Tag Archives: 304B

No 498a based on hearsay evidence. Husband acquitted by Supreme court even after wife’s death

No 498a conviction based on hearsay evidence as the exceptions to Sec 32 Indian Evidence act are NOT acceptable for trying cases / crimes under ipc 498a. Also prosecution has failed to prove case beyond reasonable doubt. Hence Husband acquitted even after wife committed suicide.

///It follows, therefore, that there was no legal evidence tendered in the case which could be made the basis for returning a finding with respect to the alleged cruelty of the accused with the deceased. In the absence of any legal evidence produced in the case, we are of the opinion that the prosecution has failed to prove, beyond doubt, that the appellant had committed the offence under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code and find that it is a fit case where he is entitled to be given the benefit of doubt.

In view of our finding that there is no legal evidence to connect the accused with the commission of the offence under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, this appeal is allowed by setting aside the impugned judgment of the High Court as also of trial court. Giving him the benefit of doubt, the appellant is acquitted of the charge under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. His bail bond stands discharged.
/////

Supreme Court of India

Gananath Pattnaik vs State Of Orissa on 6 February, 2002

Author: Sethi

Bench: R.P. Sethi, Bisheshwar Prasad Singh

CASE NO.: Appeal (crl.) 1 of 1995


PETITIONER: GANANATH PATTNAIK

Vs.

RESPONDENT: STATE OF ORISSA

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/02/2002

BENCH: R.P. Sethi & Bisheshwar Prasad Singh


JUDGMENT:

SETHI,J.

The appellant was charged for the commission of offences punishable under Sections 304B and 498A of the Indian Penal Code for allegedly subjecting his wife to cruelty and causing the dowry death. After trial, the appellant was acquitted of the charge framed against him under Section 304B but convicted under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment. The appeal filed by the appellant against his conviction and sentence under Section 498A IPC was dismissed vide the judgment impugned in this appeal.

The facts of the case are that the appellant’s marriage with Rashmirekha was solemnised on 4.3.1984. A male child was born to the parties on 9.5.1985. Rashmirekha, the wife of the appellant died by hanging herself in the bathroom regarding which the appellant is stated to have lodged a written report to the Police Station Sahid Nagar and he informed the family members of the deceased. PW1, the father of the deceased thereafter lodged an FIR alleging therein that his daughter was murdered by the appellant and his family members. During the investigation it transpired that the deceased had committed suicide on account of dowry demands, allegedly made by the appellant and his family members. It was further revealed that the deceased had been subjected to ill-treatment, harassment and cruelty. The appellant was alleged to be having illicit connection with his brother’s wife. The accused totally denied the occurrence. In his statement, recorded under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, he admitted that the deceased was his wife but asserted that he was having very cordial relations with her. There was no demand of dowry either by him or his brother or his family members. According to him the deceased had committed suicide which is not related to either cruelty or harassment or demand of dowry.

Upon analysis of the prosecution evidence, the trial court concluded that, “in absence of any acceptable evidence to establish the foundational fact, the accused cannot be held guilty for the offence under Section 304B of IPC”. The trial court, however, found the appellant guilty for the offence under Section 498A IPC by finding: “In this case there is evidence that the accused has given purshes to the deceased in presence of PW4. He has taken away the child from her as stated by PW5. There is also evidence that the deceased was not allowed to sit on the scooter by the accused and he was frequently staying absent in the house. He also failed to explain his position in relation to his sister-in-law Bijayalaxmi to the deceased for which there was an impression that he had illicit relationship with Bijayalaxmi. I find the evidence of the witnesses on this score is consistent. Taking away the child and the further ill treatment of the accused to the deceased as indicated above amounts to cruelty in as much as by the said conduct of the accused, it could be much possible that the deceased Rasmirekha could be driven to commit suicide.”

The aforesaid findings were confirmed by the High Court vide the order impugned.

It is conceded before us that no appeal or revision has been filed against the judgment of the trial court by which the appellant was acquitted of the charge framed against him under Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code.

We do not agree with the argument of the learned counsel for the appellant that even on proof of the aforesaid circumstances, as noticed by the trial court, no case was made out against the appellant as, according to him, those facts even proved do not constitute cruelty for the purposes of attracting the provisions of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. Cruelty for the purposes of aforesaid section has been defined under the Explanation of the Section to mean:

“(a) any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or


(b) harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing here or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.”

The concept of cruelty and its effect varies from individual to individual also depending upon the social and economic status to which such person belongs. “Cruelty” for the purposes of constituting the offence under the aforesaid section need not be physical. Even mental torture or abnormal behaviour may amount to cruelty and harassment in a given case.

Learned counsel for the appellant then submitted that the findings returned by the trial court regarding the cruelty within the meaning of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code are not based on any legal evidence.

To hold that the accused had once given pushes to the deceased which drove her to commit suicide are based upon the alleged testimony of PW4 who is the mother of the deceased. We have minutely read the statement of the aforesaid witness and do not find any mention of her having seen the accused pushing the deceased which, in turn, could be held to be “cruelty” driving her to commit suicide.

Another circumstance of cruelty is with respect to taking away of the child from the deceased. To arrive at such a conclusion, the trial court has referred to the statement of PW5, who is the sister of the deceased. In her deposition recorded in the court on 4.5.1990 PW5 had stated:

“Whenever I had gone to my sister, all the times she was complaining that she is not well treated by her husband and in-laws for non-fulfilment of balance dowry amount of scooter and twin one.”

and added:

“On 3.6.1987 for the last time I had been to the house of the deceased i.e. to her separate residence. Sworna, Snigdha, Sima apa, Baby Apa accompanied me to her house on that day. At that time the deceased complained before us as usual and added to that she said that she is being assaulted by the accused now-a-days. She further complained before us that the accused is taking away the child from and her, and that her mother in-law has come and some conspiracy is going against her (the deceased). She further told that “MATE AU BANCHEI DEBENAHIN”.

Such a statement appears to have been taken on record with the aid of Section 32 of the Indian Evidence Act at a time when the appellant was being tried for the offence under Section 304B and such statement was admissible under Clause (1) of the said section as it related to the cause of death of the deceased and the circumstances of the transaction which resulted in her death. Such a statement is not admissible in evidence for the offence punishable under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code and has to be termed as being only a hearsay evidence. Section 32 is an exception to the Hearsay Rule and deals with the statements or declarations by a person, since dead, relating to the cause of his or her death or the circumstances leading to such death. If a statement which otherwise is covered by the Hearsay Rule does not fall within the exceptions of Section 32 of the Evidence Act, the same cannot be relied upon for finding the guilt of the accused.

Another finding for recording the guilt of the accused is that once the deceased was not allowed to sit on the scooter by the accused and that he was frequently staying absent from his house. Learned counsel, appearing for the respondent, fairly conceded that no witness has stated to that effect and we feel that such a finding is not based upon any legal evidence.

The alleged relationship of the appellant with his sister-in-law is stated to be another circumstance which led the deceased to commit the suicide. Again there is no evidence on the record to hold that the deceased had conceived the apprehension of the appellant having illicit relations with his sister-in-law which led her to end the life. Learned counsel for the appellant has taken us through letters Exhibit A to F, stated to have been written by the deceased as admitted by PW4. In one of the letters the deceased is shown to have written to her mother stating:

Please informed me when the result of Tutu shall be declared and also send the new address of Bada Bhai in the letter have told you have occasion not to spread bad rumour against the sister-in-law (wife of Kailash Patnaik) and not to discuss about her with anybody; can these discussions will at all lead to a better understanding, rather it will create more misunderstanding and aggravating the situation and which is already in vogue. I came to know that you are telling to others that she is not providing me proper food, allowing me to wear good cloth and giving ill-treatment. I want to know who has given you these false information about her and as I remember, have never discuss about this to you; it is wrong to presume that she is misbehaving me; but you have been getting wrong information about her from others. When it comes her knowledge that that you have made discussion against her it creates rift and misunderstanding in our family; further I would like to bring your notice this is to report to her by those you discuss about her. Further why are you discussing with others regarding my stay; whether it is at village-home or at Bhubaneshwar. I have made number of fervent appeals to you not to make any bad discussion against her but you are not heeding to my advise and continuing same against her. By doing this, you are isolating me from rest of the family members.”

(EMPHASIS SUPPLIED) In view of the aforesaid letter it could not be held that the deceased had conceived an apprehension about the relationship of the appellant with his sister-in-law.

It follows, therefore, that there was no legal evidence tendered in the case which could be made the basis for returning a finding with respect to the alleged cruelty of the accused with the deceased. In the absence of any legal evidence produced in the case, we are of the opinion that the prosecution has failed to prove, beyond doubt, that the appellant had committed the offence under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code and find that it is a fit case where he is entitled to be given the benefit of doubt.

In view of our finding that there is no legal evidence to connect the accused with the commission of the offence under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, this appeal is allowed by setting aside the impugned judgment of the High Court as also of trial court. Giving him the benefit of doubt, the appellant is acquitted of the charge under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. His bail bond stands discharged.

……………………….J. (R.P. Sethi)

……………………….J. (Bisheshwar Prasad Singh)

February 6, 2002

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*****************

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Mere bail not enough. Conviction under 498a 304B to be STAYED to get backwages. Criminal taint stops employment. GUJARAT HC

Mere bail not enough. Conviction under 498a 304B to be STAYED to get backwages. Criminal taint stops employement. GUJARAT HC

/// the fatum of conviction and when it was not stayed by any competent Court would entail the originality and when offence under Sections 498A and 306 of the Indian Penal Code, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held that the employer cannot be saddled with the liability of paying the wages to the employee when he was dismissed on account of conviction irrespective of reinstatement on account of acquittal. We hastened to add here that the situation would have been different if the conviction order itself was stayed by the Court. Mere enlargement of the employee on bail itself, would not amount to stay the conviction and, therefore, stigma attached to the employee on account of conviction remains and it would effect only when the competent Court converted the conviction into acquittal./////

IN THE HIGH COURT OF GUJARAT AT AHMEDABAD

R/SPECIAL CIVIL APPLICATION NO. 2236 of 2019


SHARAD JIVANLAL KURANI
Versus
UNION OF INDIA


Appearance:
MR PH PATHAK(665) for the PETITIONER(s) No. 1
for the RESPONDENT(s) No. 1,2,3,4,5


CORAM: Hon’ble MR.JUSTICE S.R.BRAHMBHATT
and
Hon’ble MR.JUSTICE A.G.URAIZEE

Date : 06/02/2019

ORAL ORDER

(PER : Hon’ble MR.JUSTICE S.R.BRAHMBHATT)

Heard Shri P. H. Pathak, learned counsel appearing for the petitioner.

