Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., while deciding the appeal filed impugning the order and judgment passed with regard to acquittal for offence punishable under Sections 498A (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and Section 306 (Abetment of suicide) of Penal Code, 1860, observed that,

“Cruelty must be of such a degree as contemplated by the Section, i.e., it must be wilful conduct of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb and health of the woman.”

Prosecution case was that complainant’s daughter Sunita was married to the respondent (accused). Respondent used to ill-treat Sunita and under the influence of alcohol he used to beat her while insisting to bring cash amount of Rs 20,000 from her father (complainant) so that he could start a business.

After sometime respondent started to sell fruits and in the meanwhile Sunita conceived and gave birth to a daughter. On or about 18-09-2001, it was informed that Sunita had committed suicide by jumping in front of a running train.

In view of the above circumstances, PW-1 had lodged the complaint for offences punishable under Sections 498A and 306 IPC.

Supreme Court in its decision, Muralidhar v. State of Karnataka, (2014) 5 SCC 730, held that

“…unless the conclusions reached by the trial court are found to be palpably wrong or based on an erroneous view of the law or if such conclusions are allowed to stand, they are likely to result in grave injustice, Appellate Court should not interfere with the conclusions of the Trial Court.”

Citing the above, Court stated that, it must be kept in mind that there is a presumption of innocence in favour of respondent and such presumption is strengthened by the order of acquittal passed by the trial court.

In Ramesh Babulal Doshi v. State of Gujarat, 1996 SCC (Cri) 972, Supreme Court held that,

“…If Appellate Court finds that there was nothing wrong or manifestly erroneous with the order of the trial court, the Appeal Court need not eve re-appraise the evidence and arrive at its own conclusions.”

Thus, High Court while analysing the present set of facts and circumstances stated that it does not find anything wrong, manifestly erroneous or demonstrably unsustainable in the impugned judgment.

Court noted that,

PW-1 (Complainant) stated that the accused was not doing any work and under the influence of liquor, used to beat Sunita and was insisting her to bring cash from parents for doing some business.

PW-1 admits that in his statement before the police, he has not mentioned that Sunita had gone to his house for delivery and after her delivery she resided with him for 15 days. He also admits that in his statement to the police, he has not mentioned that during that stay Sunita had informed him about the ill-treatment and demand for cash by accused.

DW-1 in whose quarters Sunita and accused were residing stated that in her presence no dispute took place between Sunita and accused, nobody used to visit their house and Sunita never complained about accused.

On perusal of the above, Court stated that apart from the general statements by PW-1, there was nothing on record to show that accused used to beat Sunita under the influence of alcohol.

Stating the above, bench gave another point of significance in such cases that,

“.. It is to be kept in mind that it is easy to accuse somebody of ill-treatment after someone dies, but it will not be wise to convict somebody based on such general statements.”

“It is settled law that under Section 498A of IPC, every cruelty is not an offence.”

With regard to abetment, Court stated that, in order to amount abetment, there must be mens rea or community of intention. Without knowledge or intention, there can be no abetment and the knowledge and intention must relate to the act said to be abetted, i.e. suicide, in this case. To constitute ‘abetment by instigation’, there must be a direct incitement to do the culpable act.

Thus, in Court view, no evidence is found to suggest that Sunita committed suicide because of ill-treatment or cruelty by the accused. There is also no evidence whatsoever that the accused by their acts intended Sunita to commit suicide.

In view of the above, order of acquittal need not be interfered with. [State of Maharashtra v. Shri Balu Ravji Abhang, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 307, decided on 20-02-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., while upholding the decision of the trial court with regard to the acquittal of the accused, held that,

“There is an acquittal and therefore, there is double presumption in favour of accused.”

The present appeal was filed impugning an order and Judgment by Vth Adhoc Sessions Judge, Pune, acquitting 6 accused of offences punishable under Sections 498A, 306, 201 read with Section 34 of Penal Code, 1860.

Accused were charged with offences punishable under Sections 498A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty), 302 (punishment for murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender ) read with Section 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of IPC.

Jayshree (Deceased) on visiting her parental home on several occasions had informed of the ill-treatment and harassment she was being received from her matrimonial home on account of demand of money for buying a Motorcycle.

On hearing the same, Complainant (Jayshree’s father) made the in-laws of Jayshree realise that they should not ill-treat or harass Jayshree.  After a few days, on one morning Complainant received the message of Jayshree being dead.

Thereafter, Complainant alleged the accused of having ill-treated Jayshree on account of demand of money for the purchase of Motor Cycle and made her life miserable and thereafter murdered her. Base on the same, offence was lodged under Sections 498A, 302, 201 and 34 of Penal Code.

