Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Chandra Dhari Singh, J., decides a bail matter wherein a woman was alleged to have committed suicide due to harassment and dowry demands by in-laws.

Factual Matrix

A bail application was filed under Section 438 read with Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 on behalf of the applicant seeking anticipatory bail for offences punishable under Section 498A/304B/34 of the Penal Code, 1860.

The prosecution stated that the complainant who was the father of the deceased had lodged an FIR against 5 accused persons (in-laws of the deceased) including the applicant. Further, the complainant alleged that his daughter got married to the brother-in-law of the applicant. Soon after which, the accused family members including the applicant started to harass and physically torture the deceased on the pretext of dowry demands.

Specific allegations against the accused persons, wherein they were being held responsible for the death of the complainant’s daughter were also raised.

On being aggrieved of being beaten by the in-laws and thrown out of the matrimonial house, the complainant’s daughter committed suicide by hanging on the ceiling fan with a piece of cloth.

Analysis, Law and Decision

The applicant was the relative of the deceased, being the brother-in-law of the husband of the deceased, was living separately from the matrimonial home of the deceased.

The Bench noted that, there was a general allegation against the applicant in the FIR and no specific allegations were made against him regarding the demand of dowry. Also, there were no criminal antecedents of the applicant.

Hence, High Court opined that, no useful purpose would be served in taking the applicant in custody.

Since all the relevant materials have been collected by the police, and after completion of the investigation, charge-sheet had already been filed before the Court below, this Court found that there was no necessity for custodial interrogation of the applicant.

Therefore, anticipatory bail was granted to the applicant. [Vinay Saharan v. State (Govt of NCT of Delhi), 2022 SCC OnLine Del 897, decided on 30-3-2022]

Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner:

Ms. Rebecca M. John, Sr. Advocate with Mr. Ankit Ranat and Ms. Megha Bahl, Advocates

For the Respondent:

Ms. Kusum Dhalla, APP with Insp. Rajiv, P.S. Mangolpuri. Complainant in person

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a dowry demand and harassment case, where a woman had lodged criminal complaint against her husband and in-laws but  no specific role was attributed to the in-laws, the bench of SA Nazeer and Krishna Murari*, JJ has held that it would be unjust if the in-laws are forced to go through the tribulations of a trial and that general and omnibus allegations cannot manifest in a situation where the relatives of the complainant’s husband are forced to undergo trial. The Court observed that a criminal trial leading to an eventual acquittal also inflicts severe scars upon the accused, and such an exercise must therefore be discouraged.

The Court also observed that while incorporation of section 498A of IPC was aimed at preventing cruelty committed upon a woman by her husband and her in-laws, by facilitating rapid state intervention, it is equally true, that in recent times, matrimonial litigation in the country has also increased significantly and there is a greater disaffection and friction surrounding the institution of marriage, now, more than ever. This has resulted in an increased tendency to employ provisions such as 498A IPC as instruments to settle personal scores against the husband and his relatives

The Court took note of several rulings wherein the Court has expressed concern over the misuse of section 498A IPC and the increased tendency of implicating relatives of the husband in matrimonial disputes, without analysing the long term ramifications of a trial on the complainant as well as the accused. The Court has observed in those judgments that false implication by way of general omnibus allegations made in the course of matrimonial dispute, if left unchecked would result in misuse of the process of law.

“Therefore, this court by way of its judgments has warned the courts from proceeding against the relatives and in-laws of the husband when no prima facie case is made out against them.”

In the case at hand, general allegations were levelled against the in-laws. The complainant alleged that ‘all accused harassed her mentally and threatened her of terminating her pregnancy’. Furthermore, no specific and distinct allegations have been made against either of the Appellants herein

The Court observed that

“This simply leads to a situation wherein one fails to ascertain the role played by each accused in furtherance of the offence. The allegations are therefore general and omnibus and can at best be said to have been made out on account of small skirmishes.”

The Court, hence, held that allowing prosecution in the absence of clear allegations against the in-laws would simply result in an abuse of the process of law.

[Kahkashan Kausar v. State of Bihar, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 162, decided on 08.02.2022]

*Judgment by: Justice Krishna Murari

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Noting the brutality with wife a 22-year-old lady and mother of a one year’s infant child in causing her death, beating her cruelly by “her husband” Vikas Kunvar Srivastav, J. held that the said act was not only grave in nature but heinous also.

In the present matter, bail application was moved on behalf of the accused applicant involved in a crime under Sections 498-A, 304-B, 201 of Penal Code, 1860 and Section ¾ of Dowry Prohibition Act.

The investigating officer found out that the victim, the daughter of the complainant was burnt, and her dead body was buried at a secret place by the accused applicant and his family members for vanishing of the evidences.

The office of District Magistrate Lucknow issued a letter for permission to excavate the place of burial and exhume the dead body of the deceased. The dead body was exhumed from the place of burial and inquest proceedings was done before the witnesses. The dead body was exhumed from the place of burial and an inquest proceeding was done before the witnesses.

