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Mere Use of Deceased Brother’s SIM Card Not Considered an Offense: Bombay HC Dismisses Cheating Case

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Published on: 31 August 2023 at 12:30 IST

The Bombay High Court has ruled that the mere use of a deceased brother’s SIM card does not amount to an offense, leading to the dismissal of a cheating case filed against a doctor by her sister-in-law.

The sister-in-law had accused the doctor of using her deceased husband’s SIM card and selling his movable assets without proper consent.

A division bench consisting of Justice Nitin W Sambre and Justice RN Laddha, handling a writ petition submitted by the accused seeking the quashing of the case, commented that the initiation of proceedings seemed to stem solely from family disputes.

The court clarified, “Merely because the SIM card of the real brother was used by the sister, i.e., the present petitioner, that, by itself, will not constitute or amount to the commission of the offense. The fact remains that to infer misuse of the SIM card by the petitioner, there is no evidence to support such an assumption… At first glance, it seems that the criminal proceedings were initiated by the complainant against the petitioner due to family differences, as can be deduced from the relationship between them.”

The petitioner, Dr. Heena Shaikh, is the sister of Ashfaque, who passed away from a COVID-19 infection on April 23, 2020. Ashfaque’s wife, Rumana, filed a complaint on October 2, 2020, accusing the petitioner and others of offenses under Sections 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating), and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the IPC.

In her complaint, Rumana alleged that Shaikh had used her late husband’s SIM card after his death, deactivated it, and returned it. She also claimed that the petitioner, along with others, unlawfully disposed of jointly owned movable assets without her consent and withheld the sale proceeds.

The petitioner’s lawyer, Advocate Vinay Nair, argued that even if the prosecution’s version was taken at face value, it did not substantiate the charges against the petitioner. Nair highlighted that the petitioner’s involvement primarily revolved around possessing and using the SIM card, which was returned to the complainant before the complaint was filed.

The court emphasized that the allegations concerning the sale of movable assets like air conditioners, ovens, and refrigerators were not directly linked to the petitioner. Instead, it was the complainant’s brother-in-law who conducted these transactions based on her instructions.

The court stressed that merely using her deceased brother’s SIM card did not constitute an offense, particularly considering that the SIM card was returned to the complainant before the complaint was lodged.

The court also noted the lack of concrete evidence connecting the petitioner’s actions to the alleged crimes, leading to the conclusion that no offense could be inferred.

Consequently, the court found that the essential elements of criminal breach of trust and cheating could not be established against the petitioner.

As a result, the court granted the petition, quashed the FIR, and dismissed the charge-sheet against the petitioner.