Petitioner, who happened to be an applicant in original application being Original Application No.490 of 2012 with M.A. No.79 of 2013 has taken out this petition under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India assailing the judgment and order of the Central Administrative Tribunal, Ahmedabad Bench dated 31.08.2016, whereby the tribunal has rejected the prayer of backwages for the period from dismissal to the acquittal and reinstatement.

2. The facts in brief, could be gathered from the decision and the memo of petition, deserves to be set-out as under, for appreciating the controversy.

2.1 The petitioner was working as T. S. Clerk with Gujarat Telecom Circle of the Indian Post and Telegraphs Department from 01.01.1983. Later on, he was promoted as Sr. TOA (G) and was working with Telecom District, Rajkot. The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) came into existence w.e.f. 01.10.2000 and under an order dated 18.01.2002, the petitioner was absorbed in BSNL w.e.f. 01.10.2000. The petitioner had to face criminal prosecution u/s. 498A and 304B read with Section 114 of the Indian Penal Code in Sessions Case No.138 of 1991. The Sessions Court has acquitted the petitioner vide order dated 22.01.1997. Such acquittal order dated 22.01.1997 was challenged by the State Government, in Criminal Appeal No.335 of 1997. The High Court of Gujarat on 06.05.2004 allowed the said Criminal Appeal No.335 of 1997 and order of acquittal dated 22.01.1997 in Sessions Case No.138 of 1991 was set aside and acquittal was converted into conviction, punishable under Sections 498A and 306 of the Indian Penal Code and sentence of 5 years rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs.3000/-, in default whereof further rigorous imprisonment of 6 months was awarded. Being aggrieved, the order of the High Court rendered on 06.05.2004 in Criminal Appeal No.335 of 1997 was assailed in Special Leave to Appeal (Criminal) No.3154 of 2004. Main contention of the petitioner is that on account of his conviction in the Criminal Appeal, he came to be dismissed from C/SCA/2236/2019 ORDER services vide order dated 26.09.2006 i.e. after some time of conviction by the High Court and the petitioner was through out enjoying the bail and he was not in custody. The appeal in the Hon’ble Supreme Court being Criminal Appeal No.810 of 2004 was allowed and trial Court’s order was restored. The petitioner has filed Original Application for seeking appropriate relief and reinstatement. The department had reinstated the petitioner on 12.08.2011. The tribunal has rendered the decision on 31.08.2016, whereby, the petitioner was not granted the backwages from the date of dismissal, till the date of reinstatement based upon the fact that the Hon’ble Supreme Court in its decision cited in the judgment, which are reproduced as under, held that the respondent cannot be saddled with liability to make payment for the period, when the petitioner did not discharge his duties.

So the said order was assailed in this petition under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India.;

(1) “In the case of Ranchhodji Chaturji thakore vs. Superintendent Engineer, Gujarat Electricity Board, Himmatnagar (Gujarat) and Anr. reported in (1996) 11 SCC 603 the Hon’ble Supreme Court considered whether back wages would be paid to the employees for the period between the date of dismissal and the date of reinstatement. The Hon’ble Supreme Court held thus; “The reinstatement of the petitioner into the service has already been ordered by the High Court. The only question is : Whether he is entitled to back wages? It was his conduct of involving himself in the crime that was taken into account for his not being in service of the respondent. Consequent upon his acquittal, he is entitled to reinstatement for the reason that his service was terminated on the basis of the conviction by operation of proviso to the statutory rules applicable to the situation. The question of back wages would be considered only if the respondents have taken action by way of disciplinary proceedings and the action was found to be unsustainable in law and he was unlawfully prevented from discharging the duties. In that context, his conduct becomes relevant. Each case requires to be considered in his own backdrops. In this case, since the petitioner had involved himself in a crime, though he was later acquitted, he had disabled himself from rendering the service on account of conviction and incarceration in jail. Under these circumstances, the petitioner is not entitled to payment of back wages.”

(2) In case of Union of Inida & Ors. vs. Jaipal Singh reported in (2004) 1 SCC 121, the Hon’ble Supreme Court after expressing the agreement with the view in Ranchhodji (supra) observed thus; “…….If prosecution, which ultimately resulted in acquittal of the person concerned was at the behest or by department itself, perhaps different considerations may arise. On the other hand, if as a citizen the employee or a public servant got involved in a criminal case and if after initial conviction by the trial Court, he gets acquittal on appeal subsequently, the department cannot in any manner be found fault with for having kept him out of service , since the law obliges, a person convicted of an offence to be so kept out and not to be retained in service. Consequently, the reasons given in the decision relied upon, for the appellants are not only convincing but are in consonance with reasonableness as well. Though exception taken to that part of the order directing reinstatement cannot be sustained and the respondent has to be reinstated, in service, for the reason that the earlier discharge was on account of those criminal proceedings and conviction only, the appellants are well within their rights to deny backwages to the respondent for the period he was not in service. The appellants cannot be made liable to pay for the period for which they could not avail of the services of the respondent. The High Court, in our view, committed a grave error, in allowing backwages also, without adverting to all such relevant aspects and considerations. Consequently, the order of the High Court insofar as it directed payment of backwages are liable to be and is hereby set aside . The respondent will be entitled to backwages from the date of acquittal and except for the purpose of denying the respondent actual payment of backwages, that period also will be counted as period of service, without any break.””

4. Learned counsel for the petitioner has contended that the factum of restoration of service of the petitioner ought to have been appreciated by the tribunal. He has further contended that petitioner was not permitted to serve the department. Therefore, when he was available to discharge his duty, the dismissal order itself was not justified, as it was passed after one and half years of the order of conviction. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has also not said that the conviction and dismissal based thereupon would not entail the order of back-wages even after reinstatement in all cases. The facts and circumstances of the case have to be examined and appropriate relief is required to be granted.

This Court is of the view that the petition requires to be dismissed as the judgment and order passed by the tribunal does not call for any interference for the following reasons;

4.1 The Hon’ble Supreme Court’s judgments relied upon by the tribunal and extract of which were cited herein above, indicates the fatum of conviction and when it was not stayed by any competent Court would entail the originality and when offence under Sections 498A and 306 of the Indian Penal Code, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held that the employer cannot be saddled with the liability of paying the wages to the employee when he was dismissed on account of conviction irrespective of reinstatement on account of acquittal. We hastened to add here that the situation would have been different if the conviction order itself was stayed by the Court. Mere enlargement of the employee on bail itself, would not amount to stay the conviction and, therefore, stigma attached to the employee on account of conviction remains and it would effect only when the competent Court converted the conviction into acquittal.

Therefore, in our view, the tribunal’s reasonings cannot be said to be suffers from any infirmity, so as to call for any interference. As a result thereof, the petition fails and hereby dismissed.

(S.R.BRAHMBHATT, J) (A.G.URAIZEE, J)

DRASHTI K. SHUKLA

#Vague allegations, #NOdowry demand, #Material #improvements by witness, #Delayed witness recording, NO #mensrea, #No #Abetment : All accused acquitted of #498a #304B #ipc306

//// …31. It seems that PW 8 Kanwar Pal has been introduced in order to make out a case that “soon before her death”, the deceased was harassed on account of dowry demands as according to him, on 13 th January, 1996, he had gone to the house of Saroj when she informed him about the demand of Rs.10,000/-. It is pertinent to note that although the unfortunate incident has taken place on 20 th January, 1996, but statement of this witness was recorded by the Police under section 161 Cr. P.C. for the first time on 7th February, 1996.
….
60. Adverting to the facts of the case, although it is established that marriage of Saroj with Mahavir had taken place on 7 th May, 1995 and she has committed suicide within eight months of the marriage, however, none of the three material witnesses examined by the prosecution proved the allegations of demand of dowry and infact the deceased herself gave a clean chit to accused Mahavir and Shri Chand and in the suicide note she does not level any allegation even against her mother-in-law and sister-in-law.

61. It is a cardinal principle of criminal jurisprudence that the guilt of the accused is to be established by the prosecution beyond the possibility of any reasonable doubt. Even if there may be an element of truth in the prosecution story against the accused but considered as a whole there is invariably a long distance to travel and whole of this distance must be covered by the prosecution by legal, reliable and unimpeachable evidence before an accused can be convicted. Similar view was taken in Sarwan Singh Rattan Singh v. State of Punjab AIR 1957 SC 637; Anil W.Singh v.State of Bihar, (2003) 9 SCC 67; Reddy Sampath W. v. State of A.P, (2005) 7 SCC 603 and Ramreddy Rajesh Khanna Reddy v. State of A.P., (2006) 10 SCC 172.

62. In the instant case, prosecution has failed to bring home the guilt of the accused persons beyond reasonable doubt. That being so, they are entitled to benefit of doubt.

63. Under the circumstances, appeal is allowed. Impugned judgment and order on sentence dated 16 th October, 1999 and 23rd October, 1999 respectively are set aside and the appellants are acquitted of the offence alleged against them. Their bail bonds are cancelled and sureties are discharged.
///////

In THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI

Date of Decision: May 16, 2014

CR L.A. 611/1999
MAHAVIR KUMAR & ORS. ….. Appellants
Through: Mr.K.B. Andley, Sr. Advocate with Mr.M.L.Yadav and Mr.Lokesh Chandra, Advocates.

vErsus
STATE ….. Respondent
Through: Mr.Ravi Nayak, APP

CORAM:
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE KAILASH GAMBHIR
HON’BLE MS. JUSTICE SUNITA GUPTA

JUDGMENT

: SUNITA GUPTA, J.

: SUNITA GUPTA, J.

1. Challenge in this appeal is to the judgment and order on sentence dated 16th October, 1999 and 23rd October, 1999 respectively passed by the learned Additional District and Sessions Judge, Delhi in Sessions Case Nos.161/97 arising out of FIR No.52/96, PS Tilak Nagar whereby the appellants were convicted u/s 304B IPC and were sentenced to undergo imprisonment for life and a fine of Rs.50,000/- each, in default of payment, to further to undergo Simple Imprisonment for 5 years each.

2. Background facts as projected by the prosecution in nutshell are as follows:

3. On 20th January, 1996, on receipt of DD No.15A, PW5 ASI Shekhar Lal along with Constable Umed Singh went to house No. WZ-175, Harijan Colony, Tilak Nagar where he found window of a room broken and the door of the room was locked from inside and saw a lady hanging in the room. After sending a boy through the way of window he got the door of the room opened and found the dead body of Saroj. The dead body was brought on the floor after cutting the chunni with which it was hanging. Information was sent to SDM Mr. Dahia to initiate inquest proceedings. One suicide note was found lying on a table in the room which was seized vide seizure memo Ex.PW2/A in the presence of PW3 Inderjeet and PW2 Dalip. The dead body was sent to mortuary at Sabzi Mandi. When the belongings of the room were searched, at that time father of the deceased Ved Prakash produced one letter allegedly written by the deceased to her parents which was seized vide seizure memo Ex.PW5/A. SDM conducted the inquest proceedings in respect of the dead body. After the post mortem, the dead body was given to the father of the deceased. On 22nd January, 1996, PW14 Sh. K.K. Dahia recorded the statement of Ved Prakash (Ex.PW10/B) and directed SHO PS Tilak Nagar to register the case under the appropriate provision of law and investigate the case according to law. Accordingly, FIR under Section 498A/304B IPC was registered. During the course of investigation, all the accused were arrested. After completing investigation, charge sheet was submitted against them.

