

Explaining cheating under Section 417 IPC, the Bench said that the offence of cheating has two parts. The first is where a person fraudulently or dishonestly deceives another in inducing that person to deliver any property to any person etc.

The second part of the offence would be made out if somebody is deceived to perform an act which causes damage or harm to that person “in body, mind, or reputation, or property is said to have cheated”.

Time and again, this court has reiterated that in order to make out an offence under cheating the intention to cheat or deceive should be right from the beginning. By no stretch of the imagination, this is even reflected in the complaint made by the informant,” the Bench held.

Disapproving the high court’s Order, the Bench observed that there could be multiple reasons for initiating a marriage proposal not reaching the desired end.

It may, in a given case, involve cheating, the court said continuing that that is a theoretical possibility, yet to prove an offence of cheating in such cases, the prosecution must have reliable and trustworthy evidence.

There is no such evidence before the prosecution and, therefore, no offence under Section 417 is also made out.

Consequently, we allow the appeal and set aside the Order of the trial court to the extent it has refrained from quashing the proceedings under Section 417 of the IPC against the present appellant. The petition succeeds and the appeal is allowed to the extent stated above,” the Bench ordered.

Click here to read the order.