Trial Court altered the charge from Section 302 to 306 IPC on receiving an application for the same as the medical report stated that the cause of death was by hanging, i.e., suicide not murder.

After hearing the parties and on receiving the evidence pertaining to the case, Court passed the order of acquittal, which is impugned in the present appeal.

APP submitted that the accused were harassing and ill-treating the deceased by unlawfully demanding Hero Honda Motor Cycle. Jayshree on not being able to bear with the harassment on the part of the accused, therefore, abetted the commission of suicide by Jayshree. Hence all the accused have to be convicted.

Senior Advocate, Rajiv Patil while defending the impugned Judgment submitted that none of the witnesses can be taken to have proved the offence under Sections 498A or 201 or 306 of IPC.

Decision

High Court agreed with the respondent’s counsel on considering the evidence placed on record.

With regard to the evidence in regard to the allegation of demand of money for motor cycle, documents showing that the accused had bought the same before his marriage on taking a loan from the bank which was also repaid before the marriage have been placed on record.

Regarding Section 306 IPC, Court noted that no evidence had been placed on record to speak off. There was no evidence to suggest or indicate that the accused knew or had reason to believe that the deceased would commit suicide.

“Even if any acts or words uttered by the accused or their conduct are sufficient to demean or humiliate the deceased and even to drive the deceased to suicide, such acts will not amount to instigation or abetment of commission of suicide, unless it is established that the accused intended by their acts that the deceased must commit suicide. It is not enough if the acts of the accused cause persuasion in the mind of the deceased to commit suicide.”

In reference to the above, decision of Kerala High Court was cited, Cyriac v. Sub-Inspector of Police, Kaduthuruthy, 2005 SCC OnLine Ker 346, wherein it was held that,

“…it is not what the deceased ‘felt’, but what the accused ‘intended’ by her act which is more important.”

Thus, in Court’s opinion and on considering the evidence on record, prosecution failed to drive home the charge under Section 498A or Section 306 IPC.

Bench held that there is double presumption in favour of the accused,  firstly, the presumption of innocence available to the accused under the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that every person shall be presumed to be innocent unless they are proved guilty by a competent court of law. Secondly, accused having secured their acquittal, the presumption of their innocence is further reinforced, reaffirmed and strengthened by the trial court.

Hence, trial court’s decision cannot be held illegal or improper or contrary to law. [State of Maharashtra v. Vijay Maruti Bombale, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 5985, decided on 19-12-2019]

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.

Conclusion

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

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]

Legislation UpdatesNotifications

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports regarding attack on Kashmiri people, including students studying in various institutes at different places in the country in the aftermath of terrorist attack in Pulwama on CRPF convoy. The Commission has observed that the media reports on the incidents, if true, raise serious issue of violation of human rights. The contents therein are shocking and very disheartening.

Accordingly, it has issued notices to the Union Home Secretary and the Secretary, Union Ministry of Human Resource Development calling for reports in two weeks. Notices have also be also issued to the Chief Secretaries of the Governments of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal as well as the Commissioner of Police, Delhi calling for their reports on the incidents mentioned in the news reports within four weeks.

The Commission has further observed that giving such bad treatment by targeting people of a particular region of the country by some elements will destroy the democratic fabric of the country. India is one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse nations in the world and has a rich tolerant culture, which is identified and respected across the world. Such incidents would only tarnish the image of the country. The Central Government has to act quickly by taking action against the miscreants. There is a need for sensitization of local authorities, police agencies and the general public to maintain law and order at every cost.

It added that though there is an atmosphere of grief and anger across the country after the terrorist attack on the convoy of the CRPF in Pulwama in which 42 soldiers were martyred but even in extreme situation, a civilized society cannot accept such kind of violence by the people against their fellow countrymen. Rustication, suspension or action against the students, as mentioned in the news reports, can be a matter of investigation on merits but the incidents of ill-treatment of the Kashmiri people in different parts of the country is definitely in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, which protects equality before the law and equal protection of laws within the territory of India.

According to the media reports, carried today on the 21st February, 2019, the Union Human Resource Development Minister, Mr. Prakash Javadekar has dismissed reports of alleged harassment of Kashmiri students outside their state in the wake of Pulwama terror attack and said that the government is in touch with all institutions in this regard. However, it has also been reported that two Dehradun based educational institutions have stated on record that they will not admit Kashmiri students in future as the colleges, where the Kashmiri students are studying, were threatened by the mob. At least 10 Kashmiri students have been booked and around 20 suspended or rusticated from colleges across the country for what officials called “anti-national” social media posts. Once of the colleges suspended its Dean from Jammu & Kashmir as the mob asked to do it.

