Factum of unnatural death within 7 years of marriage is not ipso facto sufficient for conviction for dowry death

Supreme Court: In the appeal filed by the in-laws of the deceased upon being aggrieved by the conversion of their acquittal into conviction by the High Court under Sections 498A and 304B IPC, the Court said if the prosecution fails to demonstrate by cogent coherent and persuasive evidence to prove such fact, the person accused of either of the above referred offences cannot be held guilty by taking refuge only of the presumption to cover up the shortfall in proof.

The bench of Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy, JJ explained that the expression “dowry” is ordained to have the same meaning as in Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. The expression “cruelty”, contains in its expanse, apart from the conduct of the tormentor, the consequences precipitated thereby qua the lady subjected thereto. Be that as it may, cruelty or harassment by the husband or any relative of his for or in connection with any demand of dowry to reiterate is the gravamen of the two offences.

In the present case, where the deceased was found hanging from the fan, the Court noticed that the family of the in-laws of the deceased was sufficiently well-off and did enjoy appreciable reputation in the society and no demand as imputed had ever been made. Considering the failure of the prosecution to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt, the Court said that the proof of cruelty or harassment by the husband or her relative or the person charged is the sine qua non to inspirit the statutory presumption, to draw the person charged within the coils thereof. The factum of unnatural death in the matrimonial home and that too within seven years of marriage therefore is thus ipso facto not sufficient to bring home the charge under Sections 304B and 498A of the Code against them. [Baijnath v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1287, decided on 18.11.2016]


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