Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: A Division Bench of Sandeep Mehta and Kumari Prabha Sharma, JJ., dismissed the allegations of dowry demand, cruelty against the father-in-law and husband of the deceased in view of the prosecution theory regarding homicidal death being nothing short of sheer exaggeration.

An appeal was preferred by the accused-appellants under Section 374(2) CrPC against the decision of Additional Sessions Judge (Women Atrocities Cases), Bikaner.

Deceased was married to appellant 1 for 10 years. On one fateful day she was found dead in the kitchen with burn injuries, whereupon her brother, PW.1 lodged.

Humiliated and Harassed

Allegations were placed that the deceased was harassed from the date of her marriage till death on account of dowry demand.

Both the father-in-law and husband of the deceased under the influence of liquor used to maltreat her owing to the demand for money.

The unjust demands of the above-stated persons used to be somehow met but the greed would never end.

PW1 also stated that when he saw his sister dead, both the husband and deceased’s father-in-law kept uttering the words that they had killed the woman and he could do whatever he liked. 

In view of the above, offences under Section 302, 498A and 34 of Penal Code, 1860 were filed.

Later, both the husband and father-in-law were arrested.

Analysis and Decision

Bench on perusal of the facts and circumstances of the matter stated that, if at all there was a semblance of truth in the allegation that the maltreatment of the deceased was continuing for almost 10 years, then her maternal relatives were expected to raise this issue by filing a complaint either to the police and if not, then at least intervention of the community elders would definitely have been sought.

Adding to the above, maternal neer reprimanded the cruel behaviour of the accused.

Hence, the allegations levelled by the prosecution witnesses that the accused were indulged in meting out continuous maltreatment to the deceased on account of demand of dowry is nothing short of sheer exaggeration and needs to be discarded.

Further, it was duly established that the father-in-law of the deceased had invested significant amounts from the sale proceeds of his agricultural land in the names of his granddaughters before the incident, which makes it clear that the allegation of humiliation and harassment is unsubstantiated.

On perusal of the medical report of the deceased, Court noted that the injuries were on the front, but the prosecution theory states that the deceased was set ablaze, if the said theory was true then the kerosene would have dribbled on the front as well as back, hence the defence theory of deceased falling down on the burning place in probablised.

In view of the above-stated background, the reverse burden of proof under Section 106 of the Evidence Act would also not come to the aid of the otherwise fragile and fragmented prosecution case.

Therefore, the accused-appellants were acquitted of all the charges.[Gopal v. State of Rajasthan, DB Criminal Appeal No. 799 of 2014, decided on 06-08-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of S.M. Gavhane and T.V. Nalawade, JJ., while partially allowing the appeal, held that,

“…with regard to offence under Section 498-A IPC, prosecuton has to prove that the accused in furtherance of their common intention caused cruelty within the meaning of cruelty given under explanation A and B of Section 498-A IPC.”

The present appeal was filed to challenge the judgment and order of Sessions Judge that had passed conviction and sentence for offence punishable under Section 498-A read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860, along with punishment under Section 302 read with 34 IPC.

Facts of the case were that the deceased was married to accused 1 about five months before the incident. While the deceased and accused 1 were cohabiting, the deceased sustained 86% burn injuries on 17-11-2007.

Later, dying declarations were recorded in which it was stated that since the marriage accused were harassing the deceased and asking her to bring Rs 10,000 from her parents. On account of the same, the deceased was assaulted and harassed.

On 16-11-2007, accused had beaten her by fist and kick blows and stick and on the morning of 17-11-2007, her father-in-law and mother-in-law caught hold her and her husband poured kerosene on her person and set her on fire by lighting the match stick and thus attempted to commit her murder.

Advocate for the appellants/accused 1 submitted that when both the dying declarations were recorded the deceased was not in a position to make a statement due to 86% burns suffered by her. Further, he stated that both the written dying declaration are not voluntary and trustworthy.

APP submitted that there was no material to show that dying declarations were the result of the product of imagination, tutoring or prompting.

Analysis & Decision of the Court

High Court stated that the death of the accused was not natural.

Looking to the defence of the accused and case of the prosecution it is to be seen whether the death of the deceased is homicidal, suicidal or accidental and if the death of deceased is homicidal whether the accused are responsible for causing burns to the deceased and to her death.

Nothing was found in favour of the accused in the cross-examination of medical officer. Court also noted that the contents of the dying declarations were not specifically put to the accused in the statement under Section 313 CrPC and as such no opportunity was given to the accused to explain the circumstances appearing against them in both the dying declarations.

Further Court found that kerosene residues were present on the burnt clothes of the deceased. If the deceased would have caught fire accidentally no kerosene would have been found on the clothes on her person. Evidence of the defence witness is not believable and sufficient to state that the deceased sustained burns accidentally.

Thus, accused 1 was responsible for causing burn injuries to the deceased and ultimately to cause her death.

Findings of the trial court that the prosecution has proved offence under Section 302 IPC against accused 2 & 3 father-in-law and mother-in-law of deceased is not correct and sustainable.

Hence in the above view, the appeal was partly allowed. [Dadarao v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 346, decided on 03-03-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Ranjit More and Surendra P. Tavadae, JJ., while disposing of the present appeal altered the conviction under Section 302 to Section 304 Part-II of Penal Code, 1860.

The Judgment and order of the Sessions Judge who had convicted the appellant under Section 302 IPC was challenged.

The facts pertinent to the case are that, the appellant was addicted to liquor and in the influence of the same he used to abuse and assault the deceased (Sarika). On the night of the incident, appellant picked up a quarrel on a petty ground and poured thinner on the person of Sarika and set her on fire. Later, appellant himself tried to extinguish the fire by putting water on the person of Sarika and took her to the hospital.

