Case BriefsHigh Courts

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

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

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

Demand of Dowry

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

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

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

Analysis and Decision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner: Younush Mondal, Adv.

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

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Jaishree Thakur, J., allowed a petition filed under Section 482 CrPC and held that,

“Disgruntled wives use the provisions of Section 498- A IPC as a weapon rather than shield.”

Petitioners have been summoned to face trial under Sections 498-A, 506, 120-B Penal Code, 1860 an order declaring petitioners as proclaimed offenders.

Complainant got married to Jaswant Singh. The complaint was made against Jaswant Singh, Amarjit Kaur was alleged to be his second wife.

Soon after the marriage, accused persons had started harassing the complainant. Husband of the complainant at the instance of other accused gave the complainant beatings and stated that she would have no place in the house if the demands are not fulfilled.

Even during the birth of complainant’s child her delivery expenses were borne by her parents. Husband and petitioners herein along with mother-in-law taunted the complainant for not giving birth to a male child. 

Complainant was threatened of dire consequences on making a complaint against the husband.

Husband without taking divorce from the complainant had also solemnized a second marriage. Thus she filed a petition under Section 125 CrPC and also an application under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

Bench observed that no direct and specific allegations against the petitioners were made out with regard to beating to the complainant or demand of dowry or misappropriation of stridhan.

Petitioner 1 is the sister-in-law of the complainant, who after marriage and had been residing in her matrimonial home, there is not even a remotest possibility that husband of the complainant was used to give beatings to her at the instance of petitioner 1. Petitioner 2 was 11 years old when the complainant alleged that she was given beatings by her husband at the instance of petitioner 2. Moreover, he had left for Canada in and was residing there since then. Similarly, petitioner 3 had also left for Canada in 1996 and was residing there since then with petitioner 2. In such an eventuality, it is hard to believe that petitioners had harassed the complainant as alleged in the complaint.

Thus, in view of the above, Court stated that,

It has become a common practice to use the provisions of Section 498- A IPC as a weapon rather than shield by disgruntled wives.

Simplest way to harass is to get the relatives of the husband roped in under this provision, no matter they are bed ridden grand parents of the husband or the relatives living abroad for decades.

In the present case also, complainant failed to make out a prima facie case against the petitioners regarding allegation of inflicting physical and mental torture.

Therefore, Court opined that the present case is a sheer abuse of process of law. [Amarjit Kaur v. Jaswinder Kaur, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 577 , decided on 15-05-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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