As per the facts and substances on record, it was noted that the deceased was married about 3 years ago from the date of the incident with the present accused applicant. Just after the marriage was solemnized, the in-laws of the deceased began to insist on additional dowry and to transfer a considerable amount of money from the deposits of the father.

Since the demand could not be fulfilled by reason of poverty and indigency of the father, the daughter was subjected to beatings. The complainant even requested the in-laws not to commit cruelty with his daughter as it was beyond his capacity to pay additional dowry by reason of his poverty.

On being convinced that the complainant would not be able to pay additional dowry, the in-laws of the decease collusively killed the daughter of the complainant and secretly cremated her body.

High Court observed that the facts that the accused-applicant was found to have committed willingly the death of his wife after beating her brutally in view of the demand of dowry soon before the death of the complainant’s daughter was prima facie established.

The dead body was burnt and buried at a secret place was also prima facie established, moreover, no information of death was given to the father and other family members of the deceased which reflected the criminal mens rea of the accused.

High Court remarked that,

“…the brutality with wife a 22 year old lady and mother of a one year’s infant child in causing her death, beating her cruelly by the present accused applicant “her husband” is not only grave in nature but heinous also, and is evident of callous greed of a heartless husband and self-centered irresponsible father of the infant child.”

Further, the Bench expressed that the cruel nature and instinct of the applicant in case of his release on bail would certainly adversely affect the witnesses.

Hence the bail application was rejected. [Bablu v. State of U.P., 2022 SCC OnLine All 76, decided on 27-1-2022]

Advocates before the Court:

Counsel for the Applicant: Neeta Singh Chandel

Counsel for the OP: G.A.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where the Madhya Pradesh High Court had held that demand of money for construction of a house cannot be treated as a dowry demand, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ and AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli*, JJ has found the said observation erroneous and has held that the word “Dowry” ought to be ascribed an expansive meaning so as to encompass any demand made on a woman, whether in respect of a property or a valuable security of any nature.

The Unfortunate Facts

The deceased, Geeta Bai, was 18 years old when she got married on 7th May, 1998. In less than four years of her marriage, Geeta Bai committed suicide at her matrimonial home by pouring kerosene oil and setting herself on fire. She was admitted in a burnt condition in the Community Health Centre, Baroda on 20th April, 2002 and breathed her last on the same day. At that time, she was five months pregnant. While the Mother-in-law and Brother-in-law were acquitted by the Trial Court, the husband and father-in-law of the deceased were convicted under Sections 304-B, 306 and 498-A IPC and were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for life for the first offence, RI for a period of seven years with fine for the second offence and RI for three years with fine for the third offence.

The conviction and sentence imposed on the respondents was primarily based on the evidence maternal uncles of the deceased who stated that the respondents had been demanding money from the deceased for constructing a house which her family members were unable to give. As a result, she was constantly harassed and subjected to cruelty, finally leading to her committing suicide.

The High Court gave clean chit to the father-in-law and also set aside the order of conviction in respect of the husband under Sections 304B and 306 IPC. However, his conviction was sustained under Section 498-A IPC, but the sentence of RI for three years imposed on him was reduced to the period already undergone by him on the ground that the demand of money for construction of a house cannot be treated as a demand for dowry.



In a three Judge Bench decision of this Court in Rajinder Singh v. State of Punjab, (2015) 6 SCC 477, Section 2 of the Dowry Act was split into six distinct parts for a better understanding of the said provision, with the first part stating,

“ Dowry must first consist of any property or valuable security— the word “any” is a word of width and would, therefore, include within it property and valuable security of any kind whatsoever.”

Since the word “dowry” takes in its ambit any kind of property or valuable security, the Court held that the High Court fell into an error by holding that the demand of money for construction of a house cannot be treated as a dowry demand.

“The Latin maxim “Ut Res Magis Valeat Quam Pereat” i.e, a liberal construction should be put up on written instruments, so as to uphold them, if possible, and carry into effect, the intention of the parties, sums it up. Interpretation of a provision of law that will defeat the very intention of the legislature must be shunned in favour of an interpretation that will promote the object sought to be achieved through the legislation meant to uproot a social evil like dowry demand.”

The Court, hence, held that the word “Dowry” ought to be ascribed an expansive meaning so as to encompass any demand made on a woman, whether in respect of a property or a valuable security of any nature.

“When dealing with cases under Section 304-B IPC, a provision legislated to act as a deterrent in the society and curb the heinous crime of dowry demands, the shift in the approach of the courts ought to be from strict to liberal, from constricted to dilated. Any rigid meaning would tend to bring to naught, the real object of the provision. Therefore, a push in the right direction is required to accomplish the task of eradicating this evil which has become deeply entrenched in our society.”

