Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court of India: In an appeal regarding dowry death case the Division Bench of Navin Sinha and R. Subhash Reddy, JJ., granted acquittal to an old aged couple. Opining that the Courts below had failed to consider the evidences available on the standard of “beyond reasonable doubt” The Bench stated,

“Conviction of the appellants was not maintainable on a probability in absence of direct evidence. The benefit of doubt ought to have been given to the appellants.”

The instant appeal had been filed by an elderly couple, appellant 1, 77 years old and appellant 2, 69 years old who was stated to be bed ridden. The case of the appellants was that they had been wrongfully convicted under Section 498A IPC leading to three years of imprisonment with fine and a default stipulation in relation to the death of their daughter-in-law.

Counsel for the appellant, Mr. S. Nagamuthu submitted that their appeal had been dismissed by the High Court of Madras. It was further contended by the counsel that there was no evidence to support the conviction of the appellants; therefore, the Trial Court should have given benefit of doubt to the appellants. Contending that the husband of the deceased was already in custody having been convicted under Sections 304-B and 498A IPC, and there being no evidence to establish the involvement of the appellants, the counsel argued that their conviction was not sustainable in law.

On the other hand, the State opposed the appeal on the ground that the appellants were residing under the same roof. The parents of the deceased had met the appellants also and complained with regard to the harassment being meted to the deceased. The failure of the appellants to take steps to remedy the situation had made their complicity very evident. Therefore, conviction being based on concurrent findings of their complicity by two Courts the same should not be interfered.

Whether merely residing in the same house makes in-laws accomplice in a dowry death case? 

Considering the submissions made on behalf of the parties and after going through the evidence and the order of the Trial Court as well as of the High Court, the Bench opined that the allegations against the appellants were generalised in nature. Therefore, the Trial Court came to the conclusion that though they were living in a separate portion of the house, their conduct amounted to indirect harassment of the deceased.

Noticeably, while discussing that the appellants allegedly fed the ears of their son against the deceased, the conclusion of the Trial Court was that these were normal wear and tear of married life and that they probably (emphasis) added fuel to the fire. The High Court had not even bothered to discuss the nature of evidence available against the appellants and the reasoning of the Trial Court for conviction.

Hence, the Division Bench opined that the conviction of the appellants was not maintainable on a probability in absence of direct evidence. The benefit of doubt ought to have been given to the appellants. Consequently, the conviction of the appellants was set aside. Noticing that appellant 2 had already been granted exemption from surrendering on account of her medical condition, the Bench directed release of appellant 1 as well from the custody.

[R. Natarajan v. State of T.N., 2021 SCC OnLine SC 455, decided on 01-07-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Appearance before the Court by:

For Petitioners: S. Nagamuthu, Sr. Adv., B. Mohanraj, Adv., K. Kanagaraj, Adv. and K. Krishna Kumar, AOR

For Respondent(s): D. Kumanan, AOR, Pulkit Tare, Adv. and M. Yogesh Kanna, AOR

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: Bibek Chaudhuri, J., expressed that, voluntary presents given at or before or after the marriage to the bride or the bridegroom, as the case may be, of a traditional nature, which are given not as a consideration for marriage but out of love, affection on regard, would not fall within the mischief of the expression ‘dowry’ made punishable under the Dowry Prohibition Act.

Appellants were convicted for committing an offence under Sections 498-A and 304-B Penal Code, 1860.

It was submitted that the de facto complainant would give a gold chain to the appellants within 6 months of the marriage of his daughter Soma with Netai Ghosh (appellant 1). immediately after marriage, the appellants started abusing Soma with filthy language. The same was conveyed by the daughter to the de facto complainant and other paternal relations. Soma’s husband also physically assaulted her.

Demand of Dowry

Later, de facto complainant came to know that his daughter Soma died consuming poison and according to him Soma committed suicide failing to bear physical and mental torture on demand of dowry inflicted upon her.

Trial judge held the appellant guilty for committing offence under Section 498A and 304B of the Penal Code, 1860.

In the instant case, the marriage of Soma was solemnized only before 44 days of her unnatural death.

Analysis and Decision

In a case of cruelty and dowry death, direct evidence is hardly available, and it is the circumstantial evidence and the conduct of the accused persons to be taken into consideration.

In the present matter, it was alleged in the FIR that the mother-in-law of the deceased used to abuse the deceased with filthy language as her father failed to give a gold chain at the time of the marriage

Allegation of cruelty and unnatural death of the deceased was made by the defacto complainant only after the death of the deceased.

Further, it is significant to note that the de facto complainant did not state in the FIR as well as in course of his evidence that the accused persons demanded dowry as a consequence of marriage.

Definition of expression “dowry” contained in Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 cannot be applied merely to the “demand” of money, property or valuable security made at or after the performance of marriage. 

Elaborating more on the concept of dowry, it was expressed that under Section 4 of the Act, mere demand of dowry is not sufficient to bring home the offence of an accused.

Any demand of money, property or valuable security made from the bride or her parents or other relatives by the bridegroom or his parents or other relatives or vice versa would fall within the mischief of “dowry” under the Act where such demand is not properly referable to any legally recognized claim and is relatable only to the consideration of marriage.

 It was noted that there was absolutely no evidence that prior to her death the witnesses being PW1, PW2, PW4 and PW5 and others try to settle the alleged dispute between the parties during the lifetime of Soma.

As per the evidence Soma was ill-tempered, therefore, if at any incident of quarrel broke between the appellants and Soma, her nature was not such that she would silently digest the allegations made against her.

Since trial Judge failed to consider the above circumstances while holding the accused persons guilty and prosecution failed to prove the cause of death of the deceased, High Court set aside the decision of trial court. [Netai Ghosh v. State of West Bengal, 2021 SCC OnLine Cal 1938, decided on 21-06-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner: Younush Mondal, Adv.

