SC quashs dowry case n ALL relatives EVEN after woman’s death. JUST gifts does NOT make them guilty

Even though the Andhra HC does NOT quash the 498a against parents, widowed sister and others, SC quashes the same !! All relatives roped in after wife’s death are finally freed at SC !!

“………..Giving of dowry and the traditional presents at or abou the time of wedding does not in any way raise a presumption tha such a property was thereby entrusted and put under the dominio of the parents-in-law of the bride or other close relations so as t attract ingredients of Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. A noticed earlier, after marriage, Syamala Rani and first appellan were living in Bangalore at their matrimonial house. In respect o ‘stridhana articles’ given to the bride, one has to take int consideration the common practice that these articles are sen along with the bride to her matrimonial house. It is a matter o common knowledge that these articles are kept by the woman in connection with whose marriage it was given and used by her i her matrimonial house when the appellants 2 to 6 have bee residing separately in Vizianagaram, it cannot be said that th dowry was given to them and that they were duty bound to retur the same to Syamala Rani. Facts and circumstances of the cas and also the uncontroverted allegations made in the complaint do not constitute an offence under Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibitio Act against appellants 2 to 6 and there is no sufficient ground fo proceeding against the appellants 2 to 6. Be it noted tha appellants 2 to 6 are also facing criminal prosecution for th offence under Sections 498A, 304B IPC and under Sections 3 and of the Dowry Prohibition Act. Even though the criminal proceedin under Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act is independent of the criminal prosecution under Sections 3 and 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act, in the absence of specific allegations of entrustment of the dowry amount and articles to appellants 2 to 6, in our view continuation of the criminal proceeding against appellants 2 to 6 is.not just and proper and the same is liable to be quashed……”


REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 45 OF 201 (Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No. 9344 of 2014)

BOBBILI RAMAKRISHNA RAJU YADAV & ORS. ….Appellants
Versus
STATE OF ANDHRA PRADESH REP. BY IT PUBLIC PROSECUTOR HIGH COURT OF A.P HYDERABAD, A.P. & ANR. …Respondents

J U D G M E N T

R. BANUMATHI, J.

Leave granted.

  1. The present appeal assails the order date 23.07.2014 passed by the High Court of Judicature a Hyderabad in Criminal Petition No.1778 of 2010, whereby th High Court declined to quash the proceedings against appellant No.1 to 6 in C.C. No. 532 of 2009 under Section 6 of the Dowr Prohibition Act 1961 pending before Additional Judicial Firs Class Magistrate, Vizianagaram
  2. Brief facts leading to the filing of this appeal are a follows:- First appellant is working as an Engineer in G.E. Indi Technology Company at Bangalore. Appellants No.2 and 3 ar the parents, appellant No.4 is widowed sister and appellant No.5 and 6 are the sisters of appellant No.1. Marriage of firs appellant and Syamala Rani was performed at Vizianagaram o 04.05.2007 and after marriage, Syamala Rani was residing a Bangalore with her husband-appellant No.1. Syamala Rani die on 06.09.2008 under suspicious circumstances and a case wa registered in FIR No.1492 of 2008 under Sections 304B, 498 IPC read with Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act a H.A.L. Police Station, Bangalore City. On completion o investigation in the said case, chargesheet was filed against th appellants No.1 to 6 and the case was committed to Session Court vide committal order dated 29.12.2008 and was taken o file as S.C. No.79 of 2009 in the Court of Principal Session Judge, Bangalore. Second respondent-father of Syamala Ran filed a private complaint against the appellants under Section of the Dowry Prohibition Act alleging that he had paid dowr amount and other articles which were presented as dowry to th appellants on their demand and the same were not returned The Magistrate took cognizance of the offence under Section 6 o the Dowry Prohibition Act in C.C. No.532 of 2009.

  3. The appellants then preferred a petition unde Section 482 Cr.P.C. before the High Court to quash th complaint i.e. C.C.No.532 of 2009 contending that the complain does not disclose an offence and that FIR No.1492 of 2008 wa already registered against the appellants at Bangalore city. Th High Court vide the impugned order dismissed the petition file by the appellants holding that the offences alleged in th previous case in S.C.No.79 of 2009 emanating from the FI No.1492 of 2008 and the subsequent complaint in C.C.No.532 o 2009 are not one and the same as the previous case wa registered under Sections 304B and 498A IPC read with Section 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, whereas the subsequen case is registered under Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Ac which is independent of the previous case. Being aggrieved, th appellants have preferred this appeal.

  4. Learned counsel for the appellants submitted that th Magistrate ought not to have taken cognizance of the complain as the previous case was already registered against th appellants in FIR No.1492 of 2008 under Sections 304B an 498A IPC read with Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Ac and the same is pending trial in Sessions Case No.79 of 2009 a Bangalore city and hence the subsequent complaint is no sustainable. It was further submitted that the subsequen complaint C.C.No.532 of 2009 emanates from the same cause o action and the allegations in the complaint do not constitute th alleged offence under Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act an the complaint is an afterthought for wrecking vengeance on th appellants.