Ingredients of Section 304-B IPC

The most fundamental constituent for attracting the provisions of Section 304-B IPC is that the death of the woman must be a dowry death. Four pre-requisites for convicting an accused for the offence punishable under Section 304- B are as follows:

  • that the death of a woman must have been caused by burns or bodily injury or occurred otherwise than under normal circumstance;
  • that such a death must have occurred within a period of seven years of her marriage;
  • that the woman must have been subjected to cruelty or harassment at the hands of her husband, soon before her death; and (
  • that such a cruelty or harassment must have been for or related to any demand for dowry

Key facts

  • The respondents had been constantly tormenting the deceased and asking her to approach her family members for money to build a house and it was only on their persistence and insistence that she was compelled to ask them to contribute some amount for constructing a house.
  • The marriage of the deceased and the respondent No.1 was conducted in a community marriage organization where some couples would have tied the knot goes to show that the parties were financially not so well off.
  • Before the marriage of the deceased also, her maternal uncle used to bear her expenses and that of her mother and brother as her father had abandoned them.

Ruling on facts

The Court hence held that the High Court fell in an error in drawing an inference that since the deceased had herself joined her husband and father-in-law, respondents herein and asked her mother or uncle to contribute money to construct a house, such demand cannot be treated as a “dowry demand”. On the contrary, it observed that the evidence brought on record showed that the deceased was pressurized to make such a request for money to her mother and uncle.

“It was not a case of complicity but a case of sheer helplessness faced by the deceased in such adverse circumstances.”

The Court held that such glairing circumstances, when viewed together, can hardly mitigate the offence of the respondents or take the case out of the purview of Section 304-B IPC, when all the four pre-requisites for invoking the said provision stand satisfied, namely,

  • that the death of Geeta Bai took place at her matrimonial home within seven years of her marriage;
  • that the said death took place in abnormal circumstances on account of burning and that too when she was five months pregnant;
  • that she had been subjected to cruelty and harassment by the respondents soon before her death and
  • such cruelty/harassment was in connection with demand for dowry.

[State of Madhya Pradesh v. Jogindra, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 33, decided on 11.01.2022]

*Judgment by: Justice Hima Kohli

Counsel For State: Advocate General Prashant Singh

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Mukta Gupta, J., decided whether a settlement of parties wherein an accused and his family members who subjected his wife to harassment due to which the wife committed suicide can be accepted or not?

By the present petition, 5 petitioners sought quashing of an FIR under Sections 498A, 304B, 34 Penal Code, 1860 on the ground that the parties have settled.

In the above-noted FIR, respondent 2 had stated that his daughter got married to petitioner 1 who was unemployed and this his parents used to bear the expenses. After the marriage, the in-laws of his daughter started demanding dowry though nothing was demanded at the time of the marriage and respondent 2 had performed the marriage as per his capacity.

Later the daughter was harassed by her husband, mother-in-law, brother-in-law and two nieces.

One day, respondent 2 got a phone call that his daughter had committed suicide.

During the pendency of the investigation, petitioners and respondent 2 entered into a memorandum of understanding and as per the terms of the settlement, the parties entered into a settlement without any coercion and without any transfer of money.

Even respondent 2 agreed that he had no claim and grievance against the petitioners and will cooperate in the quashing petition preferred before this Court as also make sincere efforts in getting the petitioners released on bail and that no grudges were left between the parties.

Analysis, Law and Decision

High Court cited the Supreme Court decision in Parbatbhai Aahir v. State of Gujarat, (2017) 9 SCC 641, wherein it was clearly held that where serious and grave offences are involved, the quashing of FIR cannot be allowed on the basis of the compromise. Broad principles were also laid down in respect of the inherent power of the High Court to quash the first information report or the criminal proceedings.

Bench held that in the present case, a woman committed suicide within five months of her marriage due to harassment caused by the husband and his family members and the offences punishable under Section 304-B IPC were not only grave and heinous but an offence against the society actuated by the social evil of demand od dowry, therefore needs deterrence nad cannot be quashed on the basis of settlement arrived between the accused and complainant.

In view of the above discussion, the petition was dismissed. [Dalbir Singh v. State GNCT of Delhi, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 5449, decided on 17-12-2021]

Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner: Vikrant Chowdhary, Pradeep Chowdhary, Advocates (through VC)

For the Respondent: Kamna Vohra, ASC for the State with Inspector Hari Singh, P.S. Tilak Nagar

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 BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case relating to dowry death, the bench of NV Ramana*, CJ and Aniruddha Bose, J has said that judges need to be extra careful while conducting criminal trials relating to Section 304-B, IPC. The Court went on to summarise the law under Section 304­B, IPC read with Section 113­B, Evidence Act and the guidelines to be followed by the Courts while conducting trials in such cases.

The Court noticed that, often, Trial Courts record the statement of an accused under Section 313, CrPC in a very casual and cursory manner, without specifically questioning the accused as to his defense.

“It ought to be noted that the examination of an accused under Section 313, CrPC cannot be treated as a mere procedural formality, as it is based on the fundamental principle of fairness.”