For the State: Swapan Banerjee, Adv., Suman De, Adv.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Dinesh Kumar Singh-I, J., while discussing abetment of suicide, stated that:

“…if some act either of omission or commission results in instigation to the victim to commit suicide, that act would also be treated to be an abetment.”

Factual Background of a Woman Subjected to Torture in demand of Dowry

Informant stated that his daughter was married with accused-applicant 1 in accordance with the Hindu rites and as per demands, dowry was provided. At the time of marriage, the applicant 1 (husband), applicant 2, Om Prakash Mishra (father-in-law), applicant 3, Rakesh Mishra, (brother-in-law) started demanding four-wheeler as additional dowry because of which ‘Bidai’ of his daughter could be done.

After a lot of persuasion, the Gauna was performed and when her daughter (deceased) went to her matrimonial home, all the accused-applicants started making taunts that marriage was performed for very cheap, further it was made clear to the deceased that unless the amount asked for is fulfilled, it would be difficult for her to live in matrimonial home peacefully.

Mental and Physical Harassment

Victim was harassed mentally and physically on various occasions, she was pressurized to give her jewellery to which she refused and was beaten up by banging her head against the wall and subjected to filthy language and threat of divorce.

Victim’s husband used to increase the volume of the T.V and close the door of the house so that screaming or weeping of the deceased would not go out, even the family members of the accused-applicant 1 used to call the victim and harass her on the phone.

Accused-Applicant 1 later, dropped the deceased near the house of the informant retaining the jewellery at his home and further filed for divorce.

Suicide

Later it was stated that, since the informant’s daughter used stay disturbed mentally because of the case having been filed against her and having received notices from the Court, she used to say that despite having been tortured, she could not get any case registered against the persons of her sasural and was passing time with her child in her parents’ home and even then, she was not being allowed to remain peacefully and in these circumstances after getting fed-up, on 23-10-2017 she committed suicide by hanging herself by a stole from the ceiling fan, for which the accused- applicants are responsible.

Analysis of the Bench

The above-stated circumstances could be treated to have been driven the deceased to commit suicide which could have taken to fall in the category of abetting the commission of suicide by the deceased.

Court expressed that:

Merely because the deceased died at the parent’s house, is being hammered as the main argument on the part of the applicant, to be the reason why abetment to commit suicide should not be taken to be established in this case even prima-facie.

Bench relied upon the Supreme Court’s decision in Guru Charan Singh v. State of Punjab, (2020) 10 SCC 200, wherein it was held that in order to give finding of abetment under Section 107, which is necessary to sustain the conviction of abetment of suicide under Section 306 IPC, it must be established that the accused instigated a person either by an act of omission or commission or by persistent cruelty or harassment.

Circumstances or atmosphere in the matrimonial home without the instigation of suicide being established in someway are not enough to sustain the conviction on abetment of suicide.

 Conclusion

In the instant case, Court noted that it came on record that various litigations had been thrust upon the deceased from the side of the accused-applicants which might have generated a situation in which deceased found no way out but to commit suicide.

Bench stated that it may tour out to be not finally proved that the applicants were involved in the commission of this offence but in proceedings under Section 482 CrPC:

this Court cannot give finding in this regard as the evidence, which is likely to be recorded before the trial court, the said evidence would be appreciated by the said court then only finding can be returned on this point.

While dismissing the application, Court held that if the applicants appear and surrender before the Court below within 30 days and apply for bail, then the bail application would be considered and decided in view of the law laid down by this Court in Amrawati v. State of U.P.,2004 (57) ALR 290, as well as a judgment passed by Supreme Court in Lal Kamlendra Pratap Singh v State of U.P., (2009) 4 SCC 437.

In case, the applicants do not appear before the Court below within 30 days period, coercive action shall be taken against them. [Kranti Mishra v. State of U.P., 2021 SCC OnLine All 81, decided on 22-01-2021]


Advocates for the parties:

Counsel for Applicant: Shailesh Kumar Shukla, Rajiv Lochan Shukla

Counsel for Opposite Party: G.A., Akhilesh Kumar

Case BriefsHigh Courts

The parents together are a young child’s world. It is together that they groom him into his youth. It is together that they ensure the overall development of his personality in its myriad facets.

But marriage, like life, sometimes takes an unpleasant turn, where the spouses could turn into an estranged couple. 

It is in this situation that the Court, in the exercise of its parens patriae jurisdiction, called upon to perform the onerous task of keeping the young child’s world, as much together as can be. 

Allahabad High Court: J.J. Munir, J., observed that

What is important while deciding the issue of custody between two natural guardians, is where the minor’s welfare would be best secured. The statute indicates a preference for the mother, so far as a child below five years is concerned.

The instant petition was filed for a writ of habeas corpus, instituted by Master Anav’s mother, the first petitioner, asking the Court to liberate the minor from his father’s custody by entrusting the minor into hers, is about a young child’s devastating world.

Petitioner 1 states that during her stay with her husband, she was tortured physically and mentally, both. Her mother even gave dowry.

Later, petitioner 1 realised that her husband had an amorous relationship with her sister-in-law and another girl from the village to which she objected in vain. She was even forced to abandon the marriage and go back to her mother’s home.

The discord between parties was mediated by kinsmen, which resulted in what Meenakshi claims to be a mutual divorce.

Further, it was stated that Meenakshi after the above settlement went back to her mother’s home along with her young son, Anav. After some time petitioner 1 claimed that there was an unholy alliance between Meenakshi’s brother, Sunny and her estranged husband with two making it common cause to oust her minor son from her mother’s home.

While Ram Narayan wanted his son to stay with him, Sunny who is arrayed as the respondent 6 to this petition, wanted the child out of his mother’s home, where Meenakshi stays, because he thought Meenakshi may claim a share for her son in her ancestral property.

In light of the above motive, Meenakshi was beaten up and her son was snatched away, leading to locking up Meenakshi.

