Interpretation of word ‘sasuralwale’ to include ‘husband’ in case of dowry death

Chhattisgarh High Court: While holding that the word ‘sasuralwale’ includes husband and relatives of husband normally residing under same roof, a bench of T.P. Sharma J upheld the conviction of the accused husband under Section 498-A and 306 of the IPC for abetment of suicide of the deceased in a case of dowry death.

In the instant appeal, the appellant (husband of the deceased) challenged the decision of the trial court which convicted him and acquitted the two other co-accused (father and mother of the appellant) from the charges under Section 498-A and 304 B of the IPC for causing death of the deceased. On account of difference of opinion by a Division Bench whether to convict the appellant or to acquit him of the charges, the matter was placed before a third Judge under Section 392 of the CrPC.

Renu Kochar, the counsel for the appellant contended that as per the evidence on record, persons in in-laws’ home (sasuralwale) have committed the offence and that the appellant cannot be made liable in case of dowry death just because he is husband of the deceased. The counsel further contended that on the same set of evidence two accused have been acquitted by the trial court, and hence the present appellant is also entitled for similar treatment. J.K.T Gilda, the counsel for the respondent placed reliance on Prem Kanwar v. State of Rajasthan (2009) 3 SCC 726, where it was held that there must exist proximate and live-link between effect of cruelty based on dowry demand and concerned death in case of dowry death.

The Court observed that on the date of incident, the deceased (wife of the appellant) sustained 100% burn injuries inside her room within 3 years of her marriage and that the appellant was sleeping on the roof adjoining to that room and the doors of staircase were latched from inside. The Court noted that these circumstances indicate the immediate act of harassment of the deceased by the appellant leading her to death. The Court while holding that the word ‘sasuralwale’ is not ambiguous and specifically includes husband and relatives of husband normally residing under same roof and does not exclude the ‘husband’, upheld the conviction of the appellant under Section 498-A of the IPC and altered the conviction under Section 304 B to Section 306 of the IPC on the finding that evidence adduced on behalf of the prosecution is sufficient to prove that the appellant has abetted the suicide of deceased but is not sufficient to prove that appellant has caused dowry death. Rajesh Kumar Kaushik v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2015 SCC OnLine Chh 16, decided on 20-02-2015.

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