Hence, the Court must put incriminating circumstances before the accused and seek his response. A duty is also cast on the counsel of the accused to prepare his defense, since the inception of the trial, with due caution, keeping in consideration the peculiarities of Section 304¬B, IPC read with Section 113-B, Evidence Act.

Dowry deaths – Facts and Figures

A study titled “Global study on Homicide: Gender-related killing of women and girls”, published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, highlighted that in 2018 female dowry deaths account for 40 to 50 percent of all female homicides recorded annually in India. The dismal truth is that from the period 1999 to 2016, these figures have remained constant.

The latest data furnished by the National Crime Records Bureau indicates that in 2019 itself, 7115 cases were registered under Section 304-B, IPC alone.

Law on dowry death – The trajectory

Section 304¬B, IPC is one among many legislative initiatives undertaken by Parliament to remedy a long-standing social evil of dowry death. The pestiferous nature of dowry harassment, wherein married women   are   being   subjected   to   cruelty   because   of   covetous demands by husband and his relatives has not gone unnoticed. The Parliament enacted the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 as a first step to eradicate this social evil. Further, as the measures were   found   to   be   insufficient,   the   Criminal   Law   (Second Amendment) Act, 1983 (Act 46 of 1983) was passed wherein Chapter XX-A was introduced in the IPC, containing Section 498¬A.

The need for a stringent law to curb dowry deaths was suo motu taken up by the Law Commission in its 91st Law Commission Report. The Law Commission recognized that the IPC, as it existed at that relevant time, was insufficient to tackle the issue of dowry deaths due to the nature and modus of the crime.

The Parliament, then, introduced amendments to the Dowry Prohibition Act, as well as the IPC by enacting Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 1986 (Act 43 of 1986). By way of this amendment, Section 304-B, IPC was specifically introduced in the IPC, as a stringent provision to curb the menace of dowry death in India.

Margaret Alva, who presented the Amendment Bill before Rajya Sabha observed:

“You have never really heard of a girl being burnt while cooking in her mother’s  house or her husband’s  house. It is always in the mother-in-law’s house that she catches fire and is burnt in the kitchen. Therefore, getting evidence immediately becomes a great bit problem. Therefore, we have brought in a couple of amendments which give certain presumptions where the burden of proof shifts to the husband and to his people to show that it was not a dowry death or that it was not deliberately done.”

Dowry Death and Criminal Trial – Law Summarised

  1. Section 304¬B, IPC must be interpreted keeping in mind the legislative intent to curb the social evil of bride burning and dowry demand.
  2. The prosecution must at first establish the existence of the necessary ingredients for constituting an offence under Section 304-B, IPC. Once these ingredients are satisfied, the rebuttable presumption of causality, provided under Section 113¬B, Evidence Act operates against the accused.
  3. The phrase “soon before” as appearing in Section 304¬B, IPC cannot be construed to mean ‘immediately before’. The prosecution must establish existence of “proximate and live link” between the dowry death and cruelty or harassment for dowry demand by the husband or his relatives.
  4. Section 304-B, IPC does not take a pigeonhole approach in categorizing death as homicidal or suicidal or accidental. The reason for such non categorization is due to the fact that death occurring “otherwise than under normal circumstances” can, in cases, be homicidal or suicidal or accidental.
  5. Due to the precarious nature of Section 304-B, IPC read with 113¬B, Evidence Act, Judges, prosecution and defence should be careful during conduction of trial.
  6. It is a matter of grave concern that, often, Trial Courts record the statement under Section 313, CrPC in a very casual and cursory manner, without specifically questioning the accused as to his defense. It ought to be noted that the examination of an accused under Section 313, CrPC cannot be treated as a mere procedural formality, as it based on the fundamental principle of fairness. This aforesaid provision incorporates the valuable principle of natural justice “audi alteram partem” as it enables the accused to offer an explanation for the incriminatory material appearing against him. Therefore, it imposes an obligation on the court to question the accused fairly, with care and caution.
  7. The Court must put incriminating circumstances before the accused and seek his response. A duty is also cast on the counsel of the accused to prepare his defense since the inception of the Trial with due caution, keeping   in consideration the peculiarities of Section 304-B, IPC read with Section 113¬B, Evidence Act.
  8. Section 232, CrPC provides that, “If, after taking the evidence for the prosecution, examining   the accused and hearing the prosecution and the defence on the point, the Judge considers that there is no evidence that the accused committed the offence, the Judge shall record an order of acquittal”. Such discretion must be utilized by the Trial Courts as an obligation of best efforts.
  9. Once the Trial Court decides that the accused is not eligible to be acquitted as per the provisions of Section 232, CrPC, it must move on and fix hearings specifically for ‘defence evidence’, calling upon the accused to present his defense as per the procedure provided under Section 233, CrPC, which is also an invaluable right provided to the accused.
  10. In the same breath, Trial Courts need to balance other important considerations such as the right to a speedy trial.
  11. The presiding Judge should follow the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court while sentencing and imposing appropriate punishment.
  12. Undoubtedly, the menace of dowry death is increasing day by day, however, sometimes family members of the husband are roped in, even though they have no active role in commission of the offence and are residing at distant places. In these cases, the Court need to be cautious in its approach.

[Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 404, decided on 28.05.2021]

Judgment by: Chief Justice of India NV Ramana 

Know Thy Judge| Justice N.V. Ramana

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where a woman died of burn injuries one year into her marriage, the bench of NV Ramana*, CJ and Aniruddha Bose, J has held that Courts should use their discretion to determine if the period between the cruelty or harassment and the death of the victim   would come within the term “soon before” as the factum of cruelty or harassment differs from case to case.

“When the legislature used the words, “soon before” they did not mean “immediately before”. Rather, they left its determination in the hands of the courts.”


A woman got married to a man in July, 1994. As fate would have it, she died exactly after year after receiving burn injuries, allegedly after she set herself ablaze due to being subjected to cruelty and dowry demand at the hands of her husband and in-laws. The appellants were convicted by the Trial Court in December, 1997 for the offences under Sections 304¬B and 306, IPC and were sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for seven years for the offence punishable under Section 304-B, IPC and to undergo rigorous imprisonment for five years for the offence punishable under Section 306, IPC.

In November, 2008, the Punjab and Haryana High Court also  upheld the order of the Trial Court and dismissed the appeal filed by the appellants.


Was the offence under Section 304-B IPC made out?

“Soon before” – Interpretation

When the legislature used the words, “soon before” they did not mean “immediately before”. Rather, they left its determination in the hands of the courts. The factum of cruelty or harassment differs from case to case. Even the spectrum of cruelty is quite varied, as it can range from physical, verbal or even emotional. This list is certainly not exhaustive. Therefore, Courts should use their discretion to determine if the period between the cruelty or harassment and the death of the victim   would come within the term “soon before”.

“What is pivotal to the above determination, is the establishment of a “proximate and live link” between the cruelty and the consequential death of the victim.”

When the prosecution shows that ‘soon before her death such woman has been subjected by such person to cruelty or harassment for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry’, a presumption of causation arises against the accused under Section 113-B of the Evidence Act. Thereafter, the accused has to rebut this statutory presumption.

Further, Section 304-B, IPC does not take a pigeonhole approach in categorizing death as homicidal   or suicidal or accidental, as was done earlier. The reason for such non categorization is due to the fact that death occurring “otherwise than under normal circumstances” can, in cases, be homicidal or suicidal or accidental. However, the Section 304-B, IPC endeavors to also address those situations wherein murders or suicide are masqueraded as accidents.

“Therefore, if all the other ingredients of Section 304¬B IPC are fulfilled, any death whether caused by burns or by bodily injury or occurring otherwise than under normal circumstances shall, as per the legislative mandate, be called a “dowry death” and the woman’s husband or his relative “shall be deemed to have caused her death” unless proved otherwise.”

Chain of circumstances  – Where did it lead?

  • The deceased and accused were married on 01.07.1994, and the death of the lady occurred on 31.07.1995.
  • According to the evidence of the doctor, the entire body of the deceased was doused with kerosene oil. Therefore, the possibility of an accident was ruled out.
  • The Deceased had disclosed to her brother, within a month after her marriage that the accused, husband and mother-in-law, used to physically harass her on the account of bringing insufficient dowry. Furthermore, the accused persons had made a specific demand of a scooter. Pursuant to this disclosure, she was brought back to her paternal house.
  • Only a month prior to her death, the deceased had returned to her matrimonial house. However, the accused still used to harass the deceased for dowry. The aforesaid fact was revealed by the deceased to her father, when she had come to visit him.
  • Just a week before the death, on the occasion of Teej festival, another brother of the deceased had visited her while she was in her matrimonial home. The deceased had reiterated her plight to her
  • On 31.07.1995, the father of the deceased was informed by some villagers that his daughter has been admitted in the hospital. Upon reaching, the father discovered that the deceased succumbed to burn injuries.

“The aforesaid chain of circumstances proves that there existed a live and proximate link between the instances of demand of dowry and the death of the deceased.”

The court noticed that since the ingredients of Section 304¬B, IPC stoodsatisfied, the presumption under 113¬B, Evidence Act operated against the appellants, who are deemed to have caused the offence specified under Section 304-B of IPC. The burden therefore shifted on the accused to rebut the aforesaid presumption, who in turn, failed to make out a case for acquittal.

Was the offence under Section 306 IPC made out?

A bare reading of the provision indicates that for the offence under Section 306, IPC the prosecution needs to first establish that a suicide has been committed. Secondly, the prosecution must also prove that the person who is said to have abetted the commission of suicide, has played an active role in the same.

With respect to this latter requirement, Section 113¬A, Evidence Act creates a presumption against the husband and/or his relative with respect to the abetment of suicide of a married woman, under certain conditions. Not going into the other conditions, a perusal of the provision indicates that such presumption shall be attracted only if the factum of suicide has been established by the prosecution first.

