Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Dr Kaushal Jayendra Thaker, J., addressed a matter with regard to the settlement of divorce proceedings.

Parties in the present petition have deposed before the Court below that they have entered into a compromise.

Hence, in view of the above, the petition is taken for final disposal.

It has been observed that certain offences were non-compoundable and they were within the power of Magistrate to compound namely under Sections 498-A of Penal Code, 1860 and 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

Section 498A: Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.—Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine

Section 3: Penalty for giving or taking dowry

Section 4: Penalty for demanding dowry

Further, it was noted that both the parties, i.e. the husband and wife and other family members settled the matter and decided to leave in peace after taking divorce.

The Court was of the view that the settlement between the parties should be accepted and the offence compounded. The decision of the Supreme Court in Bitan Sengupta v. State of W.B., (2018) 18 SCC 366 was referred.

Therefore, proceedings were quashed and settlement was recorded under Section 482 CrPC. In Supreme Court’s decision in B.S. Joshi v. State of Haryana, (2003) 4 SCC 675, it was observed that in matrimonial offences, it becomes the duty of the Court to encourage genuine settlement of matrimonial disputes.

Bench exercising its powers under Section 482 read with 397 of CrPC, 1973 permitted the parties to leave in peace.

Section 482 CrPC: Saving of inherent powers of the High Court.

Nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code, or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.

Section 397 CrPC: Calling for records to exercise of powers of revision

(1) The High Court or any Sessions Judge may call for and examine the record of any proceeding before any inferior Criminal Court situate within its or his local jurisdiction for the purpose of satisfying itself or himself as to the correctness, legality or propriety of any finding, sentence or order, recorded or passed, and as to the regularity of any proceedings of such inferior Court, and may, when calling for such record, direct that the execution of any sentence or order be suspended, and if the accused is in confinement, that he be released on bail or on his own bond pending the examination of the record.

Explanation.—All Magistrates, whether Executive or Judicial, and whether exercising original or appellate jurisdiction, shall be deemed to be inferior to the Sessions Judge for the purposes of this sub-section and of Section 398.

(2) The powers of revision conferred by sub-section (1) shall not be exercised in relation to any interlocutory order passed in any appeal, inquiry, trial or other proceedings.

(3) If an application under this section has been made by any person either to the High Court or to the Sessions Judge, no further application by the same person shall be entertained by the other of them.

Court quashed the proceedings under Section 397 CrPC and allowed the petition.

The petitioner’s counsel pointed the orders passed by the Court below and hence the bench defied the proceedings if not yet defied. [Deena Nath v. State of U.P., 2020 SCC OnLine All 1057, decided on 23-09-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Tripura High Court: A Division Bench of S. Talapatra and S.G. Chattopadhyay, JJ., upheld the decision of the trial court and stated that the present matter is a case of an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage in light of cruelty and desertion.

Cruelty & Desertion | Dissolution of Marriage

Allegations of cruelty and desertion were placed against the wife by the husband in light of which the husband approached the Family Court under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for dissolution of marriage by a decree of divorce.

Family Court dissolved the marriage.

Aggrieved wife preferred the present appeal under Section 28 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 read with Section 19 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 challenging the legality of the impugned Judgment of the Family Court.

Court considers in the present case whether the grounds of cruelty and desertion against the respondent-wife, the appellant herein, existed on the date of filing of the divorce petition or not.

From the pleadings of the parties and their evidence, it would appear that the respondent-wife left her matrimonial home along with her daughter and she did not live with her husband at any point of time till the petition was filed by her husband on seeking a divorce and even thereafter.

The witnesses of the petitioner including two of his neighbours had categorically asserted that they did not notice any untoward incidents preceding to the departure of the respondent-wife from her matrimonial home.

Further, the bench stated that on perusal of the parties and their evidence discussed, no material was found to show that the respondent-wife was ever forced by her husband to leave his company or that she was thrown away from her matrimonial home.

Wife prosecuted her husband and his relatives under Section 498A IPC which was proved to be unfounded in the Sessions Court as well as in the High Court.