On the basis of the statement of Sarika, crime initially came to be registered under Section 307 of IPC. During the treatment, Sarika succumbed to injuries. After the post-mortem was performed, the offence under Section 302 IPC was added by the Investigating Officer. Later the appellant as arrested.

Advocate for the appellant submitted that the prosecution heavily relied on two written dying declarations and one oral dying declaration of the deceased. He further states that there are major flaws in recording the two dying declarations and they are concocted. Defence of the appellant is more probable than the prosecution theory.

Adding to his submissions, he stated that the appellant had no intention to kill his wife. Therefore the case falls under Section 304 Part-II of IPC.

APP for the State submitted that the dying declarations are consistent and there no flaws in recording the same. Thus, the same can form the basis for conviction under Section 302 IPC. Adding to his submission, APP stated that prior to the incident the appellant had threatened to kill his wife by setting her on fire and with this, it cannot be said that he had no intention of killing his wife.

The entire theory of prosecution depends on dying declarations alleged to have been given by the deceased immediately after the incident. Sarika (deceased) had disclosed her brother that the appellant poured thinner and set her on fire by a match stick. She also stated that the appellant had threatened that if she disclosed the name she would be killed.

Further, it is to be noted that the sum and substance of the first written dying declaration shows that deceased disclosed the cause of the incident as a quarrel over a petty count. The second dying declaration was recorded by the Special Executive Magistrate.

While going through both the declarations, they both appear to be consistent and there seems to be no scope for concoction. The first oral dying declaration was made by Sarika to her brother and thereafter, Police and Special Executive Magistrate recorded Sarika’s statement with the opinion of Medical Officer. Nothing was brought on record to establish that the dying declarations were concocted.

APP relied on the Supreme Court’s decision in Kalu Ram v. State of Rajasthan, (2000) 10 SCC 324; wherein it was held that the conduct cannot be seen divorced from totality of circumstances.

Decision

In the present case, it is established on record that due to quarrel between the appellant over a petty issue he poured thinner on the person of deceased and set her on fire. Taking into consideration the same it cannot be said that the appellant out of control did act of setting his wife on fire but subsequently he extinguished the fire by showing his remorse towards the act of setting fire. Therefore, the appellant had no intention to kill his wife and the said act cannot fall into the purview of Section 302 IPC but it squarely falls under the provisions of Section 304 Part-II IPC.

Thus, relying on the ratio of the decision in Kalu Ram v. State of Rajasthan, (2000) 10 SCC 324, Court was inclined to alter the conviction punishable under Section 302 to 304 Part-II IPC. [Avinash Baburao Rayate v. State of Maharashtra, Criminal Appeal No. 873 of 2010, decided on 31-01-2020]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports that in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar, a person tried to outrage the modesty of a woman and when he was not successful, he poured kerosene on her and put her on fire.

The victim woman has suffered 85 per cent burn injuries and has been admitted in the SKMCH Hospital where her condition is critical. Reportedly, the victim’s family had approached the police five times for registarion of an FIR but no acrtion was taken but neither an FIR was registered by the police nor any action was taken against the accused.

The Commission has observed that the contents of the news reports, if true, amount to serious violation of human rights of the victim. Accordingly, it has issued notices to the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police, Bihar calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks. The Commission would also like to know about the status of the investigation and treatment of the victim woman, who is reportedly in a state of coma at SKMCH Hospital in Muzaffarpur. The report must include whether any departmental action has been taken against the guilty police officials and whether any relief has been granted to the victim/ family.

According to the media reports, the accused who allegedly assaulted the victim has also sustained burn injuries in his hand. The accused, as mentioned in the news report was harassing the victim for the last three years for which the family of the woman had approached the Ahiyapur police station five times, to get an FIR registered but no FIR was registered by the police. Now, reportedly, the police is making efforts to arrest him.


National Human Rights Commission

[Press Release dt. 09-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: In absence of convincing evidence for sustaining the conviction of the appellants (in-laws), Sadhana S. Jadhav, J. reversed the trial court’s judgment whereby they were convicted for the offences punishable under Sections 306 (abetment of suicide) and 498-A (cruelty to woman) IPC.

Ujawala (deceased) was married to Pravin, son of the appellants. She had disclosed to her parents that she was happy with Pravin, but was ill-treated and harassed by her in-laws. On 06-04-1995, she immolated herself. Pravin extinguished the fire and took her to the hospital, but she succumbed to burn injuries. Appellant’s conviction rested on the dying declaration made by Ujwala where she categorically stated that the appellants quarreled with her and abused her for no reason, and therefore being fed up, she immolated herself.

Shekhar A. Ingawale, Advocate represented the appellants. Per contra, Pallavi Dabholkar, Assistant Public Prosecutor appeared for the State.

The High Court noted some pertinent facts: (i) There was a doubt as to endorsement  of the Doctor that Ujawala was in a fit condition to give the statement; (ii) as per the record, Ujwala sustained 100% burn injuries on both hands, in spite of that a clear thumb impression was obtained on her statement; (iii) the statement was snot read-over to Ujwala; (iv) Ujwala’s father was present at the time of recording of her statement  and even countersigned it. Such and other facts, in the Court’s opinion, spelled a doubt on the veracity of Ujwala’s dying declaration.

The Court additionally noted that options were open to Ujwala. She was working in a factory, was economically independent and her husband was supportive. In such a view, it was held that no conviction could be recorded solely on the basis of the dying declaration. The appeal was thus allowed. [Nana Dhondiram Lad v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 605, decided on 15-03-2019]