However, in the present case, the conclusion reached by the Courts below was based on assumptions, as there is no evidence on record to support the same.

The reasoning of the Trial Court in this regard was:

“Further, there is no direct evidence having been adduced by the prosecution the (sic) any of the accused caused death by sprinkling kerosene on the body of the deceased, the only possibility is that Meena Kumari put an end to her life by sprinkling kerosene on her body.”

Hence, since there was insufficient evidence to prove the factum of suicide beyond reasonable doubt, the presumption under Section 113-A, Evidence Act, is not of much help for the prosecution. The essential ingredient of deceased committing suicide has not been proved by the prosecution by adducing sufficient evidence.

“In the present case, the prosecution has failed to establish that the death occurred due to suicide. Therefore, we are of the opinion that the finding of the Courts below convicting the appellants under Section 306, IPC merits interference by this Court.”


Conviction under Section 304-B IPC was upheld and conviction and sentence under Section 306, IPC was set aside.

[Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 404, decided on 28.05.2021]

Judgment by: Chief Justice of India NV Ramana

Know Thy Judge| Justice N.V. Ramana

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of Ravindra V. Ghuge and B.U. Debadwar, JJ., upheld the decision of Additional Sessions Judge wherein a woman committed suicide along with her infant daughter within 7 years of marriage and allegations were placed that she committed suicide on the pretext of cruelty and harassment, but same could not be proved.

Present appeal was filed under Section 378(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 against the Judgment and Order passed by Additional Sessions Judge, whereby the five accused were acquitted for the offences under Sections 498-A, 304-B and 306 read with Section 34 of the Penal Code, 1860.

Factual Matrix

Respondent 2 and 3 are the husband and wife, whereas respondent 1 and 5 are the son and daughter of the said respondents 2 and 3.

Deceased ‘Jyoti’ was the daughter of Haribhau Laxman Karkhile and Shakuntala Haribhau Karkhile.

Further, it was stated that, with the intervention of close relatives of both the families, the marriage of deceased Jyoti with respondent 1 Vijay was settled.

At the time of settlement of marriage, respondents had expressed their desire that marriage should be solemnized in a grand manner. Respondents did not demand any gift or dowry. Haribhau and his family members agreed to the performance of marriage of deceased Jyoti and accused 1 Vijay at Kedgaon in the best of possible manner.

Matrimonial life of deceased Jyoti was normal for about 10 months after marriage. Thereafter, husband and father-in-law started insisting on her for bringing balance dowry amount of Rs 25,000 and subjecting her to cruelty for that, in the form of beating and starving her.

Deceased Jyoti used to disclose about harassment and ill-treatment meted out by husband and in-laws on account of remainder dowry amount of Rs 25,000 to her parents and brothers, whenever she visited her parental house.

In the meanwhile, Jyoti became pregnant and gave birth to a girl child but as afraid to return back to matrimonial house without the remainder of dowry. However, after some time she returned to her matrimonial house and assured her husband/accused that Haribhau would soon arrange the money and requested not to harass her.

Though Haribhau failed to arrange the money and deceased was constantly harassed and the same was disclosed to her parents.

Later, Jyoti and her daughter were both found dead by a fisherman in decomposed condition under the shrubs in the Ghod river.

Haribhau lodged report narrating over all conduct of the accused and the crime was registered for the offences punishable under Section 498-A, 304-B and 306 read with Section 34 IPC.

Additional Sessions Judge on conducting trial found that the prosecution failed to provide demand of dowry and harassment of Jyoti by the accused of non-fulfilment of remainder dowry amount. Being aggrieved of the same, State preferred the present appeal.

Crux of the matter lies in the following issues:

  1. Whether Jyoti committed suicide, along with tender aged daughter Kranti, by drowning into Ghod river;
  2. Whether, soon before the death, Jyoti was subjected to cruelty or harassment by the accused in connection with demand of dowry;


(iii) Whether, by their willful conduct, accused had driven Jyoti to commit suicide along with daughter Kranti.

Bench on taking into consideration the evidence on record, gathered that Jyoti along with Kranti committed suicide by drowning in Ghod river, hence resulting in suicidal death.

Court ruled out the possibility of accused getting annoyed when Jyoti gave birth to a daughter and started harassing Jyoti more, on the contrary, in light of the evidence placed, it was found that they were happy.

PW5 Shakuntala did not tell any relative that accused were ill-treating Jyoti for insisting her to fulfil their demand of remainder dowry amount of Rs 25,000. This conduct of PW5 Shakuntala cannot be lost sight of. In the normal course, every mother shares such aspects with kith and kin or relatives.

Evidence of PW5 Shakuntala was not worthy of credence.

Further, High Court added that when Haribhau, Deepak, Shakuntala and Sudam were well aware about the fact that since more than one year accused were harassing Jyoti, on account of non-payment of remainder dowry of Rs 25,000, in normal course it was expected on their part to disclose the same to police immediately, however, they did not disclose anything about the aforesaid conduct of the accused.

