Telangana High Court: In an appeal filed by the husband against the order of the Trial Court convicting him under Section 498-A of the IPC, the Single Judge Bench of G. Radha Rani, J. upheld the order of conviction by the Trial Court and held that contradictory dying declaration consisting of consistent statements regarding abuse and cruelty can be considered.
In the present case, the husband (accused) poured kerosene on his wife (victim) and lit fire due to which she sustained 40% burn injuries and died in 2011 while undergoing treatment. On receipt of a call from the hospital, the Head Constable went there and recorded the victim’s statement. On requisition by the Police, the dying declaration of the victim was also recorded. After ten days, the victim intended to give a second dying declaration, therefore, the same was recorded on 18-07-2011. While undergoing treatment, the victim succumbed to burn injuries on 12-08-2011. The parents of the victim were examined, who stated that their son-in-law (accused) harassed their daughter (victim) for want of more dowry and after three days of the incident they were informed by their daughter that their son-in-law had poured kerosene in drunken condition on her and lit fire by closing the doors from inside.
As the death of the victim occurred within seven years of her marriage, the section of Law was altered from ‘woman burns' to Section 304-B of the IPC. After the investigation was completed, the charge sheet was filed against the accused for the offences punishable under Section 498-A and 304-B of the IPC. On considering the oral and documentary evidence on record, the Sessions Court acquitted the accused for the offence under Section 304-B. Further, the Trial Court found the accused guilty of the offence under Section 498-A of IPC and convicted and sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of one year and fine of Rs. 1000. The accused preferred an appeal contending that the Trial Court failed to appreciate the conflicting versions given by the victim.
Submissions on behalf of the Appellant
Counsel for the appellant submitted that there were four dying declarations given by the victim and each one was an improvement over the other and when contradictory dying declarations were given by the victim, then the benefit of doubt should be given to the accused. Further, it was submitted that the victim in one of her dying declaration's stated that due to unbearable words, she poured kerosene on herself and set herself ablaze.
Question for Consideration
Analysis, Law, and Decision
The Court noted that the accused and the victim got married in 2010 and at the time of the marriage, the accused demanded dowry, for which, the father of the victim gave Rs. 55,000 cash, gold, and household articles. Thereafter, the accused demanded additional dowry, for which a panchayat was held. Later, the victim's father was informed that his daughter was admitted to hospital due to burn injuries.
The Court noted that “the Trial Court had taken all the precautions while recording the statements but as there were improvements in the dying declarations, the Trial Court considered that the dying declarations were given by the victim on tutoring. Therefore, the Trial Court observed that in view of the vital discrepancies in the dying declarations, the same could not be accepted”.
The Court noted that the victim had claimed in the first two dying declarations that she poured kerosene on herself and lit fire due to abusive, vulgar, and harsh comments used by the accused. But in the later dying declarations, the victim stated that the accused had poured kerosene and lit fire to her and used to harass her for dowry.
The Court held that though the subsequent declarations were improvements of each other, one statement was consistent that the accused used to beat the victim after drinking and constantly demanded dowry using vulgar and abusive language. Thus, the offence of Section 498-A of the IPC would be attracted due to consistent statement about harassment and cruelty by husband driving the victim to commit suicide. Therefore, the Court opined that “there was no illegality in the observation of the Trial Court in concluding that the accused was guilty of the offence under Section 498-A of the IPC and so, the Court did not find any necessity to interfere with the sentence inflicted against the accused”. The Court dismissed the appeal and confirmed the conviction and sentence inflicted against the accused by the Trial Court.
[K. Rajkumar v. State of Andhra Pradesh, Criminal Appeal No. 677 of 2013, decided on 11-11-2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
G.M. Vijay Kumar, Advocate, for the Appellant;
Public Prosecutor, for the Respondent.