Cal HC | Harassment by in-laws for woman’s black complexion is cruelty under S. 498-A IPC; Husband convicted for murdering wife over her black complexion

Calcutta High Court: A Division Bench of Sahidulla Munshi and Subhasis Dasgupta, JJ., upheld the conviction of accused-husband under Section 498-A IPC for the offence of cruelty to woman and under Section 302 for the murder of his wife. At the same time, the Court acquitted the accused-mother-in-law of the charge under Section 302 for murder while maintaining her conviction under Section 498-A IPC.

Present appeal was filed against the judgment and order of conviction and sentence passed by Additional Sessions Judge wherein accused/ appellants were convicted under Sections 498 A, 302, 34 of Penal Code, 1860.

Factual Scenario

Deceased in the present matter being the second daughter of the de-facto complainant/father was put to suffer death in her in-laws’s house by hanging.

After visiting to her in-law’s house, deceased victim was put to suffer cruelty, oppression and ill-treatment by her in-law’s members, including her accused husband for her black complexion.

Deceased was frequently abused and threatened by her in-laws .

The in-law’s members while causing ill-treatment upon victim made her understand just three days after her marriage for staying in a cow shed, expressing their dissatisfaction on the ground of her black complexion.

Deceased victim reported everything to her parents about the torture and cruelty, she received in her in-law’s house, when she visited her paternal house on several occasions.

Deceased’s father after persuading her to withstand such torture inflicted upon her, for her future benefit upon realisation of weak financial condition of her father.

Later, de-facto complainant/father of the deceased was informed by his on in law that the victim daughter had been put to suffer death by hanging.

Decision & Analysis

Court observed that the cause of inflicting torture was the black complexion of deceased victim which lead the in-law’s members of the victim including her accused husband to cause physical cruelty upon her.

Victim received threat from in-law’s members for her husband’s second marriage after driving her out from matrimonial home. So long victim remained alive and visited her paternal house, she expressed her extent of torture and cruelty inflicted upon her by her in- law’s members, and all the times the de-facto complainant persuaded his daughter to return to her in-law’s house for her future prospect, keeping in view the poor condition of de-facto complainant/father.

On observing the above, Court stated that causing cruelty to deceased victim for her black complexion even after her marriage by the in-law’s members would definitely attract Section 498 A/ 34 IPC against the in law’s members including husband.

Whether the victim suffered homicidal or suicidal death?

Autopsy Surgeon stated categorically in his evidence that if any person is pressed by telephone chord on his throat, then there could be ligature mark, as he found in the instant case, which might have caused the death of deceased victim.

Thus, noticing such continuous ligature mark Autopsy Surgeon opined in absence of poison in the viscera of deceased that it was a case of homicidal death, and ante-mortem in nature.

Whether non-production of weapon in a murder trial will lead to rejection of testimony of autopsy surgeon or not?

Court on noting the facts and circumstances along with the evidence stated that it is an established fact that there was an unnatural death of deceased in the in-laws’s house of the deceased victim after 7 months of her marriage.

Sufficient evidence was placed to show that the victim received oppression, ill- treatment, torture, cruelty in her in-law’s house by her in-law’s members for her black complexion.

Accused husband having failed to offer any explanation for the injuries caused to his wife, the failure would lead to the conclusion that the death of the deceased had occurred in the custody of accused husband as they both shared the same room after marriage.

Non-production of offending weapon in the absence of any explanation may be an error or latches on the part of prosecuting agency, but such error or omission would not itself discard the testimony of Autopsy Surgeon.

Hence, facts and circumstances would thus unerringly point to the guilt of accused husband/appellant for causing homicidal death to deceased/wife by strangulation for his non-satisfaction over the black complexion of his wife, which led to give birth his motive to cause death of his wife.

Commission of cruelty upon the deceased though proved against the mother-in-law under Section 498A read with Section 34IPC, but she should not have been held convicted for causing homicidal death of deceased victim under the behest of Section 302/34 IPC. on the simple ground that death of the victim was held in her matrimonial home.

Bench modified the conviction and sentence of accused mother-in-law under Section 498 A/34 IPC and deserves to be favoured with an order of acquittal for offence under Section 302/34 IPC.

Thus, the appeal was dismissed and accused mother-in-law be set free from correctional authority forthwith upon completion of sentence awarded against her under Section 498A/34 IPC.[Mazidul Miah v. State of W.B., CRA No. 247 of 2006, decided on 25-06-2020]

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