4. After hearing arguments on charge, vide order dated 5th August, 1997, charge under Section 304 B IPC was framed against all the accused to which they pleaded not guilty and claimed trial.

5. In order to bring home the guilt of the accused, prosecution, in all, examined 16 witnesses. All the incriminating evidence was put to the accused persons wherein factum of marriage of the deceased Saroj with accused Mahavir on 7th May, 1995 was admitted. It was also admitted that the remaining accused Shri Chand, Chameli and Sarla are father-in-law, mother-in-law and sister-in-law respectively of the deceased. It was also admitted that after marriage, deceased started living with the accused persons at her matrimonial home WZ 175, Harijan Colony, Tilak Nagar, Delhi. It was also admitted that on 20th January, 1996, Saroj committed suicide and on receipt of DD No. 15A, ASI Shekhar Lal along with Constable Umed Singh reached H. No. WZ-175, Harijan Colony, Tilak Nagar, Delhi where they found a lady hanging in the room. The dead body was brought on the floor. A suicide note was found on the table which was seized by the police. However, rest of the case of the prosecution was denied. All the accused pleaded their innocence. It was alleged that the deceased was never harassed nor any dowry was ever demanded nor any cruelty was ever inflicted upon her. It was alleged that she was living happily in the house and was well looked after. She was never beaten. In support of their defence, they examined DW1 Sh.Anand and DW2 Sh.Raghuvir Singh, both of whom are neighbours of the accused and have deposed that the accused persons used to look after and keep the deceased in proper manner and no dowry was ever demanded in their presence.

6. After considering the evidence led by the prosecution, learned Trial Court came to the conclusion that all the essential ingredients of Section 304B IPC were duly proved by the prosecution. Prosecution had succeeded in proving that the deceased was subjected to taunts regarding bringing of insufficient dowry and cruel treatment was accorded to her by physical beatings or mental torture. That being so, a presumption under Section 113B of the Evidence Act has to be drawn that the accused persons committed dowry death. As such, all the accused were held guilty under Section 304B IPC and were sentenced as mentioned above.

7. Feeling aggrieved by the aforesaid finding of the learned Trial Court, the present appeal has been preferred by the appellants. However, during the pendency of the appeal, one of the appellants, namely, Shri Chand expired on 19th January, 2006. Therefore, vide order dated 1st November, 2013, the appeal qua him stood abated.

8. It was submitted by Sh.K.B.Andley, learned Senior Advocate duly assisted by Sh.M.L. Yadav, Advocate for the appellant that only charge under Section 304B IPC was framed against the appellants and there was no separate charge under Section 498A IPC. So far as appellant Sarla is concerned, she is the sister-in-law of the deceased and was married at least five years prior to the marriage of the deceased with Mahavir Prasad and was residing at Palam Colony, Raj Nagar, Delhi which was about 15 k.m. away from her parental home. Only occasionally she used to visit her parental home. As such, there was no possibility of her presence on the day of incident when suicide was committed by the deceased. Deceased herself had left a suicide note wherein she had completely exonerated her husband and father- in-law. The suicide note has not been considered at all by the learned Trial Court. Immediately after the incident, no complaint was lodged by the parents of the deceased. It was only on 22nd January, 1996 father of the deceased gave a statement to the SDM which also does not reflect that there was any harassment meted out to the deceased on account of dowry. The prosecution has relied upon the testimony of father, mother and maternal uncle of the deceased who are giving different versions regarding the treatment meted out to the deceased. The allegations are quite vague and are in fact inconsistent with each other. Reference was also made to the letters handed over by father of the deceased to the police which also does not reflect any harassment to the deceased regarding demand of dowry. Moreover, there is nothing on record to show that “soon before death” there was any demand of dowry in order to bring the case within the four corners of 304B IPC. After a lapse of more than one month, statement of PW8 Kanwar Pal, maternal uncle of the deceased was recorded. It also does not inspire any confidence. As such, it was submitted that prosecution has failed to bring home the guilt of the appellants and they are entitled to be acquitted.

9. Sh. Ravi Nayak, learned Additional Public Prosecutor for the State, on the other hand, relied upon two undated distinct hand written notes recovered from the room of the deceased Saroj @ Rekha and one hand written letter, which was tied to the left forearm of the deceased and was found by Dr. Ashok Kumar for submitting that these letters are a record book of what treatment was meted out to her at her matrimonial home. If all these letters are read over, it only creates doubt regarding recovery of suicide note found on the table. He further referred to the testimony of Ved Prakash, Bimla and Kanwar Pal for submitting that their testimony remains consistent regarding harassment and treatment given to the deceased for insufficient dowry. Kanwar Pal has further deposed regarding demand of Rs.10,000/- which was soon before her death. The appellants have not been able to rebut the presumption under Section 113B of the Evidence Act. No evidence has come from the side of the appellants that they were not present at their house when the incident took place. Post mortem report of the deceased was also referred to for submitting that the Doctor found the bladder and the rectum empty, corroborating the suggestion that the deceased was often made to sleep hungry as she has stated in the letter. Delay of one day in registration of the FIR is no ground to doubt the prosecution case as it has come in the deposition of the parents of the deceased that soon they reached the matrimonial room of their daughter, accused Mahavir and Shri Chand took father of the deceased in a corner and asked him not to make any statement to the police. Even mother was stopped by the accused Chameli Devi from entering the crowd to find out about the incident. Under the circumstances, it was submitted that the impugned judgment does not suffer from any infirmity which calls for interference. Reliance was placed on Surinder Singh v. State of Haryana, 2013 (13) SCALE 691 and Bhateri Devi & Anr. v. State of Delhi, 2013 (4) JCC 2907.

10. We have given our anxious thoughts to the respective submissions of learned counsel for the parties and have also perused the Trial Court record.

11. The dowry system is in existence from the time immemorial in different forms and in different sects of society. It having taken the form of a wide spread epidemic became a matter of concern for the State as well as the social reformatory institutions. The Legislature became alert to the urging necessity of eradicating this social evil by appropriate enactment. True it is that Legislation cannot by itself solve the deep rooted social problem and it is only the education of the society in a particular direction and the efforts of the reformative bodies that social problems can be solved, however, the Legislation has played an important role in curbing the lust of dowry hungry persons. The Legislature, as such, enacted the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and introduced subsequent amendments in the provisions thereof to help the helpless weaker section of the society, i.e., the women folk from the torture and harassment, mental and physical at the hands of the husband and in laws on account of their parents being unable to quench the ever increasing thirst for the property in the form of dowry. Not only those who want to raise their status by managing to get the necessities, comforts and luxuries of life though marriage but the effluent section of the society even in certain cases has a lust for easy money or material through the institution of marriage. Thus the sacred ties of the marriage are given deplorable form and the vows taken by the husband at the alter of marriage are pushed in oblivion and continuous demand every now and then is either directly made by the husband or his relatives to the parents of the bride at the time of marriage or subsequent thereto.

12. Sec. 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (hereinafter to be referred as ‘the Act’) defines the term ‘dowry’ as under:

“Sec. 2 Definition of ‘Dowry’: In this Act “dowry” means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly-

(a) by one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage; or

(b) by the parents of either party to a marriage or by any other person to either party to the marriage or to any other person, at or before (or any time after the marriage) (in connection with the marriage of the said parties), but does not include dower or mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies.”

13. The insertion of the word “or any time after the marriage” and “in connection with the marriage of the said parties” by amendments in the year 1986 and 1984 respectively has significance because clever parties initially do not enter into any agreement or make a demand but subsequent to the marriage after the lapse of some period make the demand directly or through the wife in order to make a show that it is not dowry. It is for this reason that Legislation in its wisdom included subsequent demands and the things given as inclusive in the definition of “dowry”. Along with these amendments, provisions were inserted in the Indian Penal Code and in the Indian Evidence Act. Section 304B was inserted in Indian Penal Code as a new provision in the category of offences falling under sections 302, 304A and 307 IPC, in order to curb the lust of procurement of the dowry in the past marital life.

14. Section 304B reads as under:

“304B. Dowry death:Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns of bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with any demand for dowry, such death shall be called ‘dowry death’ and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.”

Explanation-For the purpose of this sub-section “dowry” shall have the same meaning as in Sec.2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (28 of 1961). Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.”

15. Hon‟ble Supreme Court in Sunil Bajaj v. State of MP, (2001) 9 SCC 417, after noticing the provisions of section 304B IPC had opined that in order to establish an offence u/s 304B IPC, following ingredients must be established before any death can be termed as dowry death:

(1) The death of a woman must have been caused by burns or bodily injury or otherwise than under normal circumstances.

(2) Such death must have occurred within 7 years of her marriage.

(3) Soon before her death, the woman must have been subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or by relatives of her husband.

(4) Such cruelty or harassment must be for or in connection with demand of dowry.

16. This section will apply whenever the occurrence of death of a woman is preceded by cruelty or harassment by husband or in-laws for dowry and death occurs in unnatural circumstances. The intention behind this section is to fasten the guilt on the husband or in-laws though they did not in fact caused the death. It may be noticed that punishment for the offence of dowry death under Section 304B is imprisonment of not less than 7 years, which may extend to imprisonment for life, unlike under Section 498A IPC, where husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty shall be liable to imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine. Normally, in a criminal case accused can be punished for an offence on establishment of commission of that offence on the basis of evidence, may be direct or circumstantial or both. But in case of an offence under Section 304B IPC, an exception is made by deeming provision as to the nature of death as “dowry death” and that the husband or his relative, as the case may be, is deemed to have caused such death, even in the absence of evidence to prove these aspects but on proving the existence of the ingredients of the said offence by convincing evidence. Hence, there is need for greater care and caution, that too having regard to the gravity of the punishment prescribed for the said offence, in scrutinizing the evidence and in arriving at the conclusion as to whether all the above mentioned ingredients of the offence are proved by the prosecution.

17. Section 113B of the Evidence Act is also relevant for the case in hand. Both Section 304-B IPC and Section 113B of the Evidence Act were inserted by Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act 43 of 1986 with a view to combat the increasing menace of dowry deaths. Section 113 B of the Evidence Act, 1872 reads as under:-

“113B. Presumption as to dowry death.- When the question is whether a person has committed the dowry death of a woman and it is shown that soon before her death such woman had been subjected by such person to cruelty or harassment for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, the Court shall presume that such person had caused the dowry death.