Later Anav was handed over to Meenkashi’s husband.

Analysis and Decision

Bench observed that the mother of the minor came up with serious allegations about her son being kidnapped by force by her brother and being delivered into her husband’s custody.

Court found no tangible evidence in regard to the child being forcibly removed from mother’s custody.

The minor is a young child of tender years. He is just four years old. The Court did not find him capable of expressing an intelligent preference between his parents, in whose custody, he would most like to be.

Amongst many things that this Court noticed is the fact that the father is not, particularly, interested in raising the minor.

A perusal of the settlement between the parties contained clause wherein it was specifically stated that the minor, Anav, then aged two and a half years, would stay in his mother’s custody.

The above-stated discloses the disinclination of the father to bear a whole-time responsibility for the minor’s custody and the complementary inclination of the mother to take that responsibility.

Mother’s right and that of the father, under Section 6(a) as to guardianship has been considered at par by the Supreme Court in Githa Hariharan v. Reserve Bank of India, (1999) 2 SCC 228.

So far as custody goes, as distinct from guardianship, between the two natural guardians, the mother is to be preferred by virtue of the proviso to Section 6(a) of the Act of 1956, in the case of a child below five years of age.

Bench observed the Supreme Court Decision in Ratan Kundu v. Abhijit Kundu, (2008) 9 SCC 413, wherein it was held that

A court while dealing with custody cases, is neither bound by statutes nor by strict rules of evidence or procedure nor by precedents. In selecting proper guardian of a minor, the paramount consideration should be the welfare and well-being of the child.

Court added to its observation in custody matters that,

But, the general rule about custody of a child, below the age of five years, is not to be given a go-by. If the mother is to be denied custody of a child, below five years, something exceptional derogating from the child’s welfare is to be shown.

Bench noted that nothing on record was placed where it could be stated that the mother was unsuitable to raise the minor. Court found that the mother in the present case is more educated than the father.

Adding to the above, Court also stated that:

The mother, being found fit to have the minor’s custody, it cannot be the best arrangement to secure the child’s welfare, or so to speak, repair his devastated world. He must have his father’s company too, as much as can be, under the circumstances.

This Court must, therefore, devise a suitable arrangement, where the minor can meet his father in an atmosphere, that is reassuring and palliative. The father must, therefore, have sufficient visitation while the minor stays with his mother.

Hence, the habeas corpus writ petition was allowed in view of the above discussion. [Meenakshi v. State of U.P., 2020 SCC OnLine All 1475, decided on 02-12-2020]


Advocates who represented the parties in the matter:

Counsel for Petitioner:- Sushil Kumar Sharma, Mohit Kumar

Counsel for Respondent:- G.A., Amar Nath, Shravana Kumar Yadav

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Telangana High Court: K. Lakshman, J., addressed an issue in the criminal petition in light of Section 41-A of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 and the essence of quashing criminal proceedings was thrown light upon by citing the Supreme Court decision in Kamal Shivaji Pokarnekar v. State of Maharashtra, (2019) 14 SCC 350.

The present application sought to quash proceedings pending against the petitioners wherein they were accused of the offences alleged under Sections 498-A, 406 and 420 read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860 and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.

Petitioners Counsel submitted that petitioner 1 and daughter of respondent 2 — de facto complainant married in the USA and registered their marriage. Petitioner 2 is the father of petitioner 1. Petitioner 3 is the mother of petitioner 1.

It has been stated that the de facto complainant implicated the petitioners herein in this false case due to matrimonial disputes between his daughter and accused 1. 

Adding to the above, counsel stated that the punishment prescribed for the offences alleged against the petitioners is seven years and below seven years and the police without following the procedure laid down under Section 41-A of CrPC, is trying to apprehend the petitioners. In the said course of action, the police have been calling petitioners 2 and 3 who are other aged parents of petitioner 1-accused 1, suffering from various old-age ailments.

In view of the above, petitioners sought to quash the same.

In Supreme Court’s decision of Kamal Shivaji Pokarnekar v. State of Maharashtra, (2019) 14 SCC 350, it was held that:

“…quashing of criminal proceedings is called for only in a case where the complaint does not disclose any offence, or is frivolous, vexatious, or oppressive. If the allegations set out in the complaint do not constitute the offence of which cognizance has been taken by the Magistrate, it is open to the High Court to quash the same.”

“It was further held in the very same judgment that on perusal of the complaint, if discloses prima facie offences that are alleged against the respondents, it is sufficient. The correctness or otherwise of the said allegations has to be decided only in the trial. At the initial stage of issuance of process, it is not open to the Courts to stifle the proceedings by entering into the merits of the contentions made on behalf of the accused.”

Bench stated that in the present case, certain aspects need to be investigated by the investigating officer.

It is trite to note that the punishment prescribed for the offences alleged against the petitioners is imprisonment of seven years or below seven years.

Court disposed of the criminal petition directing the Station House Officer to follow the procedure laid down under Section 41-A of the CrPC and also the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar, (2014) 8 SCC 273.[Prudhvi Nallamanikaluva v. State of Telangana, 2020 SCC OnLine TS 1291, decided on 19-10-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Z.A. Haq and Amit B. Borkar, JJ., while allowing the present criminal application filed under Section 482 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 observed the tendency in the society wherein the relatives of husband are also roped in with vague allegations under Section 498-A of Penal Code, 1860.

In the instant matter, both husband and wife started living separately from sister-in-law and brother-in-law of the husband after their marriage.

Due to quarrels between the non-applicant 2 and her husband, non-applicant 2 filed an FIR with Police Station, which was compromised. On a later date, non-applicant 2 again lodged a complaint with the Women Cell.

Further, the husband of non-applicant 2 filed a complained alleging harassment caused by parents and brother of non-applicant 2.

Non-applicant 2 approached the Judicial Magistrate and filed an application under Section 156(3) of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 and, then the non-applicant 1 lodged FIR against the applicants. The said FIR has been challenged in the present application.

