Del HC | Offensive conduct under S. 498-A IPC of a nature so as to drive woman to commit suicide not necessarily to be in connection with demand of dowry

Delhi High Court: Vibhu Bhakru, J. dismissed a criminal appeal filed against the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for offences punishable under Sections 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Penal Code.

H.S. Sharma, Advocate for the appellant, submitted that the appellant could not be held guilty under Section 498-A as the trial court had found that there was no material to establish that the accused or his family members had demanded any dowry. Per contra, Amit Gupta, APP, supported the order of the trial court.

The High Court noted that though the allegations of demand of dowry against the appellant were not proved, the allegations that the appellant used to beat the deceased (his wife) were well substantiated by the evidence on record. It was noted further that a note written in the handwriting of the deceased was the principal piece of evidence on which the appellant’s conviction was based. A plain reading of the note indicated that the appellant was not happy with the deceased giving birth to a female child, and she feared for her and her daughter’s life.

Admittedly, the appellant was habitual of consuming ganja that led to quarrels between him and the deceased. It was also evident that the appellant used to beat the deceased. The High Court observed: “The contention that the appellant could not be convicted under Section 498-(a) IPC as the trial court had not accepted the allegation of demand of dowry, is unsustainable. Clause (a) of Section 498-A IPC refers to offensive conduct of nature so as to drive a woman to commit suicide. It is not necessary that such offensive conduct is in connection with the demanded dowry. The note was written by the deceased clearly indicates that the conduct of the appellant had led her to fear for her life and that of her girl child. She had eventually taken her own life.”

Further, it was held that the contention that the appellant could not be held guilty under Section 306 IPC was also unmerited. Reference was made to Section 113-A (presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman) of the Evidence Act. The Court observed: “There is a statutory presumption that if an accused is found guilty of the offence of cruelty under Section 498-A IPC and the wife of the appellant has committed suicide within seven years of her marriage, it would be presumed that the appellant was guilty of abetting the commission of suicide. The presumption is a rebuttable presumption and it was open for the appellant to lead evidence to rebut the same. However, the appellant has failed to do so. The appellant led no evidence to dispel the said presumption.”

In such view of the matter, the appeal was dismissed. [Rohit Gupta v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 10670, decided on 21-10-2018]

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