Institution of a complaint under Section 498-A IPC against the husband does not ipso facto constitute mental cruelty unless the court having assessed the totality of the facts and circumstances and also having taken note of the nature of the allegations come to the conclusion that amongst other things the wife also brought unfounded and scandalous allegations with a clear intention to humiliate the husband and his relatives and such conduct of the spouse caused disappointment and frustration in the other spouse.

Whether such conduct of the respondent-wife amounted to the desertion of her husband and caused mental cruelty to him and entitled him to a decree of divorce.

There cannot be a straight-jacket formula for determining cruelty in matrimonial relationships. Whether the alleged conduct of the spouse constitutes cruelty has to be judged in the particular context of the case keeping in view all the attending facts and circumstances of the case.

In the present matter, the petitioner proved that his wife abandoned him along with her daughter when he lost his vision and was in dire need of their company and the support of his wife.

Such conduct of the wife must have hurt the sentiment of the petitioner husband and affected their relationship. After abandoning her husband, she labeled allegations of harassment for dowry against her husband in a proceeding under Section 498A IPC followed by a proceeding under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.

The unprovoked humiliating treatment by the wife to her husband caused cruelty to the husband.

Apex Court, while laying down the broad parameters for determination of mental cruelty for the purpose of granting divorce in Samar Ghose v. Jaya Ghose, (2007) 4 SCC 511 reiterated the same principle and held as follows as one of the parameters:

“101…(xiv) Where there has been a long period of continuous separation, it may fairly be concluded that the matrimonial bond is beyond repair. The marriage becomes a fiction though supported by a legal tie. By refusing to sever that tie, the law in such cases, does not serve the sanctity of marriage; on the contrary, it shows scant regard for the feelings and emotions of the parties. In such like situations, it may lead to mental cruelty.”

Hence, in the present matter, both the grounds of cruelty and desertion existed on the date of filing of the divorce petition. Moreover, there is no denial of the fact that the husband and the wife are staying apart for more than 13 years and during this period they never lived together at any point of time.

Therefore, the present matter is a case of an irretrievable breakdown of marriage and it is quite impossible to save the marriage.

 Trial Court’s decision is upheld and the husband is directed to pay a monthly maintenance allowance for his wife and daughter.[Aparna Dey v. Alok Dey, 2020 SCC OnLine Tri 411, decided on 09-09-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench of B.A. Patil and Hanchate Sanjeevkumar, JJ., upheld the decision of the trial court with regard to dowry death.

By the instant criminal appeal, the decision of the Additional Sessions Judge, Gulbarga has been challenged.

Counsel for the appellant-accused: Iswaraj S. Chowdapur and Additional State Public Prosecutor for respondent – State: Prakash Yeli.

Dowry | Cruelty

Parents of Dattamma at the time of the marriage had given one tola of gold as dowry. After one year of when the dowry was given, the accused started subjecting Dattamma to cruelty contending that she doesn’t know how to cook and used to ask her to bring cash and gold from her parent’s house.

The said fact of cruelty was conveyed by Dattamma to her parents who along with some elderly persons visited the accused and paid a sum of Rs 5000, but he continued to subject Dattamma to mental and physical cruelty.

Later the accused poured kerosene and lit fire on Dattamma with the intention to commit murder. Afterwhich, she was taken to the hospital and sustained burn injuries.

In view of the above-stated offence, the trial court had convicted the accused.

Analysis and Decision

Bench while analysing the set of circumstances and submission placed stated that,

When the prosecution establishes its case with regard to ill-treatment and harassment said to have been caused by the accused and admittedly the death of the decased has also taken place within 7 years after the marriage, under such circumsatnces, a duty cast upon the Court to draw a presumption under Section 113 A of the Evidence Act that is dowry death.

Demand of Dowry

In the present matter, Court relying on the proposition laid down in the decision of C.M. Girish Babu v. CBI, (2009) 3 SCC 779, held that the prosecution has established that there was ill-treatment and harassment caused by the accused for the demand of dowry.