Women Cell i.e. non-applicant 1 submitted that the investigation was complete and there is a prima facie case against the applicants.

Wife i.e. non-applicant 2 contended that the applicants along with her husband harassed her for dowry and there were several complaints filed by her with the Police Station as and when harassment was caused.

Senior Advocate, Anil S. Mardikar along with S.G. Joshi, Advocate, represented the applicants; M.K. Pathan Additional Public Prosecutor for the non-applicant 1 –State and M.N. Ali, Advocate for the non-applicant 2.

Analysis & Decision

In light of adjudicating the present issue, bench considered it necessary to refer Section 498-A of Penal Code, 1860:

498-A. 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 willful 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 women 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.”

Cruelty perpetuated to the woman may be physical or mental.

Bench stated that saying, “we are also serving in the police and we have connections with the higher Authorities, or the husband of the non-applicant 2 got no benefit of the education of the non-applicant 2” cannot be stated to be cruelty to the woman.

Nowadays, it has become a tendency to make vague and omnibus allegations, against every member of the family of the husband, implicating everybody under Section 498-A of the Penal Code.

It is necessary for the Courts to carefully scrutinize the allegations and to find out if the allegations made really constitute an offence and meet the requirements of the law at least prima facie.

Bench further cited the following decision of the Supreme Court:

G. Sagar Suri v. State of U.P., (2000) 2 SCC 636, wherein it was observed that the criminal proceedings should not be allowed to be resorted to as shortcut to settle the score.

Indian Oil Corpn. v. NEPC India Ltd., (2006) 6 SCC 736, in this case, Supreme Court deprecated the tendency of using the criminal justice system as a tool of arm twisting and to settle the score, and laid down that the High Court can intervene where the criminal justice system is used as a tool.

Kailash Chandra Agrawal v. State of U.P., (2014) 16 SCC 551, an observation was made that tendency, which has been developed for roping in all relations of the in-laws by the wife in the matter of dowry deaths or such type of similar offences in an over-enthusiasm and anxiety to seek conviction needs to be deprecated.

In the present case, sisters-in-law and brother-in-law were arraigned as accused without there being specific allegation as regards the nature of cruelty, as contemplated by Section 498-A IPC against them.

In view of the impugned FIR and charge-sheet, Court opined that no allegations against the applicants constitute offences alleged.

Therefore, the criminal application was allowed in view of the above-stated.[Shabnam Sheikh v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 1752, decided on 15-10-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Dr Kaushal Jayendra Thaker, J., addressed a matter with regard to the settlement of divorce proceedings.

Parties in the present petition have deposed before the Court below that they have entered into a compromise.

Hence, in view of the above, the petition is taken for final disposal.

It has been observed that certain offences were non-compoundable and they were within the power of Magistrate to compound namely under Sections 498-A of Penal Code, 1860 and 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

Section 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

Section 3: Penalty for giving or taking dowry

Section 4: Penalty for demanding dowry

Further, it was noted that both the parties, i.e. the husband and wife and other family members settled the matter and decided to leave in peace after taking divorce.

The Court was of the view that the settlement between the parties should be accepted and the offence compounded. The decision of the Supreme Court in Bitan Sengupta v. State of W.B., (2018) 18 SCC 366 was referred.

Therefore, proceedings were quashed and settlement was recorded under Section 482 CrPC. In Supreme Court’s decision in B.S. Joshi v. State of Haryana, (2003) 4 SCC 675, it was observed that in matrimonial offences, it becomes the duty of the Court to encourage genuine settlement of matrimonial disputes.

Bench exercising its powers under Section 482 read with 397 of CrPC, 1973 permitted the parties to leave in peace.

Section 482 CrPC: Saving of inherent powers of the High Court.

Nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code, or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.

Section 397 CrPC: Calling for records to exercise of powers of revision

(1) The High Court or any Sessions Judge may call for and examine the record of any proceeding before any inferior Criminal Court situate within its or his local jurisdiction for the purpose of satisfying itself or himself as to the correctness, legality or propriety of any finding, sentence or order, recorded or passed, and as to the regularity of any proceedings of such inferior Court, and may, when calling for such record, direct that the execution of any sentence or order be suspended, and if the accused is in confinement, that he be released on bail or on his own bond pending the examination of the record.

Explanation.—All Magistrates, whether Executive or Judicial, and whether exercising original or appellate jurisdiction, shall be deemed to be inferior to the Sessions Judge for the purposes of this sub-section and of Section 398.

(2) The powers of revision conferred by sub-section (1) shall not be exercised in relation to any interlocutory order passed in any appeal, inquiry, trial or other proceedings.

(3) If an application under this section has been made by any person either to the High Court or to the Sessions Judge, no further application by the same person shall be entertained by the other of them.

Court quashed the proceedings under Section 397 CrPC and allowed the petition.

The petitioner’s counsel pointed the orders passed by the Court below and hence the bench defied the proceedings if not yet defied. [Deena Nath v. State of U.P., 2020 SCC OnLine All 1057, decided on 23-09-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench of B.A. Patil and Hanchate Sanjeevkumar, JJ., upheld the decision of the trial court with regard to dowry death.

By the instant criminal appeal, the decision of the Additional Sessions Judge, Gulbarga has been challenged.

Counsel for the appellant-accused: Iswaraj S. Chowdapur and Additional State Public Prosecutor for respondent – State: Prakash Yeli.

Dowry | Cruelty

Parents of Dattamma at the time of the marriage had given one tola of gold as dowry. After one year of when the dowry was given, the accused started subjecting Dattamma to cruelty contending that she doesn’t know how to cook and used to ask her to bring cash and gold from her parent’s house.

The said fact of cruelty was conveyed by Dattamma to her parents who along with some elderly persons visited the accused and paid a sum of Rs 5000, but he continued to subject Dattamma to mental and physical cruelty.