Explanation.- For the purposes of this section, “dowry death” shall have the same meaning as in Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860)”

18. As per the definition of “dowry death” in Section 304B Indian Penal Code and the wording in the presumptive Section 113B of the Evidence Act, one of the essential ingredients amongst others, in both the provisions is that the woman concerned must have been ‘soon before her death’ subjected to cruelty or harassment “for or in connection with the demand for dowry”. While considering these provisions, Hon‟ble Court in M. Srinivasulu v. State of A.P., (2007) 12 SCC 443 has observed thus:

“8.4… The presumption shall be raised only on proof of the following essentials:

(1) The question before the court must be whether the accused has committed the dowry death of a woman. (This means that the presumption can be raised only if the accused is being tried for the offence under Section 304-B Indian Penal Code.)

(2) The woman was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or his relatives.

(3) Such cruelty or harassment was for, or in connection with any demand for dowry.

(4) Such cruelty or harassment was soon before her death.”

19. A perusal of Section 113B of the Evidence Act and Section 304B Indian Penal Code shows that there must be material to show that “soon before her death” the victim was subjected to cruelty or harassment. In other words, the prosecution has to rule out the possibility of a natural or accidental death so as to bring it within the purview of the “death occurring otherwise than in normal circumstances”. The prosecution is obliged to show that soon before the occurrence, there was cruelty or harassment and only in that case presumption operates.

20. Adverting to the case in hand, as regards the first ingredient that the death of a woman must have been caused by burns or bodily injury or otherwise than under normal circumstances, the prosecution has examined Dr. Ashok Jaiswal (PW1) who conducted the post mortem on the dead body of the deceased Saroj and proved reports Ex. PW1/A and Ex.PW1/B opining that the death was due to ante mortem hanging caused by ligature found tied around neck. In cross- examination, he could not rule out the possibility of suicide. The fact that death of Saroj has taken place due to hanging also stands proved from the testimony of PW2 Dilip, PW3 Inderjeet and PW5 ASI Shekhar Lal, PW7 Bimla, PW10 Ved Prakash and PW13 Constable Umed Singh. A suicide note Ex. PW2/B was also found wherein the deceased has stated that she is committing suicide. The factum of committing suicide by the deceased is not even disputed by the accused. Under the circumstances, it stands proved that Saroj @ Rekha had committed suicide. Suicide committed by a woman comes within the purview of Section 304B IPC as it is also a case of death which does not occur under normal circumstances. As such, it is proved that Saroj @ Rekha died “otherwise than under normal circumstances”.

21. It is also undisputed case of the parties that the marriage of the deceased had taken place with the accused Mahavir on 7th May, 1995 and the unfortunate incident has taken place on 20th January, 1996, i.e., within eight months and 13 days of the marriage. As such, the first two ingredients mentioned above are satisfied.

22. We now have to see whether the third ingredient is also satisfied by looking at the evidence on record.

23. Out of 16 witnesses examined by the prosecution, material witnesses in this regard are PW7 Smt. Bimla, PW8 Kanwar Pal and PW10 Ved Prakash, mother, maternal uncle and father respectively of the deceased.

24. PW7 Smt. Bimla, mother of the deceased has deposed that after marriage her daughter Saroj started living at her matrimonial home at Tilak Nagar. Sufficient dowry was given in the marriage according to her status and capacity despite that all the accused persons used to taunt her for insufficient dowry which fact was stated to her by her daughter after two months of the marriage when she came to her house. Her daughter informed her that she was being taunted for bringing less dowry and no articles for the in-laws. She was also beaten up by all the accused persons for bringing insufficient dowry. These facts were disclosed by her on the occasion of Bhaiya Dooj and Raksha Bandhan when she came to her house. On 18th January, 1996, Chameli Devi, mother-in-law of the deceased came to her house in order to greet her as she was going to be the grandmother. She reciprocated the same. However, on 20th January, 1996, Bittoo, s/o Mohinder came to her and informed that condition of her daughter was not good. As such, she rushed to house of her daughter along with her husband and found a crowd and police officials and found her daughter hanging with a ceiling fan in a room. In cross- examination, she admitted that she did not state to the police that she was informed by her daughter that she was taunted and beaten up due to insufficient dowry.

25. PW8 Kanwar Pal is the maternal uncle of the deceased and has deposed that he had visited the matrimonial home of his niece Saroj two three times after her marriage. On 13th January, 1996 he had gone to the house of deceased Saroj on the occasion of Sakranti. At that time, Saroj told him that her in-laws were demanding Rs.10,000/- on account of construction of shop which was demolished earlier and that her mother-in-law, sister-in-law used to give beatings to her. He informed this fact to father of the deceased on 15th January, 1996 at his residence. In cross-examination, he stated that after 1½ -2 months of the marriage, he had gone to meet Saroj. At that time, she told that in the neighbourhood, in the marriage of someone, colour TV and scooter was given in dowry. Sister-in-law of the deceased also told him “Kallo ne kaha ki meri bhabhi bahut achhi hain magar pados mein kisi ki shadi mein colour TV aur scooter milla hai.” He, however, admitted that this fact was not stated by him to the police when his statement was recorded on 17th February, 1996. As regards demand of Rs.10,000/-, he could not say who demanded this amount.

26. PW10 Ved Prakash is the father of the deceased. He has also deposed that enough dowry was given by him at the time of marriage as per his capacity. At the time of marriage or soon thereafter, there was no complaint from any of the accused person in regard to dowry. However, after about 2 months of marriage, when he visited his daughter at her matrimonial home, at that time, she told him that her in-laws have started teasing her for insufficient dowry after marriage in their neighbourhood had taken place in which the bride side had given enough dowry such as colour TV, scooter etc. On the occasion of Raksha Bandhan when his daughter visited him, at that time, she also narrated that she was being frequently beaten up by the accused persons. After 4-5 days he talked to accused Shri Chand in order to know their grudge but he did not disclose any such thing. On the eve of Sakranti, his brother-in law (Kanwar Pal) had gone to his daughter‟s house to present customary gift. On 15th January, 1996, Kanwar Pal came and told him that when he visited his daughter, she was weeping bitterly and stated that her in-laws were demanding Rs.10,000/- for constructing a shop for Mahavir and for that reason, she was being regularly beaten up by all the accused. On 18th January, 1996, accused Chameli, mother-in-law of his daughter came to his house and congratulated them for becoming prospective grand parents of a baby, however, on 20th January, 1996 at about 8:30 pm, a boy, namely, Bittoo came and informed that condition of his daughter was not well. As such, he along with his wife went to Tilak Nagar. On reaching the matrimonial home, they found that there was a crowd and police officials were also present. As soon as he got down from the scooter, he was taken in a nearby room by accused Shri Chand and Mahavir and was threatened that in case any wrong statement is made before the police then he would be beaten up and would also be involved in a false case and that he would also be hanged as his daughter had been done to death. Thereafter, he was taken to the room of his daughter where he saw his daughter hanging with a ceiling fan. Next day, number of persons visited the house of accused persons in order to see the room in which his daughter was murdered. When they entered the room a small child picked up a paper lying underneath a bed and gave it to his wife who passed it to him. When he got that letter read from his son Mukesh then, it was revealed that his daughter has alleged ill-treatment by her in-laws. He became suspicious and gave photocopy of the paper Ex. PW5/A to the Police. Thereafter, he lodged a complaint Ex.PW10/A with the Police. In cross-examination, he could not say if he had stated to the SDM who recorded his statement that he was informed by Kanwar Pal on 15 th January, 1996 that demand of Rs.10,000/- is being made for construction of a shop for Mahavir.

27. On being informed about the incident, on 22nd January, 1996, PW14 Sh. K.K.Dahia, the then SDM, Punjabi Bagh recorded the statement of Ved Prakash, Ex.PW10/B and directed registration of the case. A perusal of the statement Ex.PW10/B which became the bed rock of investigation reveals that it was alleged that after two months of the marriage, his daughter informed him that the accused persons taunted her that her father had not given anything in the marriage, although in the neighbourhood, a marriage had taken place where the girl‟s side had given a colour TV and scooter. No direct demand was made from his daughter, by her in-laws but they used to taunt. Her mother-in-law also used to beat his daughter.

28. A perusal of the aforesaid evidence led by the prosecution goes to show that the allegations are quite vague, unspecific and uncertain. The witnesses themselves have deposed that no demand was made directly by any of the accused persons either from the deceased or from them. The allegations are confined to the fact that a marriage has taken place in the neighbourhood in which the bride had brought colour TV and scooter and the deceased used to be taunted on that account. Even regarding these facts, there is material improvement in the testimony of the witness, inasmuch as, mother of the deceased admitted in her cross-examination that she did not state to the police that her daughter informed her regarding insufficient dowry or taunts and beatings given by the accused persons when she came to her house on the occasion of Bhaiya Dooj and Raksha Bandhan. As far as Ved Prakash is concerned, he has specifically deposed that either at the time of marriage or soon thereafter, there was no complaint from any of the accused persons with regard to dowry. He has also deposed that after the marriage in the neighbourhood where colour TV and scooter was given in dowry, his daughter used to be teased by her in- laws. Even at this juncture, there is no allegation that any demand was made from the deceased or her parents for bringing any dowry article. He has, however, gone on stating that his brother-in-law Kanwar Pal had gone to the house of his daughter on the occasion of Sakranti to give customary gifts, at that time, his daughter informed him that her in-laws were demanding Rs.10,000/- for constructing a shop for Mahavir. However, this part of the testimony was a clear improvement as he was confronted with his statement Ex.PW10/DA where this fact was not mentioned. It is pertinent to note that even when his statement was recorded by the SDM, at that time also, it was not disclosed by him that his brother-in-law informed him that demand of Rs.10,000/- for construction of shop for Mahavir was made by the accused persons.

29. From the evidence on record, it is clear that there was no evidence of demand of dowry or subjecting Saroj to cruelty for or in connection with demand of dowry other than general and vague statements of the parents and maternal uncle of deceased.

30. Moreover, to bring home the guilt of the accused within the four corners of section 304B IPC, it is incumbent upon the prosecution to prove that “soon before her death” deceased was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or in laws. The expression “soon before death” has not been defined and the legislation has not specified any time which would be the period prior to death that would attract the provisions of section 304B IPC. In Sunil Bansal v. State of Delhi, 2007(7) AD Delhi 780, it was observed as under:

“Though there is no thumb rule as to what is meant by the expression “soon before” death of a woman u/s 304B IPC despite substantial flexibility, the charge cannot be maintained, if the acts are remote in point of time. Hon’ble Supreme Court has held in Kaliya Perumal v. State of Tamil Nadu, AIR 2003 SC 3828 and Yashoda v. State of M.P., 2004 III AD 305:2004 (3) SCC 98 that there should not be too much of the time lag between cruelty and harassment in connection with demand of dowry and the death in question. It was also held that there must exist a proximate and live link between the effect of cruelty based on dowry demands and death of the woman. The Court held that if the alleged incident of cruelty is remote in time and has become stale, not to disturb mental equilibrium of the woman, it would be of no consequence.”