As per media reports, several Kashmiri students, migrants, traders and professionals have had to pack up and leave from different parts of the country particularly, Uttarakhand and Haryana. As per media reports, a 19 year old girl from Pulwama, posted some contents in praise of Pakistan on her Instagram account and six students belonging to the same group were suspended by a university in Roorkee.

Apart from this, there are media reports stating that 34 workers had left Muzaffarnagar and some more are planning to leave as some members of “Bharatiya Kisan Union” protested outside the mill and demanded that Kashmiri workers should be sent back. The Union said that people abuse and throw stones at the soldiers in the valley and come here to take shelter, hence they should be sent back to the valley. As mentioned in the news report, a 22 year old worker has stated that there are very few jobs available in the Kashmir due to which Kashmiri youth prefer to come here to earn an honest living but now it has become very difficult to stay back.

The District Magistrate of Muzaffarnagar has reportedly stated that they do not have a count of Kashmiris working in the area and they have not received any official complaint either from the police or the mill authorities. He has however stated that due action will be taken if any kind of misconduct is noticed.

Another news report published in the newspaper reveals that two Kashmiri youths, who were travelling in a train were beaten up as the mob called them stone pelters. The victims have been selling shawls from Kashmir in Haryana. They are reportedly staying in Delhi since December, 2018 and have been conducting their business for the last 10 years. As the mob attacked them, they somehow managed to escape leaving behind their articles, valuing around Rs. 2 lakhs. Similar incident has occurred, reportedly, in Kolkata, West Bengal.

[Dated: 21-02-2019]

NHRC

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Sarang V. Kotwal, J., dismissed an appeal concerning the aspect of cruelty being taken on a mere submission that the deceased was ill-treated as the deceased failed to cook properly.

The present case deals with a very interesting factual matrix and submissions being made by the prosecution. The accused in the present case was charged under Sections 498A and 306 read with Section 34 of IPC, for which the learned judge had acquitted all the accused persons but further the State of Maharashtra had preferred an appeal against the same.

The submissions of the prosecution had two primary folds, which were: Accused being in an illicit relationship with his sister-in-law and deceased facing ill treatment due to failure to cook properly; and based on these grounds Nanda, i.e. the deceased had consumed poison.

Therefore, the High Court while concluding its judgment stated that the prosecution failed to prove the illicit relationship of the accused by placing no evidence on record. Also for the other allegation of ‘not cooking-properly’, the Court stated that “Telling to cook properly or to do household work properly, by itself, would not mean that a person was ill-treated.” No further evidence was placed to show ill-treatment which inclined the Court to not dismiss the Appeal. [State of Maharashtra v. Vijay Dhondiram Shinde,2018 SCC OnLine Bom 2047, decided on 01-08-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of the Delhi High Court comprising of Siddharth Mridul and Deepa Sharma, JJ., dismissed a Letters Patents Appeal before it. The matter before the Court was related to the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 (Hereinafter ‘act’) and the issue before the Court for adjudication was whether the Maintenance Tribunal has the jurisdiction to pass an order of eviction?

It was urged before the Court that a Maintenance Tribunal inherently lacks jurisdiction to pass an order of eviction and that the same is beyond the scope of proceedings for maintenance, instituted on behalf of a senior citizen. The facts leading up to the case were, that Respondent 3, a 68 year old man and father of the appellants, ran a printing press in a building occupied by him along with his ailing wife and his sons with their respective families in separate accommodations. Respondent 3 instituted a petition under the Act that despite having spent considerable amount on renovating the subject property, and providing separate residential accommodation to his sons, the latter backed out from their responsibility to pay a monthly sum of Rs. 20,000 collectively for his maintenance and for the requirements of his ailing wife. The Maintenance Tribunal had originally passed an order in Respondent 3’s favour, according to which, Appellant 2 and 3 were to vacate their respective residential portions and were also to refrain from indulging in arguing, making comments or other similar behaviour with the rest of the parties, including a son of Respondent 3 not implicated in the complaint. Instead of complying, the appellants instituted the present writ petition before the Court.

The Court referred to Section 32 of the Act r/w clause (i) of Section 2 along with the Rules promulgated under to adjudge that a senior citizen is entitled to institute an application seeking eviction of his son, daughter or other legal heir from his self-acquired property on grounds of ill-treatment and non-maintenance. Applications disposed of. [Shadab Khairi v. State,  2018 SCC OnLine Del 7626, decided on 22.02.2018]