  5. Per contra, the learned counsel for responden No.2 submitted that the complaint case in C.C. No.532 of 200 under Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act is independent o the previous case i.e. FIR No.1492 of 2008 and the pendency o the said case before the Sessions Court, Bangalore shall no affect the complaint filed under Section 6 of the Dowr Prohibition Act. It was submitted that even after death o Syamala Rani, the appellants threatened the complainant an his family members and the complainant-respondent No.2 ha led several mediations with the appellant No.1 for return o dowry amount and other articles which were presented as dowr on demand made by the appellants and inspite of suc mediations, the appellants did not return the dowry amount an other articles and hence a prima facie case is made out agains the appellants and the High Court rightly declined to quash th proceedings.

  6. We have considered the rival contentions and peruse the impugned judgment and material available on record.

  7. Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act lays down tha where the dowry is received by any person other than the bride that person has to transfer the same to the woman in connectio with whose marriage it is given and if he fails to do so withi three months from the date of the marriage, he shall be punishe for violation of Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. Section reads as under:-

    1. Dowry to be for the benefit of the wife or her heirs.-(1
      Where any dowry is received by any person other than the
      woma in connection with whose marriage it is given, that
      person shal transfer it to the woman-

      (a) if the dowry was received before marriage, within
      [three months after the date of marriage; or

      (b) if the dowry was received at the time of or after the
      marriage within [three months] after the date of its
      receipts; or

      (c) if the dowry was received when the woman was a minor,
      withi [three months] after she has attained the age of
      eighteen years and pending such transfer, shall hold it in
      trust for the benefit o the woman.

      [(2) If any person fails to transfer any property as
      required by subsectio (1) within the time limit specified
      therefore, [or as require by Sub-section (3),] he shall be
      punishable with imprisonment fo a term which shall not be
      less than six months, but which ma extend to two years or
      with fine [which shall not be less than fiv thousand
      rupees, but which may extend to ten thousand rupees or with
      both.]

      (3) Where the woman entitled to any property under sub-
      section (1 dies before receiving it, the heirs of the woman
      shall be entitled t claim it from the person holding it for
      the time being:

      [Provided that where such woman dies within seven years of
      he marriage, otherwise than due to natural causes, such
      propert shall,-

      (a) if she has no children, be transferred to her parents;
      or

      (b) if she has children, be transferred to such children
      and pendin such transfer, be held in trust for such
      children.]

  • If the dowry amount or articles of married woman wa placed in the custody of his husband or in-laws, they would b deemed to be trustees of the same. The person receiving dowr articles or the person who is dominion over the same, as pe Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, is bound to return the sam within three months after the date of marriage to the woman i connection with whose marriage it is given. If he does not do so, h will be guilty of a dowry offence under this Section. The sectio further lays down that even after his conviction he must return th dowry to the woman within the time stipulated in the order 10. In Pratibha Rani vs. Suraj Kumar & Anr. (1985) 2 SC 370, this Court observed as follows:-

    “20. We are clearly of the opinion that the mere factum of
    th husband and wife living together does not entitle either
    of them t commit a breach of criminal law and if one does
    then he/she will b liable for all the consequences of such
    breach. Criminal law an matrimonial home are not strangers.
    Crimes committed i matrimonial home are as much punishable
    as anywhere else. In th case of stridhan property also, the
    title of which always remain with the wife though
    possession of the same may sometimes be wit the husband or
    other members of his family, if the husband or an other
    member of his family commits such an offence, they will b
    liable to punishment for the offence of criminal breach of
    trus under Sections 405 and 406 of the IPC.