During the course of recording the statement under Section 313 of CrPC, accused 1 not only stated that after birth of daughter Kranti he deposited Rs 50,000 in the Bank of Maharashtra, in the name of Kranti in fixed deposit account, but also produced on record xerox copy of the said fixed deposit receipt. The said conduct of the accused in taking care of future of Kranti, immediately after her birth, by way of depositing substantial amount in her name in bank, creates every doubt about the case set out in the FIR and deposed by PW2 Deepak, PW5 Shakuntala and PW7 Sudam that after the birth of Kranti gravity of harassment of Jyoti by accused increased.

High Court found the allegations of harassment of Jyoti by accused vague and omnibus.

In view of the facts and circumstances of the case, Bench found that Jyoti committed suicide within 7 years of marriage with accused 1 Vijay, accused cannot be held guilty, either for the offence punishable under Sections 498-A, 304-B or 306 read with Section 34 of IPC, as evidence on the aspect of subjecting her to cruelty by accused persons on account of remainder demand of dowry of Rs 25,000/- soon before her death or driving her to commit suicide by their willful conduct, is doubtful for various reasons.

Presumption contemplated in Section 113A or Section 113B of the Evidence Act would not support the prosecution, since Jyoti being subjected to cruelty on account of dowry demand was found to be doubtful.

The reason alone that Jyoti committed suicide, cannot be a ground to hold the accused guilty for offences punishable under Sections 498-A, 304-B or 306 read with Section 34 IPC on suspicion, when the evidence as to the demand of dowry and harassment of Jyoti by accused of the same, adduced by the prosecution was doubtful and not worthy of credence.

On re-appreciating the evidence, High Court did not find the view taken by the Additional Sessions Judge to be incorrect or improbable.

Hence the Bench concurred with the lower court’s view and dismissed the appeal. [State of Maharashtra v. Vijay Dattatraya Kolhe, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 338, decided on 11-03-2021]

Advocates before the Court:

APP for Appellant – State: Shri R. V. Dasalkar

Advocate for Respondents No. 1, 2, 4 & 5 — Shri Amol Joshi

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

“There is pain in being a woman, yes but there is pride in it too.”

-Marry Pauline Lowry

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Pradeep Nandrajog, C.J. and Bharati Dangre, J., while addressing a criminal appeal explained the agony that was suffered by the deceased – Vaishali in the present case by mentioning the quote above and further stated that,

“Vaishali suffered the pain but did not survive to experience the pride of being a woman – a creator, born to create and before this, she exited the world by extinguishing the flame of her life.”

In the present case, young girl Vaishali ended her life by consuming Dunet methanol in the form of an insecticide and succumbed to the same. PW-1 (deceased’s father) lodged a complaint on the very same day that Vaishali ended her life. PW-1 alleged that his daughter had complained about cruel treatment inflicted on her by her mother-in-law, sister-in-law and her husband (Dinesh).

Further it has been stated that, she was subjected to harassment by her mother-in-law on account of the fact that she intended to marry her son to a girl from her parental side and in turn wanted her daughter Rupali to be married into her maternal family but on account of the marriage of the deceased with her son Dinesh, the relationship contemplated was not fructified. Mother-in-law had also raised a demand of Rs 2 lakhs and on account of such demand deceased was subjected to cruelty both physical and mental.

Reference was made to the incident where Vaishali (deceased) was admitted to a hospital and was found in an unconscious condition. Husband of the deceased stated that Vaishali had consumed insecticide on having a verbal altercation with the mother in law. Therefore based on the above stated, FIR under Sections 498-A, 304-B and 306, Penal Code, 1860 was registered.

Matter was committed to Additional Sessions Judge, Pune who framed the charges against the accused persons under Section 498-A read with Section 34 IPC and he also framed a charge under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC, in the alternative, a charge under Section 306 and 304-B IPC.


High Court, with the assistance of Counsel for the accused Sanjiv Kadam and learned APP, perused the evidence adduced before the Sessions Court.

Within a period of 6 months of her marriage, deceased committed suicide. Harassment was in the form of taunts and her unacceptability in the house. It also speaks of the deceased being ridiculed by the mother-in-law and her behaviour was reiterated by other members of the family including the husband of the deceased.

“Deceased who was unhappy on account of the harassment could see no hope and she took the desperate step to escape the unbearable suffering and pain which she was subjected to in an attempt not to put an end to her life but to end the traumatic ordeal which she had to undergo within a short span of her marriage life.”

Court added that, Section 498-A came to be inserted to suitably deal not only with the cases of dowry death but also cases of cruelty to a married woman by her in-laws. Raison d’etre of Section 498-A being to prevent the torture being inflicted on a married woman by her husband or his relations and it is not restricted to only in relation to the demands of dowry but it also intended to deal with cruelty inflicted upon a woman in the form of a willful conduct which drives a woman to commit suicide.

Therefore, on perusal of the judgment of the Trial Court, it is noted that the Sessions Judge grossly erred in not considering the evidence brought on record against the deceased’s husband (Dinesh) who was also party to the ill-treatment inflicted to the deceased.