Later the accused poured kerosene and lit fire on Dattamma with the intention to commit murder. Afterwhich, she was taken to the hospital and sustained burn injuries.

In view of the above-stated offence, the trial court had convicted the accused.

Analysis and Decision

Bench while analysing the set of circumstances and submission placed stated that,

When the prosecution establishes its case with regard to ill-treatment and harassment said to have been caused by the accused and admittedly the death of the decased has also taken place within 7 years after the marriage, under such circumsatnces, a duty cast upon the Court to draw a presumption under Section 113 A of the Evidence Act that is dowry death.

Demand of Dowry

In the present matter, Court relying on the proposition laid down in the decision of C.M. Girish Babu v. CBI, (2009) 3 SCC 779, held that the prosecution has established that there was ill-treatment and harassment caused by the accused for the demand of dowry.

Trial Court has rightly convicted the accused for the offences punishable under Section 498-A and 302 IPC and also under Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

Accused’s Counsel contended that the imprisonment itself is harsh and severe punishment under such circumstances the imposition of a heavy fine to a poor agriculturist is not justifiable and it is excessive fine which ought not to have been imposed.

In view of the above stated, Court modified the fine imposed on the accused.

The sentence imposed by the trial court for the offences punishable under Sections 498A and 302 of IPC and under Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act was confirmed. [Baswaraj v. State of Karnataka, Criminal Appeal No. 354 of 2013, decided on 10-08-2020]


Also Read:

Cruelty to Women [S. 498-A IPC and allied sections]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of Hima Kohli and Asha Menon, JJ., while addressing a matrimonial appeal filed on behalf of the husband, held that,

Adultery can only be committed after marriage, allegation of having relationship before marriage cannot be a ground of adultery.

Petitioner being aggrieved by the Family Court’s decision of dismissal of his petition wherein he sought dissolution of his marriage with respondent 1 under Section 13(1)(i) and (ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, filed the present appeal.

It has been alleged that right after the marriage wife of the petitioner had started showing her disinterest in the marriage, he states that respondent 1/ wife had allegedly abused the appellant/husband and his family members and proclaimed that she had no interest in the marriage.

Further she even disclosed of having a love affair with respondent 2 and that she desired to marry him.

Late after a few months, she left with all the valuables and leaving a letter in which she stated that she will not return back and preferred to live her life with respondent 2.

However, respondent 1/wife was brought back by her brother but appellant/husband did not allow her to enter the house.

Thus, in view of the above facts, petition for divorce was filed.

Respondent’s Stand

Wife/Respondent 1 while opposing the divorce petition admitted that she had disclosed about her previous affair but claimed that it was only after long discussions with her husband and his family members.

Further she submitted that the husband’s family had started harassing and torturing her for dowry and pressurised her to bring a luxury car which she could not fulfill.

Withe regard to above letter mentioned, she submitted that her sister-in-law had compelled her to write whatever husband’s family members forced her to write and sign.

On one incident, an actual attempt was also made to kill her by pressing her neck and she was saved only because neighbours had gathered on hearing her cries.

Her in-laws hatched a conspiracy to kill her by suffocating her with a pillow. During the said incident, she had received injuries on various parts of her body. The appellant/husband and his family members thought that she might die and so, she was thrown near her parental village.

A complaint against the appellant/husband and his family members under Section 498-A, 307, 504 and 506 of Penal Code, 1860 had been filed.

Analysis and Decision

Bench while analysing the the matter noted that the appellant failed to prove his entitlement to divorce in the grounds of adultery under Section 13(1)(i) of the Act.

Further the Court observed that,

Cruelty is no doubt, not measurable as a tangible commodity, but the standard for determining as to whether a particular conduct amounts to cruelty or only to normal wear and tear of marriage, has been the subject matter of several decisions of the Supreme Court.

Cruelty

Court also relied on the Supreme Court case: V. Bhagat v. D. Bhagat, AIR 1994 SC 710, wherein the following was held:

Mental cruelty in Section 13(1)(i-a) can broadly be defined as that conduct which inflicts upon the other party such mental pain and suffering as would make it not possible for that party to live with the other. In other words, mental cruelty must be of such a nature that the parties cannot reasonably be expected to live together.

As per the incidents stated by the appellant none of them, if at all committed, amount to “cruel” conduct.

To the above, bench stated that, a new bride would be hesitant in her new surroundings in the matrimonial home.

It is always for the husband’s family to make the new bride feel at home and accepted as a family member. Therefore, such conduct of the respondent 1/wife of being interested in remaining in her room or not showing initiative in doing household work can by no stretch of imagination be described as cruel behaviour.

Thus, in Court’s opinion, Family Court’s conclusion including the observation of accusation of adultery being heaped by the appellant/husband on respondent 1/wife are without any proof.

Thus the present appeal of the husband was dismissed in the above view. [Vishal Singh v. Priya, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 638 , decided on 12-06-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: Alok Kumar Verma, J., allowed a bail application filed for grant of regular bail in connection with the offences punishable under Sections 302 and 120B of the Penal Code, 1860.

FIR was lodged by the father of the deceased with the allegations that his daughter was married with co-accused Shadab. Her husband demanded dowry and used to beat her.

On 16-11-2018, when his daughter was at his house her husband had come, cooked food and brought sweet meat from market and afterward added the poison in the meal of his wife the next day she was found dead. The counsel for the applicant, M.C. Bhatt and Sachin, submitted that the applicant was an innocent person and she was the sister of the accused; was just above 18 years of age she had been in custody since 07-01-2019 and six witnesses had been examined and her name was not mentioned in prosecution’s witness list and co-accused in the FIR had been granted bail by this High Court.