31. It seems that PW 8 Kanwar Pal has been introduced in order to make out a case that “soon before her death”, the deceased was harassed on account of dowry demands as according to him, on 13 th January, 1996, he had gone to the house of Saroj when she informed him about the demand of Rs.10,000/-. It is pertinent to note that although the unfortunate incident has taken place on 20 th January, 1996, but statement of this witness was recorded by the Police under section 161 Cr. P.C. for the first time on 7th February, 1996.

32. There are catena of decisions that if the statement of the witness is not recorded on the date of incident or within reasonable time then, it has to be viewed with caution. To cite a few Paramjit Singh v. State of Punjab, 1997 (4) SCC 156; Jagjit Singh v. State of Punjab, (2005) 3 SCC 689; Maruti Rama Naik v. State of Maharashtra, (2003) 10 SCC 670; Harjinder Singh @ Bhola v. State of Punjab, (2004) 11 SCC 253; Prem Narain and Anr. v. State of Madhya Pradesh, (2007) 15 SCC 485.

33. It is not the case of prosecution that this witness was not available to the Investigating Officer of the case. No explanation whatsoever has been given by the Investigating Officer as to why the statement of this witness was not recorded earlier. Under the circumstances, his statement has to be viewed with caution. Moreover, if he had disclosed about the harassment to the deceased for demand of Rs.10,000/- for construction of a shop for Mahavir to her father Ved Prakash on 15th January, 1996 itself, there is no reason as to why this crucial fact was not disclosed by PW 10 Ved Prakash in his statement Ex.PW10/B made before the SDM. Testimony of PW7 Bimla, mother of the deceased is conspicuously silent in regard to any such demand. Moreover, in Appasaheb and Anr. v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 2007 SC 763 it was held by the Supreme Court that in order to bring the case within the four corners of Section 498- A IPC, any property or valuable security should be given or agreed to be given, either directly or indirectly, on or before or any time after the marriage and in connection with marriage of the said parties. Giving or taking of property or valuable security must have some connection with marriage, which is essential. Demand for money on account of some stringency or meeting some urgent domestic expense cannot be termed as demand for dowry. In Sanju v. State, 2009(164) DLT 459 demand of Rs.50,000/- by the appellant for his business from the father and mother of the deceased was held not to fall under demand of dowry as defined under Section 2 of Dowry Prohibition Act as demand is not made in relation to marriage. Besides that, there are general, vague and inconsistent statements of interested witnesses PW7, PW8 & PW10 being the parents and maternal uncle of the deceased which are not sufficient to establish essential ingredients of Section 304B IPC.

34. On the other hand, PW3 Inderjeet, PW4 Rajinder Singh and PW9 Smt. Sapna, used to live in the neighbourhood of the deceased and all these witnesses have deposed that they have never seen the accused persons causing any harassment or torture to the deceased for demand of dowry nor any dowry was ever demanded in their presence. The accused persons had also examined DW1 Anand and DW2 Raghuvir Singh, neighbours, both of whom have also deposed that the deceased was kept well by the accused persons and was never harassed on account of dowry.

35. Coming to the documentary evidence, it is the admitted case of the parties that a suicide note Ex. PW2/B was found lying on a table which was seized vide seizure memo Ex.PW2/A. A perusal of this suicide note goes to show that the deceased has completely exonerated her husband and father-in-law and has taken the responsibility of committing suicide on her own.

36. Learned Public Prosecutor for the State, however, relied upon three undated distinct hand written notes, two of them were recovered from the room where the deceased Saroj @ Rekha died by hanging and the third was tied to the left forearm of the deceased. The two handwritten notes found from the room out of which one was lying on the table marked as Ex.PW2/B and recovered in the presence of Dalip (PW2) and Inderjeet (PW3), neighbours of the accused persons. In another similar hand written letter Ex.PW5/C which was found under the bed of the deceased wherein she stated about the physical abuse meted out to her and laments that it was because of her poor background and the fact that she could not bring enough dowry, that she was treated that way. Then the third hand written letter was the 3 page letter written by the deceased, marked as Ex.PW1/A, addressed to her father which was tied to left forearm of the deceased and found by Doctor Ashok Kumar PW1 and in this letter the deceased had stated that by the time this letter would be read, she might be dead. It was submitted that these letters narrate the ordeals to which deceased was subjected to even for regular living necessities such as a sweater where she was taunted to bring her clothes from her parents, she was not fed properly and often slept without food at night. If all these letters are read, it creates doubt over the recovery of suicide note found on the table. It was further submitted that the other two similar undated hand written letters of the deceased highlight the plight of the deceased and showed the circumstances in which she was staying at her matrimonial place and particular attention was brought to third line from the top where she writes about her mother- in-law “jab se aayi hai, yahi kapde dali hai, apne ghar se kuch nahi layi” and at the top five lines where she writes about her husband that he does not even talk about her food and eats himself without even asking her and she remained hungry for several nights and finally the deceased writes about the slaps given to her which she attributes mainly because of her poor background and also because she could not get sufficient dowry. It was submitted that all these show the harassment and constant mental cruelty in the form of taunts and instances of physical cruelty in the form of slaps.

37. Learned senior counsel for the appellant, on the other hand, submitted that these letters do not reflect any demand of dowry or harassment to the deceased on that account.

38. A perusal of the letter Ex.PW5/C goes to show that it is written that:-

“Papaji aap hi bataiye ki meri galti kya hai. Mai peechhe baith kar kapde dho rahi thi. Mammi ne darwaaza khatkhataya tha. Mujhe aawaz nahi aayi kyonki peechhe tape wagairah chal rahi thi. Baad mei aawaz aane par maine jab darwaza khola, to mammi ne bina soche samjhe 2-3 haath rakh diye, baad mei chappal bhi nikaal li tatha bura bhala mere ghar waalo ko bhi bola. Akhir mein kab tak bardasht karein. Mere din baar ke bolne par hi beizzati ho gai. Kya hamari koi izzat nahi hai jo har koi mere upar haath uthate hain. Mai garib ghar ki hu na. Yadi dahej mei achha laati to shayad yeh sab na hota.”

39. In the other letter, she has referred to the comments made on her clothes. That, at best, can be termed to be discord and difference in domestic life which is quite common in the society to which the victim belonged but the same fall short of proving that the deceased has been subjected to cruelty or harassment „for or in connection with the demand of dowry‟.

40. In these letters, there is no reference of any demand of dowry by any of the appellants. Had there been any demand of dowry or demand of Rs.10,000/- for reconstruction of shop of Mahavir, deceased would have certainly commented upon the same in the aforesaid exhibits. This creates a serious doubt about the version of PW7, PW8 and PW10 regarding harassment of deceased by her husband and in-laws on account of demand of dowry.

41. With this evidence on record, it is clear that:-

(i) There is no evidence of demand of dowry or subjecting Saroj to cruelty for or in connection with dowry other than general, vague and inconsistent statement of interested witnesses, PW 7, 8 & 10, being the parents and maternal uncle of the deceased.

(ii) Not a single neighbour has come forward to speak about subjecting Saroj to cruelty by the appellants in relation to demand of dowry.

(iii) According to the parents of the deceased , there was no demand of dowry either at the time of marriage or even thereafter. There was no specific demand made by any of the appellants either from the deceased or from them.

(iv) The suicide note completely exonerates the husband and father-in-law and does not inculpate mother-in-law and sister-in-law.

(v) The letters Ex.PW1/A, Ex.5/B and Ex.5/C written by the deceased make mention of normal wear and tear of life but no mention was made about the demand of dowry or harassment meted out to her in connection with dowry.

(vi) PW7, PW8 & PW10, on account of Saroj having committed suicide, obviously were angry with the appellant and had every reason to involve them for offence under Section 304B IPC.

(vii) It is very unfortunate that within eight months of the marriage, Saroj had taken the extreme step of committing suicide but what exactly prompted her to take this extreme step has not surfaced.

42. Presumption under Section 113B of the Evidence Act can be drawn only when prosecution first establishes the essential ingredients of Section 304B IPC. Since the evidence falls short of proving the essential ingredients to Section 304B IPC, question of drawing presumption against the accused under Section 113B does not arise. The learned Trial Court fell in error in concluding that the appellants were guilty of offence when the crucial and necessary ingredient that deceased Saroj was subjected to cruelty and harassment soon before her death was not proved looking to the evidence and circumstances cumulatively. Therefore, the findings of learned Trial Court cannot be sustained.

43. The charge sheet was submitted under Sections 498-A/304-B IPC, however, no separate charge for an offence under Section 498-A IPC was framed. It is, however, a settled proposition of law that mere omission or defect in framing of charge would not disentitle the Court from convicting the accused for the offence which has been found to be proved on the basis of the evidence on record. In such circumstances, the matter would fall within the purview of Section 221(1) and (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. In M. Srinivasulu (supra), it was held by Supreme Court that a person charged and acquitted u/s 304B IPC can be convicted u/s 498A IPC without that charge being there, if such a case is made out. That being so, it is to be seen as to whether offence under Section 498-A IPC is made out of not. Section 498-A reads as under:-

“498A. Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.–Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

Explanation.–For the purpose of this section, “cruelty” means–

(a) any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or

(b) harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.”

44. A bare reading of Section 498-A goes to show that the term cruelty which has been made punishable under the Section, has been defined in the explanation appended to the said section. Therefore, the consequences of cruelty, which are either likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury/or danger to life, limb or health, whether mental or physical, of the woman or harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coerce her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand, are required to be established in order to prove an offence under Section 498 IPC.

45. Turning to the case at hand, as seen above, there is absolutely no allegation that either any demand of dowry was made from the deceased or from her parents. The allegations are confined to the taunts given to the deceased by comparing the dowry articles brought by the bride in the neighbourhood. It was also alleged that a sum of Rs.10,000/- was demanded for re-construction of shop of appellant- Mahavir which in view of the discussion made above does not come within the purview of demand in relation to marriage.