Prosecution witnesses of the deceased have, in unequivocal terms, deposed that Vaishali categorically stated that she was subjected to harassment at the hands of her husband, who also joined in the choir,

“Husband, the only son to whom Vaishali was married played a positive role in the harassment of Vaishali which drove her to commit suicide and this wilful conduct of the husband has escaped the attention of learned Sessions Judge, who has acquitted him of the offence punishable under Section 498-A IPC.”

Object of introducing stringent provision in the IPC in the form of Section 498-A being to deal with such willful conduct, which led to the death of Vaishali, according to the Court should not escape the clutches of law and such conduct as also the persons who inflict such conduct actuating a young married women to end her life, needs to be penalised particularly when the evidence brought on record establishing such a conduct.

In view of the above, the conviction and sentence of the mother-in-law of the deceased is upheld and a notice is issued to Dinesh (husband of the deceased) who was erroneously acquitted by the trial court of the offence punishable under Section 498-A by affording him an opportunity of hearing.[Mandakini Balasaheb Kalbhor v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 1774, decided on 04-09-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: The Bench of Ahsanuddin Amanullah, J. quashed criminal proceedings against relatives of a man accused of torturing his wife and demanding dowry from her, holding that allegations against them were of general nature and as such, allowing proceedings against them to continue would amount to abusing the process of the Court.

The instant proceedings arose under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 seeking quashing of a complaint case whereunder cognizance was taken against petitioner/husband under Section 498-A of the Penal Code, 1860 for demanding dowry and torture. Primary argument advanced on behalf of the opposite party 2/ wife was that her husband had remarried and was staying with two other wives at Mumbai and that he was refusing to accept her and her two sons without payment of Rs. 5 lakhs for purchase of a kholi.

Learned counsel for the petitioners Mr Uday Kumar submitted that they were the husband’s brothers and his sisters-in-law, who had nothing to do with the matrimonial discord between the parties. It was submitted that they had no objection if opposite party no. 2 and her two sons reside in the matrimonial/ancestral home of the husband.

The Court took note of judgment in Preeti Gupta v. State of Jharkhand, (2010) 7 SCC 667, where it was held that allegations against husband’s relatives must be scrutinized with great care and circumspection. It was observed that allegations against petitioners were general and omnibus in nature. Admittedly, the main grievance of the wife was against the husband.

It was opined that since the petitioners had taken a categorical stand to give sufficient place/space to the opposite party  2, as per share of her husband, in the ancestral/ matrimonial home, therefore letting the criminal proceeding against them to continue would be an abuse of the process of the Court. Accordingly, the application was allowed.[Bablu Khan v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 386, decided on 27-03-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: This criminal appeal was filed before the Bench of Ratnaker Bhengra, J., against the judgment of conviction and order of sentence passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Fast Track Court.

The appellants were convicted under Sections 304-B/120-B and under Section 498-A of Penal Code and sentenced to undergo RI of 7 years and RI of 3 years with a fine of Rs. 2000. Both the sentences were to run concurrently. Accused were alleged with torturing one Dipak Devi for dowry who was murdered on non-fulfillment of their dowry demand. FIR was registered and charge sheet was filed. Appellant contended that the deceased committed suicide which was not accepted by the Trial Court. Trial was held and concluded with the aforementioned conviction and sentence. Hence, this appeal was filed. It was found through the post mortem report that the death occurred due to asphyxia as a result of strangulation. It also stated that the deceased body was hanging from the roof and her feet were touching the ground suggesting that she was first killed and then her suicide was staged by the appellant.

High Court found that there was a history of serious cruelty on the deceased and the fact that her feet were touching ground show that she was killed and her suicide was faked by the appellants. Therefore, the conviction and sentence of the accused was sustained. [Surendra Mishra v. State of Jharkhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 159, dated 22-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Orissa High Court: The Bench of Akshaya Kumar Mishra, J. acquitted the accused by setting aside the order of the Sessions Court since the allegation of dowry or violence were not proven and were vague.

The facts of the case are that the deceased had married the petitioner in 1997 and after a few days he started demanding for cash, T.V., cycle and for the inability to give those articles, the deceased returned to her father’s house and lodged written FIR. Based upon the testimony of the victim, the demand was found to have been proved. A concurrent verdict was passed in 1999 by the Addl. Sessions Judge dismissing the appeal against the judgment given in 1998 passed by the SDJM. However, the deceased had filed an affidavit in pursuance of the order stating that she was staying with her husband and both of them was blessed with two female children. In today’s date, the children are well settled and are living with their father peacefully.

The Court while setting aside the order passed by the Addl. Sessions Judge, held that there was no clinching evidence to hold the accused persons guilty for the reason that the allegation of torture was not specific and demand of dowry was not commensurate to the common man life. [Raibu v. State Of Orissa, 2019 SCC OnLine Ori 28, Order dated 24-01-2019]