The Court while allowing the bail relied on the judgment of Siddharam Satlingappa Mhetre v. State of Maharashtra, (2011) 1 SCC 694 where it was held that the personal liberty is very precious fundamental right and it should be curtailed only when it becomes imperative according to the facts and circumstances of the case. [Amreen v. State of Uttarakhand, 2020 SCC OnLine Utt 129, decided on 04-03-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: Rumi Kumari Phukan, J., allowed and further disposed of the petition in view of the matter being settled outside the Court.

Facts pertaining to the present petition were that the respondent 2 lodged an FIR raising allegations of mental torture, dowry and her father-in-law outraging her modesty. Adding to the said allegations, she filed the FIR with certain other allegations against her husband and father-in-law under Section 498 (A)/ 354 Penal Code, 1860.

Further, during the course of the trial when the trial court impleaded the accused’s they all collectively came forward for quashing the entire proceedings on the ground that they have already settled the matter and the informant has no more interest to proceed with the case.

High Court noted the affidavit sworn by the respondent/wife in respect to the settlement in which it was stated that she is not willing to pursue the case as the matter was already settled amicably between the parties.

Court in the present matter noted that it was in respect to matrimonial offence and the victim herself came forward apprising about the amicable settlement, which implies that the victim/respondent will not support her case.

“Amicable settlement in a case of matrimonial offence can be allowed for the sake of social justice so as to maintain harmony in the society.”

Stating the above, the Court held that as the victim herself has buried her grievances against all the accused persons, the further proceeding will yield no result and it will be an abuse of process of law. [Hiranmoy Das v. State of Assam, 2019 SCC OnLine Gau 5018, decided on 04-11-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench of Alok Singh and Narayan Singh Dhanik, JJ. contemplated an appeal filed against the judgment passed by Additional Judge, Family Court, where the suit filed by the petitioner under Section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 was dismissed.

The background of the appeal was that the appellant-husband was married to the respondent-wife since 2009 and they had a child born out of wedlock. The appellant filed a divorce petition under Section 13 of Hindu Marriage Act, it was pleaded that soon after the marriage, relations between the parties to matrimony soured and he was treated with cruelty by the respondent. It was contended by the appellant that the respondent created nuisance at his place of work and was always quarreling, it was further alleged that she misbehaved with the in-laws and caused mental harassment to them. The appellant informed the Court that the respondent tried to commit suicide and implicated the appellant and his parents for abetting the commission of such suicide. Respondent also threatened to implicate them in the false case of torture for dowry. After such behavior of the respondent, the father of the appellant filed an FIR against the respondent. It was further alleged that the respondent left the matrimonial house and started living separately in her parental house. Ultimately the appellant and the respondent entered into a compromise and the appellant withdrew the divorce suit, but things didn’t turn out well and appellant had to file the divorce suit again on the basis of cruelty.

The respondent – wife admitted that she left the appellant’s house several times and since 2013, she was living with her parents. However, she alleged that she did on account of the misbehavior and torture by the appellant and his parents. It was further contended that the appellant wanted to use her for immoral purposes. But she refused to give him a divorce.

The Court below dismissed the suit of divorce filed by the appellant, after examining the evidences and pleadings of the parties. The suit was dismissed as reasons stated for instituting the suit and the acts alleged by the plaintiff against his wife do not come under the category of cruelty.

Counsel for the appellant contended that the Court below erred in holding that the reasons stated for instituting the suit for divorce do not come under the category of cruelty. It was also contended that it was not even pointed out as to how the evidence adduced by the appellant was in any way deficient to prove cruelty. It was further contended that on the basis of the averments made by the appellant and the evidence adduced in support thereof, the mental cruelty was clearly established and in any case the marriage has been broken down irretrievably. It was also contended that divorce in the present case should not be withheld as the parties are living separately since long which proves that their marriage has become unworkable.

Counsel for the respondent contended that general and vague allegations of misbehavior were made which were not sufficient to prove the allegation of cruelty on the part of the respondent and the Court below had rightly rejected the suit of the appellant – plaintiff.

Hence, the Court stated that reasons given by the Family Court for dismissing the suit for dissolution of marriage were not sustainable and the finding of the Court below that there was no cruelty on the part of the respondent was perverse. The Court scrutinized the evidences and observed that the pattern of misbehavior of the respondent was continuous, the duo was living separately since a very long time and an FIR was also registered against the respondent for threatening to commit suicide. Further, the Court relied upon, A. Jayachandra v. Aneel Kaur, (2005) 2 SCC 22 where the Supreme Court had expressed that “cruelty’ has been used in relation to human conduct or human behavior. It is the conduct in relation to or in respect of matrimonial duties and obligations. Cruelty is a course or conduct of one, which is adversely affecting the other. The cruelty may be mental or physical, intentional or unintentional

Court, held that the appellant had narrated a detailed story of the incidents of alleged cruelty, and hence ‘any reasonable man would find his life unbearable with his/her spouse. Cruelty can be both physical and mental. Since we are dealing with human beings and human emotions, cruelty or even ‘legal cruelty’ cannot be precisely defined.’ Thus, the judgment passed by the Family court was reversed and divorce was granted as the Court had observed that the marriage had broken irretrievably and there was no return.[Indresh Gopal Kohli v. Anita, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 953, decided on 20-09-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: Ahsanuddin Amanullah, J. disposed of the petition after making minor changes to the sentence on the grounds of the imprisonment already undergone by the petitioners.

The petitioners petitioned the Court under Sections 397 and 401 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, against the judgment passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Patna in Cr. Appeal No. 25 of 2013, by which the petitioners were convicted and sentenced and it was upheld when the appeal was made against the same. The petitioners along with four others was convicted under Section 498-A of the Penal Code and sentenced to simple imprisonment of one year and a fine of Rs 3,000 each and in default, they were to undergo further two months simple imprisonment. 