46. Even as per the letters, the beatings given to her are attributed to her mother-in-law alone. As stated above, in the suicide note, she has completely exonerated her husband and father-in-law whereas no allegations have been made against the mother-in-law and sister-in- law. Even the letters do not make a mention about any ill treatment to the deceased by her sister-in-law who undisputedly was married much prior to the marriage of the deceased with Mahavir and was living in her matrimonial home. As such, at the most, the allegations may tantamount to causing physical or mental cruelty upon the deceased under Part (b) of the Section by the mother-in-law, therefore, the allegations at the most are confined to Chameli Devi, mother-in-law of the deceased. However, as per the nominal roll, she remained in custody for a period of 3 years, 7 months and 15 days. The punishment prescribed under Section 498A IPC extends to three years only. Under the circumstances, even if it is held that Chameli Devi is guilty of offence under Section 498A IPC then she is entitled to be released on the period already undergone.

47. Keeping in view the fact that Saroj has committed suicide within seven years of marriage, it may also be seen whether any case u/s 306 IPC is made out. Section 306 IPC provides that if any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to ten years and with fine.

48. Section 107 IPC defines “abetment” which reads as under :

“S.107. A person abets the doing of a thing, who First– Instigates any person to do that thing; or Secondly– Engages with one or more other person or persons in any conspiracy for the doing of that thing, if an act or illegal omission takes place in pursuance of that conspiracy, and in order to the doing of that thing; or Thirdly– Intentionally aids, by any act or illegal omission, the doing of that thing.

Explanation.1- A person who, by willful misrepresentation, or by willful concealment of a material fact which he is bound to disclose, voluntarily causes or procures, or attempts to cause or procure, a thing to be done, is said to instigate the doing of that thing.

Explanation.2 – Whoever, either prior to or at the time of the commission of an act, does anything in order to facilitate the commission of that act, and thereby facilitate the commission thereof, is said to aid the doing of that act.”

49. This section has to be read with section 113A of Evidence Act, 1872 which reads as under:-

“When the question is whether the commission of suicide by a woman had been abetted by her husband or any relative of her husband and it is shown that she had committed suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage and that her husband or such relative of her husband has subjected her to cruelty, the Court may presume, having regard to all the other circumstances of the case, that such suicide had been abetted by her husband or by such relative of her husband.

Explanation.- For the purposes of this section, “cruelty” shall have the same meaning as in section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860)”.

50. A perusal of this section goes to show that any person, who abets commission of suicide, is liable to be punished under section 306 IPC. Section 107 IPC lays down ingredients of abetment, which includes instigating any person to do a thing or engaging with one or more persons in any conspiracy for the doing of a thing, if an act or illegal omission takes place in pursuance of that conspiracy and in order to the doing of that thing, or intentional aid by any act or illegal omission to the doing of that thing. As per definition of abetment as laid down u/s 107 IPC, there has to be instigation to commit suicide on behalf of the accused persons.

51. In Sanju @ Sanjay Singh Sengar v. State of M.P., (2002) Cri.LJ. 2796, it was observed:

“Where suicide was not the direct result of the quarrel when the appellant used abusive language and told the deceased to go and dies, no offence u/s 306 IPC is made out.”

52. In Kishori Lal v. State of M.P., (2007) 10 SCC 797, it was observed :-

“Mere fact that the husband treated the deceased wife with cruelty is not enough to bring the case within the parameter of Section 306 IPC.”

53. In the absence of direct evidence, it is to be seen whether presumption u/s 113 A of Indian Evidence Act can be drawn or not.

54. Unlike section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act, a statutory presumption does not arise by operation of law merely on proof of the circumstances enumerated in section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act. Under section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act the prosecution has to first establish that the woman concerned committed suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage and that her husband and in-laws (in this case) had subjected her to cruelty. Even if these facts are established, the Court is not bound to presume that the suicide had been abetted by her husband. Section 113A gives a discretion to the Court to raise such a presumption, having regard to all the other circumstances of the case, which means that where the allegation is of cruelty it must consider the nature of cruelty to which the woman was subjected, having regard to the meaning of word cruelty in section 498A IPC. The mere fact that a woman committed suicide within seven years of her marriage and that she had been subjected to cruelty by her husband and in-laws does not automatically give rise to the presumption that the suicide had been abetted by her husband and in-laws. The Court is required to look into all other circumstances of the case. One of the circumstances which has to be considered by the Court is whether the alleged cruelty was of such nature as was likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health of the woman. The law has been succinctly stated in Ramesh Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, (2001) 9 SCC 618 wherein Hon’ble Supreme Court observed :-

“This provision was introduced by the Criminal Law (Second) Amendment Act, 1983 with effect from 26.12.1983 to meet a social demand to resolve difficulty of proof where helpless married women were eliminated by being forced to commit suicide by the husband or in laws and incriminating evidence was usually available within the four corner of the matrimonial home and hence was not available to anyone outside the occupants of the house. However, still it cannot be lost sight of that the presumption is intended to operate against the accused in the field of criminal law. Before the presumption may be raised, the foundation thereof must exist. A bare reading of Section 113A shows that to attract applicability of section 113A, it must be shown that (i) the woman has committed suicide, (ii) such suicide has been committed within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage, (iii) the husband or his relatives, who are charged had subjected her to cruelty. On existence and availability of the abovesaid circumstances, the Court may presume that such suicide had been abetted by her husband or by such relatives of her husband. Parliament has chosen to sound a note of caution. Firstly, the presumption is not mandatory; it is only permissible as the employment of expression “may presume” suggests. Secondly, the existence and availability of the above said three circumstances shall not, like a formula, enable the presumption being drawn; before the presumption may be drawn the Court shall have to have regard to “all the other circumstances of the case”. A consideration of all the other circumstances of the case may strengthen the presumption or may dictate the conscience of the Court to abstain from drawing the presumption. The expression “the other circumstances of the case” used in Section 113A suggests the need to reach a cause and effect relationship between the cruelty and the suicide for the purpose of raising a presumption. Last but not the least, the presumption is not an irrebuttable one. In spite of a presumption having been raised the evidence adduced in defence or the facts and circumstances otherwise available on record may destroy the presumption. The phrase “may presume” used in section 113A is defined in section 4 of the Evidence Act, which says “Whenever it is provided by this Act that the Court may presume a fact, it may either regard such fact as proved, unless and until it is disproved, or may call for proof of it”.

30. In the State of West Bengal v. Orilal Jaiswal and anr., (1994) 1 SCC 73, Hon’ble Apex Court observed :-

“We are not oblivious that in a criminal trial the degree of proof is stricter than what is required in a civil proceedings. In a criminal trial however intriguing may be facts and circumstances of the case, the charges made against the accused must be proved beyond all reasonable doubts and the requirement of proof cannot lie in the realm of surmises and conjectures. The requirement of proof beyond reasonable doubt does not stand altered even after the introduction of section 498A IPC and section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act. Although, the Court’s conscience must be satisfied that the accused is not held guilty when there are reasonable doubts about the complicity of the accused in respect of the offences alleged, it should be borne in mind that there is no absolute standard for proof in a criminal trial and the question whether the charges made against the accused have been proved beyond all reasonable doubts must depend upon the facts and circumstances of the case and the quality of the evidence adduced in the case and the materials placed on record. Lord Denning in Bater v. Bater, 1950 (2) All ER 458, 459 has observed that the doubt must of a reasonable man and the standard adopted be a standard adopted by a reasonable and just man for coming to a conclusion considering the particular subject matter”.

55. In Gangula Mohan Reddy v. State of Andhra Pradesh, (2010) 1 SCC 750, Hon‟ble Supreme Court, observed as under:-

In State of West Bengal v. Orilal Jaiswal & Ors (1994) 1 SCC 73, this Court has cautioned that the Courts should be extremely careful in assessing the facts and circumstances of each case and the evidence adduced in the trial for the purpose of finding whether the cruelty meted out to the victim had in fact induced her to end the life by committing suicide. If it transpires to the Court that a victim committing suicide was hypersensitive to ordinary petulance, discord and differences in domestic life quite common to the society to which the victim belonged and such petulance, discord and differences were not expected to induce a similarly circumstanced individual in a given society to commit suicide, the conscience of the Court should not be satisfied for basing a finding that the accused charged of abetting the offence of suicide should be found guilty.”

56. In Mahendra Singh v. State of MP, 1995 SCC (Cri) 1157, Hon‟ble Supreme Court observed that it is common knowledge that the words uttered in a quarrel or in spur of moment or in anger cannot be treated as constituting mens rea. In the said case, appellant said to the deceased to “to go and die” and as a result of such utterance, the deceased went and committed suicide, however, Hon‟ble Supreme Court observed that no offence under Section 306 IPC read with Section 107 IPC was made out since there was no element of mens rea.

57. In Bhagwan Das v. Kartar Singh & Ors., (2007) 11 SCC 205, it was held that quite often there are disputes and discord in the matrimonial home and wife is harassed by husband or by her in-laws, this, however, would not by itself and without something more attract Section 306 IPC read with Section 107 IPC.

58. Substantially similar view was taken by this Court in Shailender v. State, 169 (2010) DLT 563.

59. In the instant case, there is no averment in the statement of the witnesses that any of the accused instigated the deceased to commit suicide. There is no direct evidence to establish that any of the accused either aided or instigated the deceased to commit suicide or entered into any conspiracy to aid her in committing suicide. From a reading of the contents of hand written letter, Ex.PW5/B, it appears that some utterances used to be made by mother-in-law of the deceased which was not to her liking and she used to remain disturbed because of that. However, no evidence has come on record to suggest that such utterances were made wilfully and intentionally in order to instigate the deceased in taking extreme steps of ending her life. Rather it has come on record that after Saroj conceived, family members were very happy. In fact on 18th January, 1993, Chameli Devi, mother-in-law of the deceased visited her parents‟ house to congratulate them as they were going to become grand parents of a child. In the facts of this case, prosecution has been unsuccessful in proving that there was element of mens rea on the part of the accused, accordingly, in our view, ingredients of evidence under Section 306 IPC r/w Section 107 IPC are not attracted. As observed in Smt. Bisno v. State, 2011 II AD (Delhi) 501, there is always a reason behind an act committed by a person. Committing of suicide by deceased by hanging herself, that too within eight months of the marriage does raise a suspicion that everything was not normal. This suspicion, however, cannot be a substitute for the proof of dowry demand or subjecting the deceased to harassment and cruelty, i.e., the requisite ingredients which constitute the offence under Section 498-A, 304-B IPC or 306 IPC.

60. Adverting to the facts of the case, although it is established that marriage of Saroj with Mahavir had taken place on 7 th May, 1995 and she has committed suicide within eight months of the marriage, however, none of the three material witnesses examined by the prosecution proved the allegations of demand of dowry and infact the deceased herself gave a clean chit to accused Mahavir and Shri Chand and in the suicide note she does not level any allegation even against her mother-in-law and sister-in-law.

