In a significant legal pronouncement, the Supreme Court of India has held that the failure to perform a marriage ceremony at a booked venue does not amount to the commission of an offence of cheating punishable under Section 417 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The Court, comprising Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and P.B. Varale, overturned the findings of the High Court, which had declined to quash the charge under Section 417 IPC. Emphasizing the necessity for the prosecution to establish the accused’s intention to deceive from the outset to constitute an offence of cheating, the Bench asserted that such intent was not evident in the present case.

The crux of the dispute revolved around the complainant and the accused’s failed marriage arrangement, wherein the complainant’s father had advanced Rs. 75,000 for booking a marriage hall. However, the marriage did not materialize, and the complainant later discovered through a newspaper report that the accused had married someone else.

Subsequently, the complainant filed an FIR against the accused and his family members under Sections 406/420/417 read with Section 34 of IPC.

The accused, seeking relief, filed an application under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.) to quash the pending criminal case. While the High Court quashed proceedings under Sections 406 and 420 IPC, it declined to quash the case under Section 417 IPC.

Challenging the High Court’s decision, the accused approached the Supreme Court, contending that there was no fraudulent or dishonest intent on his part to deceive the complainant and her father from the inception of the arrangement.

The Supreme Court concurred, highlighting the absence of reliable and trustworthy evidence presented by the prosecution to substantiate the offence under Section 417. It underscored the multifaceted nature of marriage proposals and the myriad reasons for their failure to materialize, emphasizing that mere non-performance does not amount to cheating.

Accordingly, the Court quashed the criminal proceedings under Section 417 IPC, affirming that the essential elements required to establish the offence were not met in the case at hand.

This ruling serves as a precedent reaffirming the principle that the intention to deceive must be established from the outset to constitute an offence of cheating. It underscores the importance of concrete evidence in criminal prosecutions and reinforces the judiciary’s commitment to upholding the principles of justice and equity.

The case sets a benchmark for future legal proceedings involving allegations of cheating in matrimonial arrangements, emphasizing the need for a rigorous examination of intent and evidence to determine culpability accurately.

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