The counsel for the petitioners submitted that the opposite party  2 is the wife of the petitioner’s brother. It was submitted that the petitioners had no concern with the matrimonial dispute of the parties and the allegation was that after the birth of a male and female child and two years of marriage, they tortured and assaulted for the dowry of Rs 8,000 and took away her ornaments. It was submitted that such allegation, even if believed, could at best be attributed to husband, as the petitioners could not have any role or could not have benefited from any dowry or money which the wife of their brother would have fetched from the matrimonial home. It was submitted that the witnesses during the trial had made only ominous and general allegations and there was nothing specific against them.

The APP submitted that the witnesses had stated with regard to all the accused, including the petitioners, assaulting and torturing the opposite party 2 and it is quite believable that the petitioners being elder brothers of the husband of the opposite party no. 2, would definitely be a party to any torture or assault as their brother stood to gain from any dowry which is alleged to have been demanded.

The Court held that it did not find that the order of conviction requires any interference. However, with regard to the sentence, since the petitioners are elder brothers of the husband of the opposite party2 and had been in custody for more than six months and about four months respectively, the Court was inclined to modify the sentence to period undergone.

In view of the above-noted facts, the instant petition was disposed of after upholding the order of conviction but modifying the sentence to period undergone and the fine of Rs 3,000 set aside.[Deo Prasad Sao v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 1612, decided on 19-09-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Gurvinder Singh Gill, J. made absolute the interim application for bail in a matrimonial case.

An application for anticipatory bail was made by the petitioner for the offence registered under Sections 323, 325, 326, 406, 506, 498-A, 34 of the Penal Code.

The facts of the case were that FIR was registered at the instance of the petitioner’s wife wherein it was alleged that she was married to the petitioner and had a child from the wedlock. The petitioner and his family used to harass and beat her for no reason. It was also submitted that in-laws of the petitioner had retained all her jewellery articles.

Gautam Dutt, counsel for the petitioner submitted that though there was some matrimonial discord between the parties the complainant herself caused injuries to the petitioner. It was further submitted that complainant is all out to wreak vengeance and went to the extent of leveling allegations of rape against the petitioner’s father which upon inquiry by police were found to be false.

Aditi Girdhar, counsel for the state submitted that one of the injuries found on the person of the complainant has been opined to be grievous injury attracting an offence punishable under Section 325 IPC and that in these circumstances since the allegations stand substantiated, no case for grant of anticipatory bail was made out. It was informed that the alleged jewellery articles, as well as car, were recovered.

The court opined that as the petitioner had already joined the investigation and had got the articles of the dowry and thus petition was accepted and the interim directions by the court were made absolute subject to the condition that petitioner would appear before investigating officer and when called upon to do so and cooperate with the investigating officer.[Nitin Yadav v. State of Haryana, 2019 SCC OnLine P&H 1480, decided on 19-08-2019]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Pakistan Supreme Court: A Full Bench of Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, JJ. allowed an appeal seeking acquittal of a murder charge in the absence of satisfactory evidence.

The appellant was in receipt of a guilty verdict. He was indicted for committing the murder of his wife Kausar Bibi (deceased). The said verdict was affirmed by the High Court judgment which was challenged through this appeal. Prosecution case was structured on the statement of the deceased’s brother Muhammad Arshad, according to whom, the marriage of the appellant was on the rocks as deceased had not brought a dowry to accused-appellants expectations. Upon a message by the deceased, Muhammad Arshad visited her to take her back. However, their house was attacked that night and Kausar Bibi was killed. Upon indictment, appellant blamed dacoits to have murdered the deceased.  The trial Judge convicted the appellant under Section 302(b) of Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 and sentenced him to death along with a direction to pay Rs 100,000.

Learned counsel for the appellant Nawab Ali Mayo, contended that the appellant should not be convicted merely upon his failure to satisfactorily explain as to what happened on that night. He further added that the presence of witnesses was extremely doubtful. He pleaded that it would have been unsafe to maintain conviction. Moreover, a co-accused was acquitted on the same grounds but the appellant was convicted.

Contrarily, the learned counsel for the respondent Mehmud ul Islam, vehemently defended appellant’s conviction on the ground that plea advanced by him was preposterous and was rightly rejected which in retrospect established his presence at the spot, thus there was no space to entertain any hypothesis of his innocence.

The Court observed that silence or implausible explanation could not equate with failure within the contemplation of Article 121 of Qanoon-e-Shahadat Order, 1984 which dealt with the exceptions of a case. Further, the appellant had not denied his presence, but these factors by itself could not hypothesize presumption of his guilt in the absence of positive proof. It was opined that suspicions are not a substitute for legal proof, and a suspect cannot be condemned on the basis of moral satisfaction in the absence of evidentiary certainty. Furthermore, the Court observed that convicting a co-accused on the same ground on which another accused has been acquitted, was wrong and it required immediate ratification. Thus, the Court allowed the appeal and ordered the immediate release of the appellant.[Muhammad Pervaiz v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Pak SC 13, decided on 06-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of K.S Mudagal, J. slammed a daughter-in-law for filing a false case of dowry against her mother-in-law and quashed the FIR registered against petitioner mother-in-law.

The instant criminal writ petition was filed under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, (CrPC) praying for quashing of FIR and chargesheet filed against the petitioner and her son by her daughter-in-law (complainant) for offences allegedly committed by them under Sections 498 A and 114 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Sections 3 and 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.

The petitioner was not even residing with her son and complainant daughter-in-law and so she could not have harassed the complainant. Complainant had merely stated that cash and gold was given at the time of her marriage – the same did not mean that it was given at petitioner’s behest. The Court also took note of the forum chosen by the complainant remarking that while the petitioner resided in a remote area of Andhra Pradesh, the case was filed against her in Davanagere Women Police Station. 