61. It is a cardinal principle of criminal jurisprudence that the guilt of the accused is to be established by the prosecution beyond the possibility of any reasonable doubt. Even if there may be an element of truth in the prosecution story against the accused but considered as a whole there is invariably a long distance to travel and whole of this distance must be covered by the prosecution by legal, reliable and unimpeachable evidence before an accused can be convicted. Similar view was taken in Sarwan Singh Rattan Singh v. State of Punjab AIR 1957 SC 637; Anil W.Singh v.State of Bihar, (2003) 9 SCC 67; Reddy Sampath W. v. State of A.P, (2005) 7 SCC 603 and Ramreddy Rajesh Khanna Reddy v. State of A.P., (2006) 10 SCC 172.

62. In the instant case, prosecution has failed to bring home the guilt of the accused persons beyond reasonable doubt. That being so, they are entitled to benefit of doubt.

63. Under the circumstances, appeal is allowed. Impugned judgment and order on sentence dated 16 th October, 1999 and 23rd October, 1999 respectively are set aside and the appellants are acquitted of the offence alleged against them. Their bail bonds are cancelled and sureties are discharged.

Intimation be sent to the concerned Superintendent Jail. Trial Court record be sent back forthwith along with copy of the judgment.

(SUNITA GUPTA) JUDGE (KAILASH GAMBHIR) JUDGE MAY 16, 2014 rs

 

No dowry or cruelty soon b4 wife’s death! No evidence except bald statements! ALL acquitted in 306, 304B, 498A. Raj HC

Sad story of how a husband is acquitted 21 years AFTER the death of his wife. The Hon. HC scrutinizes the evidence and notices that there is NO evidence to prove either dowry demand or cruelty linking to the death !!

#SoonBeforeDeath #ProsecutionToProve #Cruelty_SoonBeforeDeath #soon_before_death_304B_(1)_of_IPC #acquittal #acquittalIn304B

The Honourable HC appreciates states “….. On an overall analysis of the entire sequence of events, … it is apparent that prosecution has failed to produce/bring on record any evidence indicating specific demand of dowry soon before the death of Vimla. In fact, in the entire statements of the above three witnesses, except for the statement that there is no custom of giving dowry in their community, there is no reference of the word dowry in their statements!!….”

“…Further, the few allegations which have been made pertaining to alleged ill treatment by father-in-law and mother-in-law like not giving food to Vimla, those allegations specifically pertains to the period immediately after the birth of first child, after first year of marriage and, thereafter, there is specific evidence regarding the fact that Ramesh thereafter took Vimla to Bombay and at Bombay they were living peacefully…..”

“…In those circumstances, apparently, it cannot be said from the evidence available on record that there was any demand of dowry on the part of the appellant Ramesh Kumar. So far as the allegation about beating being given by the appellant and father-in-law and mother-in-law to the deceased Vimla are concerned, the statements are too general and non-specific …”

“….As discussed extensively, there is no evidence available on record about any ill treatment/harassment by appellant except for bald statements about his giving beating to deceased Vimla. As already noticed the evidence only points to some such incident by the father-in-law/mother-in-law for which also there is no reference in Ex.P/5 and, therefore, there is no iota of evidence regarding abetment to suicide as well….”

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IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE FOR RAJASTHAN AT JODHPUR
J U D G M E N T :

S.B.CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 221/1997

Ramesh Kumar
vs.
State of Rajasthan

DATE OF ORDER : 12th July, 2016

P R E S E N T
HON’BLE MR.JUSTICE ARUN BHANSALI

Mr.Suresh Kumbhat, for the appellant.
Mr. Arjun Singh, Public Prosecutor.

BY THE COURT:

This appeal is directed against the judgment dated 28/4/1997 passed by the Addl. Sessions Judge, Bali in Sessions Case No.54/95, whereby, the appellant Ramesh Kumar has been convicted for the offence under Sections 498A, 304B and 306 IPC and has been senteced to imprisonment as under:

U/s 498A IPC : 3 years R.I., Rs.1000/- fine, in default 3 months R.I.
U/s 304B IPC : 7 Years R.I., Rs.5000/- fine, in default 6 months R.I.
U/s 306 IPC : 7 Years R.I., Rs.500/- fine, in default 6 months R.I.
All the sentences have been ordered to run concurrently.
By the said judgment, other two accused Shanker Lal and Nopi Bai, parents of appellant Ramesh Kumar, were acquitted.

The brief facts of the case are that on 19/6/1995, Shanker Lal, father of the appellant, lodged an FIR indicating therein that his son Ramesh Kumar (Appellant) was married to Vimla 05 years ago; they are having one daughter Mamta aged about 2 years and a son Ravi aged about 06 months; at about 8.00 am on the said day Ramesh Kumar, his wife Vimla and other family members went to plough the field; at about 10.30 am his son Pratap informed him that he went to the well to start the pump, the pump did not start and Pratap found that one `odna’ (shorter version of saree) was lying near the motor; Pratap went to the well and Ramesh Kumar and Phoola Ram also came to the well and saw that clothes of woman were lying there; they went back to the house to search Ramesh’s wife and children but they were not found; Ramesh Kumar and Phoola Ram informed Pratap that about 10.00 am Vimla told that she is going to give milk to her children and Vimla along with Mamta & Ravi fell into the well.

On the said report proceedings under Section 174 Cr.P.C. were initiated by SDM, Bali and after investigation they lodged FIR under Section 498A and 304B IPC and after investigation challan was filed against appellant Ramesh Kumar, his father Shanker Lal and mother Nopi Bai. After trial, Shanker Lal and Nopi Bai were acquitted and appellant Ramesh Kumar was convicted and sentenced in the manner indicated hereinbefore.

On behalf of the prosecution, 17 witnesses were examined, whereafter, statement of accused under Section 313 Cr.P.C. was recorded; on behalf of the prosecution documents Ex.P/1 to P/32 were produced and defence produced the statement of Smt. Kastu as D-1.

While P.W.4 to P.W.12 were declared hostile, the trial court based on the statements of P.W.1 to P.W.3, Shesha Ram-brother, Mangi Lalfather and Smt. Kastumother, though brother and father during the course of their statement were also declared hostile, and based on the evidence available on record convicted the appellant for the offences under Sections 306 and 498A and 304B IPC with the aid of Section 113A & 113B of the Evidence Act, 1872. The other accused Shanker lal and Nopi Bai were acquitted, as noticed hereinbefore.

It is submitted by the learned counsel for the appellant that a bare perusal of the entire sequence of events as brought on record by the prosecution would clearly show that the prosecution has failed to bring home the charges against the appellant and, therefore, the judgment impugned deserves to be set aside. It is submitted that there is no evidence worth the name regarding the appellant seeking dowry and, therefore, the conviction under Section 498A and 304B cannot be sustained. With reference to the letters Ex.P/2, Ex.P/3 and Ex.P/4 it was submitted that the letters, even if taken as proved, were written between the period 13/4/1993 and 03/07/1993 and the incident has happened on 19/6/1995 i.e. almost after two years and, therefore, the ingredients of Section 304B regarding ‘demand of dowry soon before death’ is totally missing. It was further submitted that a bare reading of the letters would indicate that the same are nowhere connected with the demand of dowry but infact pertain to the amount which was lying with the appellant’s father-in-law along with some more amount as loan and, therefore, from the very nature of the said documents, it cannot be said that any dowry was ever demanded by the appellant. With reference to the statement of Shesha Ram and Mangi Lal, brother and father of deceased Vimla, it was submitted that from both the statements it is ex facie clear that the appellant did not demand any dowry and, therefore, the conviction of the appellant deserves to be set aside.

With reference to the conviction under Section 306 IPC it was submitted that the entire statements of Mangi Lal and Kastu, father and mother of deceased Vimla, clearly indicate about some dissatisfaction from the mother-in-law only and there is no reference whatsoever regarding any dissatisfaction/dispute with the appellant and, therefore, the appellant could not have been convicted for abetment of suicide by deceased Vimla and, therefore, the judgment deserves to be quashed and set aside. It was also submitted that the documents Ex.P/2 to Ex.P/5 which have formed the basis for conviction are full of overwriting, wherein, the Investigating Officer P.W.16 has indicated that he did not get examined said documents and that overwriting in said letters was apparent and, therefore, said documents could not have been relied on by the prosecution.

Reliance was placed on Harpal Singh vs. State of Rajasthan : 2004 (2) R.Cr.D 274, Devender Singh vs. State of Haryana : 2007 (1) Crimes 228 (SC), Manoj Kumar vs. State of Rajasthan : 2008 (1) Cr. L.R.(Raj.) 865, Vikram Singh vs. State of Rajasthan : 2007 (1) Current Judgments (Raj.) Criminal 295, Indrajit Sureshprasad Bind & Ors. vs. State of Gujarat : 2013 Cr.L.R.(SC) 403 and Bakshish Ram & anr. vs. State of Punjab : 2013 Cr.L.R.(SC) 753.

Learned Public Prosecutor vehemently opposed the submissions made by the counsel for the appellant. It was submitted that from the material available on record it is proved beyond reasonable doubt that deceased Vimla along with her two minor children, Mamta and Ravi, committed suicide on account of demand of dowry by the appellant and, therefore, his conviction is justified and the judgment of the trial court does not call for any interference.

I have considered the submissions made by the learned counsel for the parties and have perused the material available on record.

The ingredients of offence under Section 304B IPC pertaining to dowry death, which has got implication in the present case are death of a woman within seven years of marriage otherwise than under normal circumstances, woman being subjected to cruelty and harassment soon before her death in connection with any demand of dowry. Further, Section 113A of the Evidence Act provides for presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman in case it is shown that she had committed suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage and that her husband or relatives of her husband had subjected her to cruelty and Section 113B of the Act provides for presumption as to dowry death if it is shown that soon before the death of a woman she was subject by such persons to cruelty and harassment for or in connection with demand of dowry.