    1. After all how could any reasonable person expect a
      newl married woman living in the same house and under the
      same roo to keep her personal property or belongings like
      jewellery, clothin etc., under her own lock and key, thus
      showing a spirit of distrus to the husband at the very
      behest. We are surprised how could th High Court permit the
      husband to cast his covetous eyes on th absolute and
      personal property of his wife merely because it is kep in
      his custody, thereby reducing the custody to a legal farce.
      On th other hand, it seems to us that even if the personal
      property of th wife is jointly kept, it would be deemed to
      be expressly or impliedl kept in the custody of the husband
      and if he dishonestl misappropriates or refuses to return
      the same, he is certainly guilt of criminal breach of
      trust, and there can be no escape from thi legal
      consequence…..”
  • It is well-settled that power under Section 482 Cr.P.C should be sparingly exercised in rare cases. As has been laid dow by this Court in the case of Madhavrao Jiwajirao Scindia & Ors. vs Sambhajirao Chandrojirao Angre & Ors., (1988) 1 SCC 692, tha when a prosecution at the initial stage was asked to be quashed the test to be applied by the Court was as to whether th uncontroverted allegations as made in the complaint prima faci establish the offence. It was also for the Court to take int consideration any special feature which appears in a particula case to consider whether it was expedient and in the interest o justice to permit a prosecution to continue. This was so on th basis that the Court cannot be utilized for any oblique purpose and where in the opinion of the Court chances of an ultimate conviction are bleak and therefore, no useful purpose was likely to be served by allowing a criminal prosecution to continue, the Court may while taking into consideration the special facts of a case als quash the proceedings even though it may be at a preliminar stage.
  • In the light of the well settled principles, it is to be see whether the allegations in the complaint in the present case an other materials accompanying the complaint disclose the offenc punishable under Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. Marriag of first appellant and Syamala Rani was solemnized i Vizianagaram on 04.05.2007 and the couple was living i Bangalore. Appellants 2 to 6–the parents and sisters of appellan No.1 were living in Vizianagaram. It is the contention of th appellants that there are no allegations in the complaint that th ‘stridhana articles’ were given to appellants 2 to 6 and that the failed to return the same to Syamala Rani. In paras (3) and (4) o the complaint filed by the second respondent, it is alleged that h paid the dowry amount “to the accused and some ‘stridhan articles’ like double cot and other furniture and utensils required t set up a family”. In the complaint, it is vaguely alleged that eve after death of deceased-Syamala Rani, the accused starte threatening the complainant and that the accused offered to pay a amount of Rs.10,000/- towards full and final settlement. Th relevant averments in the complaint in paragraphs (5) and (6) read as under:-

    “5. The complainant submits that even after the death o the
    deceased the accused by keeping the dead body on on side,
    started threatening the complainant and his famil members
    that if they give any report to the police, they wil be
    killed then and there only and they offered to pay a amount
    of Rs.10,000/- towards full and final settlement There the
    complainant, who was in deep shock at the deat of his
    daughter could not answer anything but gave report to the
    police.

    1. The complainant submits that he lead severa mediations
      with the accused through his colleagues, whos names are
      mentioned below for return of the dowry, but th accused did
      not return the amount and other amounts given under
      different heads. A duty cast upon the accuse to return
      those articles and amount, which were presente as dowry on
      demand made by the accused. The complainant reserves his
      right to file a fresh complaint against all the accused for
      return of the dowry. By reading of the above, it is seen
      that there are no specifi allegations against appellants 2
      to 6 that the dowry articles wer entrusted to them and that
      they have not returned the dowr amount and the articles to
      Syamala Rani. Equally, there are n allegations that those
      dowry articles were kept in Vizianagaram and used by
      appellants 2 to 6 who were separately living away from the
      couple in Bangalore. Even though complainant has alleged
      that the dowry amount was paid at the house of the accused
      a Gajapathinagaram, there are no specific allegations of
      entrustmen of the dowry amount and articles to appellants 2
      to 6.
  • Giving of dowry and the traditional presents at or abou the time of wedding does not in any way raise a presumption tha such a property was thereby entrusted and put under the dominio of the parents-in-law of the bride or other close relations so as t attract ingredients of Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. A noticed earlier, after marriage, Syamala Rani and first appellan were living in Bangalore at their matrimonial house. In respect o ‘stridhana articles’ given to the bride, one has to take int consideration the common practice that these articles are sen along with the bride to her matrimonial house. It is a matter o common knowledge that these articles are kept by the woman i connection with whose marriage it was given and used by her i her matrimonial house when the appellants 2 to 6 have bee residing separately in Vizianagaram, it cannot be said that th dowry was given to them and that they were duty bound to retur the same to Syamala Rani. Facts and circumstances of the cas and also the uncontroverted allegations made in the complaint do not constitute an offence under Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibitio Act against appellants 2 to 6 and there is no sufficient ground fo proceeding against the appellants 2 to 6. Be it noted tha appellants 2 to 6 are also facing criminal prosecution for th offence under Sections 498A, 304B IPC and under Sections 3 and of the Dowry Prohibition Act. Even though the criminal proceedin under Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act is independent of the criminal prosecution under Sections 3 and 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act, in the absence of specific allegations of entrustment of the dowry amount and articles to appellants 2 to 6, in our view continuation of the criminal proceeding against appellants 2 to 6 is.not just and proper and the same is liable to be quashed.
  • The impugned order in Criminal Petition No.1778 of 2010 is set aside qua the appellants 2 to 6 and the appeal is partl allowed.

  • …………………….…CJI (T.S. THAKUR)

    ………………………….J (A.K. SIKRI)

    ..………………………..J (R. BANUMATHI)

    New Delhi;
    January 19, 2016

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