In view of the above and placing reliance on the dictum of Apex Court in Preeti Gupta v. State of Jharkhand, (2010) 7 SCC 667, the Court observed that proceedings against the petitioner was nothing but abuse of process of the court and continuance of the same would amount to failure of ends of justice. Therefore, the petition was allowed and proceedings against the petitioner were quashed.[Puttalakshmi v. State of Karnataka,2018 SCC OnLine Kar 1820, decided on 09-11-2018] 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu & Kashmir High Court: A Single Judge bench comprising of Sanjay Kumar Gupta, J. dismissed the petitions filed by the accused petitioner and his brother under Section 561-A CrPC, seeking quashing of charges filed against them under Sections 304-B and 498-A of the RPC.

The accused petitioner Rohit Singh married one Radha Sharma, according to Hindu rites and ceremonies on 07-03-2014. Within one year of their marriage, there arose matrimonial disputes which resulted in Radha (hereinafter referred to as the “deceased”) committing suicide by hanging herself at her in-laws’ house on 18-03-2016. Proceedings were initiated and after investigation, chargesheet was filed under Sections 304-B, 306 and 498 of RPC. The basis for filing of the aforesaid petitions was that pursuant to a deed of disinheritance executed by the accused’s father, the accused petitioner and the deceased had been living separately from her in-laws and therefore, there was no proximity between the demand of dowry and cause of death of the deceased.

The Court observed that the death in case at hand had taken place “otherwise than under normal circumstances” within two years of the deceased’s marriage at her in-laws’ house. There was evidence that the accused were demanding dowry in the form of plot and other articles from the deceased; her dead body was found hanging at her in-laws’ house; there were witness accounts seeing the accused entering and leaving the house where dead body was found; post-mortem report of deceased suggested death by asphyxia due to hanging, and ligature mark was found around her neck.

The High Court, relying on Umesh Kumar v State of Andhra Pradesh, (2013) 10 SCC 591, held that while framing of charges, the Court has to evaluate as to whether on the basis of materials and documents on record, there is a prima facie case to proceed against the accused. At this stage, the Court is not required to appreciate whether the material produced is sufficient or not for convicting the accused.

In view of the incriminating circumstances, the Court refused to quash the charges against accused. [Rohit Singh v State of Jammu & Kashmir, CRMC No. 607 of 2017, dated 14-09-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Rajendra Menon, J., allowed an application filed under Section 482 CrPC seeking to quash the criminal proceedings pending against the applicants.

The applicants were the sister-in-law of the complainant and her husband. It was alleged by the complainant that soon after their marriage, her husband and his family started to demand dowry from the complainant and harass her. There were allegations not only against the husband but also against his father, mother, including current applicants.

The High Court found that the allegations against the applicants appeared to be very general in nature, no specific allegations were made. A perusal of the complaint shows that specific acts were attributed to the husband and his parents. However, against the applicants, there was a general omnibus allegation that they also harassed the complainant. The Court was of the view that to make a person liable under Section 498A CrPC, specific allegations of overt acts against such person are necessary. General omnibus allegations, as is the case here, do not suffice to make a person liable under the said section. Therefore, the application was allowed and the prosecution initiated against the applicants was quashed holding it to be unsustainable. [Guddi Kumari v. State of Bihar,2018 SCC OnLine Pat 1074, decided on 22-06-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: In the instant case filed for the quashment of criminal proceedings initiated against the applicants under Sections 498-A and 323 of IPC and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, the Bench of G.S. Ahluwalia, J. held that in cases related to demand of dowry, general and vague allegations cannot be treated as sufficient material to prosecute the other relatives of the husband who otherwise, do not have anything to do with the family affairs of the complainant. It was observed that in order to prosecute the other relatives in a dowry case there must be some specific allegations against them.

The second respondent filed a case of harassment for dowry against her husband and her in- laws. however she also implicated her husband’s near relatives i.e. elder brother-in-law and his wife etc. The present application was filed by the relatives of husband of second respondent claiming that they were falsely implicated merely because they are the near relatives of the accused husband. It was further submitted that no specific allegations have been made against them and only vague and omnibus allegations have been made in order to pressurize the accused husband. As these relatives of husband stand on different footing, therefore they should not be compelled to face the trial of Court unless any specific allegations have been made against them.

Considering the precedents laid down by the Supreme Court in the cases of Kans Raj v. State of Punjab, (2000) 5 SCC 207 and Monju Roy v. State of West Bengal, (2015) 13 SCC 693, the Court observed that it would not be correct to compel the applicants who are the near relatives of accused husband to face the agony of criminal prosecution on vague allegations under. The Court also stated that all general allegations leveled by the second respondent on the applicants appear to be indistinct with her only intention being to somehow prosecute and defame them. Therefore it is a clear case of over-implication on near relatives of the husband. Thus, charge-sheet and criminal prosecution of the applicants was quashed. [Sandeep Singh Bais v. State of M.P., 2017 SCC OnLine MP 394, decided on 9-03-2017]

 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Dealing with the dowry laws, the 3-judge bench of TS Thakur, CJI and Dr. AK Sikri and R Banumathi, JJ said that giving of dowry and the traditional presents at or about the time of wedding does not in any way raise a presumption that such a property was thereby entrusted and put under the dominion of the parents-in-law of the bride or other close relations so as to attract ingredients of Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.

Interpreting Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, the Court said that the provision lays down that where the dowry is received by any person other than the bride, that person has to transfer the same to the woman in connection with whose marriage it is given and if he fails to do so within three months from the date of the marriage, he shall be punished for violation of Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

The Court further held that if the dowry amount or articles of married woman was placed in the custody of his husband or in-laws, they would be deemed to be trustees of the same. The person receiving dowry articles or the person who is dominion over the same, as per Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, is bound to return the same within three months after the date of marriage to the woman in connection with whose marriage it is given. If he does not do so, he will be guilty of a dowry offence under the said Section. It was further held that even after his conviction he must return the dowry to the woman within the time stipulated in the order. [Bobbili Ramakrishna Raju Yadav v. State of Andhra Pradesh, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 42,  decided on 19.01.2016]