A scanning of the evidence available on record indicates that P.W.1 Shesha Ram, brother of deceased Vimla, stated that his uncle Mangi Lal was in service at Bombay; Ramesh was in service at Bhiwandi; he was not aware about the nature of relation between Vimla and her husband as he used to come to the village once in a year; once or twice Vimla told him at Sadri that Ramesh used to give her beating. The said witness then referred to an incident of some Sunday regarding which he did not indicate any date or period and stated that he along with Puna Ram, Durga Ram and his uncle Mangi Lal went to Bhiwandi to meet Ramesh, where Ramesh sought monetary help from his uncle and offered to pay interest; his uncle told Ramesh that as he is in service he did not have the money; Ramesh had asked for Rs.50,000/-. Witness concluded his statement qua the said visit by indicating that that was the conversation which took place between Ramesh and Mangi Lal and there was no other discussion and then stated that Ramesh told his uncle that he will have to give the amount under any circumstance, whereafter, the said witness was declared hostile and was cross examined by Assistant Public Prosecutor, wherein, he exhibited his statement during police investigation as Ex.1. In cross examination by the counsel for the accused, he stated that Vimla told him 6-7 times about beating and as to when Vimla told him about the said aspect he was not aware of the year and time and reiterated that he used to visit village once in a year. When the witness was asked about other details qua Vimla as to birth of her children, he expressed ignorance. On further cross examination regarding the location of Ramesh’s room at Bhiwandi, he expressed ignorance and with regard to his visit he stated that Ramesh and Vimla were sitting happily. He expressed ignorance about Ramesh lending some money to Mangi Lal. Said statement of P.W.1 Shesha Ram is full of contradictions as noticed hereinbefore, he started with the fact that he met Vimla once or twice in Sadri when she informed about beating given by Ramesh, however, in the cross examination he claimed that Vimla told him 6-7 times regarding beating given to her. The said witness is cousin brother of deceased Vimla and is totally unaware of her family circumstances i.e. birth of her children and in those circumstances, the communication between Shehsa Ram and Vimla regarding her personal affairs, when admittedly Shesha Ram visited his village only once in a year from Bombay, specially in view of rural background of the parties involved, appears to be wholly improbable. The witness even qua the meeting indicated that Ramesh asked for monetary help and also offered to pay interest on the said amount, however, nowhere the witness has indicated anything about the point of time, not even the year has been indicated as to when the said incident regarding their visit to Bhiwandi happened, as such, it cannot be said that the alleged demand could be termed as demand for dowry.

Mangi Lal, P.W.2, father of deceased Vimla, indicated that relations between Ramesh and Vimla were (??? ???) normal. Ramesh used to serve at Bombay and Vimla was living at Bali. He alleged that Vimla was living at Bali peacefully for 12 months, whereafter, her in-laws stopped giving food to her. He stated that Ramesh Kumar wrote letters to him demanding Rs.2 lacs, which were handed over to Police and marked as Ex.P/2, Ex.P/3 and Ex.P/4. He also exhibited a letter written by Vimla to the community as Ex.P/5. He also stated that he met Vimla at Bombay, where she stated that everything was peaceful and she has no problem; Ramesh used to ask for Rs.2 lacs sometimes and Rs.35,000/- sometimes. When he stated that father-in-law and mother-in-law of Vimla & her husband forced her to commit suicide, he was declared hostile and was cross examined by Assistant Public Prosecutor, wherein, he exhibited his statement during investigation as Ex.P/6 and admitted the production of letters Ex.P/2, Ex.P/3, Ex.P/4 and Ex.P/5. In cross examination by the counsel for the accused, most of the allegations pertain to father-in-law and mother-in-law. A look at the statement indicates prodution of letters Ex.P/2, Ex.P/3, Ex.P/4 and Ex.P/5, making statement about demand of Rs.2 lacs and sketchy allegations only pertain to in-laws and not against appellant Ramesh Kumar.

A look at the letters Ex.P/2, Ex.P/3 and Ex.P/4 reveals that while Ex.P/2 is dated 13/4/1993 indicating that Ramesh was not well and that Mangi Lal should come with Rs.2 lacs for treatment and if he does not turn up then they should deem that their son-in-law is no more. The Investigating Officer qua the said letter indicated that there may be interpolation with the figures. The document Ex.P/3 dated 15/6/1993 is a piece of paper, wherein, it is indicated that please pay Rs.2 lacs to Phoola Ram, qua the said piece of paper also the Investigating Officer stated likelihood of interpolation in the figures, which is apparent from the bare look at the said exhibit. The third document is a letter dated 3/7/1993 (Ex.P/4), wherein, it is indicated that Mangi Lal should repay Rs.25,000/- given by Ramesh along with Rs.10,000/-, in total Rs.35,000/- by way of draft. It was indicated that the amount was paid by him two years back and, therefore, he can also lend and that amount would be returned back with interest. The document Ex.P/5 is a Note dated 29/11/1993 written by Vimla addressed to Panchas indicating that she was at her parents home for six months and there should be some settlement. Further reference was made that nobody has turned up from her in-laws to take her back and that she does not want to go back to her in-laws place. In his statement, Mangi Lal made bald statement about demand of Rs.2 lacs by appellant Ramesh and produced document Ex.P/2 to Ex.P/5 for supporting the said contention. However, a bare look at the said documents, as noticed hereinbefore, would indicate that besides the fact that there are apparent interpolations in the figures, from none of the communication it can be deciphered as to demand was in relation to dowry by appellant Ramesh Kumar. On the other hand, the letter Ex.P/4 indicates calling for return of the amount paid by Ramesh Kumar to Mangi Lal and offering interest on the additional amount requested by him. The said document, conclusively indicates that other communications Ex.P/2 & Ex.P/3, apparently cannot be termed as any demand for dowry. Further the indication by the father Mangi Lal regarding his daughter living peacefully at Bombay when he met her, also clearly indicates that in so far as appellant was concerned, there was apparently no dispute between the husband and the wife. The letter/representation dated 29/11/1993 (Ex.P/5) said to have been written by Vimla also does not indicate any demand of dowry from any quarter and only a grievance has been made that her in-laws were not taking her back from her parents’ house.

In view thereof, from the documents produced by Mangi Lal P.W.2 and from his statement also, nothing has emerged so as to bring home the allegations/charge against the appellant Ramesh Kumar.

P.W.3 Kastu,who is mother of deceased indicated that the first child was born to Vimla after about one year of her marriage; the relations of Vimla with her in-laws were normal when she ws sent back after delivery; thereafter, her father-in-law and mother-in-law used to quarrel with her and used to give her beating and would not give food to her. She made reference to communication made to Panchas of the Samaj regarding dispute after Vimla came to Sadri (parental home); Ramesh Kumar had written 2-3 letters, however, she was not aware of the contents thereof and her husband informed her that Ramesh was demanding amount of money, whereafter, Ramesh took Vimla to Bali and from there to Bombay. She alleged that husband of Vimla and her father-in-law and mother-in-law used to give beating and used to demand money. In cross examination she stated that Vimla returned from Bombay to Bali and she did not indicate anything about beating being given to her. She stated about beating given by mother-in-law when Ramesh was at Bombay; Ramesh took Vimla to Bombay where she remained for about 1 -2 years and a son was born to her at Bombay. A bare look at the said statement of Kastu, it can be deciphered that she made reference about relations being normal till the birth of first child and thereafter, when Vimla went to her in-laws place there was some dispute and when she returned back to her parental house and remained there for six months. Thereafter, Ramesh took her back and from there they went to Bombay and stayed at Bombay for over two years and relations were normal inasmuch as Vimla gave birth to her second child at Bombay i.e. place of her husband and whereafter, the incident has happened. The letters which have been written over a period of seven months during the period 3.4.1993 to 29.11.1993, pertain to the period when Vimla was at her parental home. Besides above, there is no other evidence as all other witnesses i.e. P.W.4 to P.W.12 have been declared hostile and P.W.13 to P.W.17 are official witnesses.

On an overall analysis of the entire sequence of events, as noticed hereinbefore, it is apparent that prosecution has failed to produce/bring on record any evidence indicating specific demand of dowry soon before the death of Vimla. In fact, in the entire statements of the above three witnesses, except for the statement that there is no custom of giving dowry in their community, there is no reference of the word dowry in their statements. Further, the few allegations which have been made pertaining to alleged ill treatment by father-in-law and mother-in-law like not giving food to Vimla, those allegations specifically pertains to the period immediately after the birth of first child, after first year of marriage and, thereafter, there is specific evidence regarding the fact that Ramesh thereafter took Vimla to Bombay and at Bombay they were living peacefully.

In those circumstances, apparently, it cannot be said from the evidence available on record that there was any demand of dowry on the part of the appellant Ramesh Kumar. So far as the allegation about beating being given by the appellant and father-in-law and mother-in-law to the deceased Vimla are concerned, the statements are too general and non-specific inasmuch as it is admitted on record that Ramesh used to reside at Bhiwandi during the period when allegation of giving beating has been indicated whereas Vimla is stated to be staying at Sadri with her father-in-law and mother-in-law and in the letter Ex.P/5 dated 29/11/1993 written to Panchas also there is no reference of any beating being given to deceased Vimla and,therefore, the prosecution has failed to being home even the said allegation against appellant Ramesh Kumar.

Even as per the evidence led by the prosecution, the demand, if any, (though it has been held hereinbefore that there was no such demand) was made between the period 13/4/1993 to 3/7/1993 based on Ex.P/2 to Ex.P/4, whereas, Vimla committed suicide on 19/6/1995 i.e. after almost two years.

Hon’ble Supreme Court in State of Karnataka vs. Dattaraj & Ors. : 2016 (2) RLW 1573 (SC) held that as the demand was made about two years before the occurrence, the same was too remote to the occurrence and, therefore, would not satisfy the requirement of ‘soon before her death’ as contemplated under Section 304B (1) of IPC. The Hon’ble Supreme Court further with reference to its judgment in the case of Appasaheb vs. State of Maharashtra : (2007) 9 SCC 721 and Rajinder Singh vs. State of Punjab : (2015) 6 SCC 477 refused to consider the demands made by the accused in the said cases for purchasing the agricultural land and also with reference to sewing machine to be treated as demands constituting ‘dowry’.

As discussed extensively, there is no evidence available on record about any ill treatment/harassment by appellant except for bald statements about his giving beating to deceased Vimla. As already noticed the evidence only points to some such incident by the father-in-law/mother-in-law for which also there is no reference in Ex.P/5 and, therefore, there is no iota of evidence regarding abetment to suicide as well.

The trial court while making reference to the various statements, frowning on the conduct of the witnesses, who turned hostile specially P.W.4 Prakash, based on drawing presumption under Section 113A and 113B of the Evidence Act, convicted the accused.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Bakshish Ram (supra) held that there must be material to show that soon before her death the victim was subjected to cruelty or harassment, in other words the prosecution has to rule out the possibility of a natural and accidental death so as to bring it within the purview of death occurring other than in normal circumstances.

In the present case, the prosecution was obliged to prove that appellant had subjected the deceased to cruelty/soon before the occurrence there was cruelty or harassment and in view of the fact that prosecution has failed to prove that deceased Vimla was subjected to cruelty by the appellant/subjected to cruelty or harassment soon before her death in connection with any demand of dowry, the presumption under Section 113A and 113B of the Evidence Act does not arise and, therefore, the findings recorded by the trial court cannot be sustained.

In view of the above discussion, this Court is satisfied that prosecution has failed to establish the guilt of the appellant beyond reasonable doubt and the trial court committed an error in convicting the appellant and same is, therefore, liable to be set aside.

Accordingly, the appeal is allowed, the conviction of appellant Ramesh Kumar for the offences punishable under Sections 306, 304B and 498A IPC is set aside. The amount of fine, if paid by the appellant, be refunded back to him.

(ARUN BHANSALI), J.

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