Trial Court has rightly convicted the accused for the offences punishable under Section 498-A and 302 IPC and also under Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

Accused’s Counsel contended that the imprisonment itself is harsh and severe punishment under such circumstances the imposition of a heavy fine to a poor agriculturist is not justifiable and it is excessive fine which ought not to have been imposed.

In view of the above stated, Court modified the fine imposed on the accused.

The sentence imposed by the trial court for the offences punishable under Sections 498A and 302 of IPC and under Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act was confirmed. [Baswaraj v. State of Karnataka, Criminal Appeal No. 354 of 2013, decided on 10-08-2020]


Also Read:

Cruelty to Women [S. 498-A IPC and allied sections]

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

Madhya Pradesh High Court: Shailendra Shukla, J., while addressing a anticipatory bail application, held that,

“…applicability of the provisions of The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019 is only against the husband and not in-laws.”

The present anticipatory bail application was filed under Section 428 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 as the applicant’s were apprehending their arrest for the offence punishable under Section 498-A Penal Code, 1860, Section 3/4 of Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and Section 3/4 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019.

Due to some dispute, complainant after her Nikah returned back to her parental house, further the complainant submitted that her husband on 29th March, 2020 pronounced ‘Talaq’ thrice on telephone, thereafter an FIR was lodged against him.

Counsel for objector and State both submitted that after the Nikah when the complainant got pregnant her mother-in-law started alleging that complainant got pregnant much earlier and the child doesn’t belong to her son along with this, she also started asking for money saying that complainant did not give enough dowry to the applicants.

Decision

Bench stated that the applicability of the provisions of The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019 is only against the husband and not in-laws.

Further the Court noted that there was no physical cruelty , it appeared that early pregnancy became the cause of dispute and as per the complainant there was a telephonic call in which husband of the complainant sought termination of the marriage.

Bench found substance in the submission tat demand of dowry after pronouncing divorce was not possible.

Application was allowed and it was directed that in the event of arrest, applicants shall be released on bail. [Rafique Ahmed v. State of M.P., 2020 SCC OnLine MP 1521 , decided on 08-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Division Bench of Sahidulla Munshi and Subhasis Dasgupta, JJ., upheld the conviction of accused-husband under Section 498-A IPC for the offence of cruelty to woman and under Section 302 for the murder of his wife. At the same time, the Court acquitted the accused-mother-in-law of the charge under Section 302 for murder while maintaining her conviction under Section 498-A IPC.

Present appeal was filed against the judgment and order of conviction and sentence passed by Additional Sessions Judge wherein accused/ appellants were convicted under Sections 498 A, 302, 34 of Penal Code, 1860.

Factual Scenario

Deceased in the present matter being the second daughter of the de-facto complainant/father was put to suffer death in her in-laws’s house by hanging.

After visiting to her in-law’s house, deceased victim was put to suffer cruelty, oppression and ill-treatment by her in-law’s members, including her accused husband for her black complexion.

Deceased was frequently abused and threatened by her in-laws .

The in-law’s members while causing ill-treatment upon victim made her understand just three days after her marriage for staying in a cow shed, expressing their dissatisfaction on the ground of her black complexion.

Deceased victim reported everything to her parents about the torture and cruelty, she received in her in-law’s house, when she visited her paternal house on several occasions.

Deceased’s father after persuading her to withstand such torture inflicted upon her, for her future benefit upon realisation of weak financial condition of her father.

Later, de-facto complainant/father of the deceased was informed by his on in law that the victim daughter had been put to suffer death by hanging.

Decision & Analysis

Court observed that the cause of inflicting torture was the black complexion of deceased victim which lead the in-law’s members of the victim including her accused husband to cause physical cruelty upon her.

Victim received threat from in-law’s members for her husband’s second marriage after driving her out from matrimonial home. So long victim remained alive and visited her paternal house, she expressed her extent of torture and cruelty inflicted upon her by her in- law’s members, and all the times the de-facto complainant persuaded his daughter to return to her in-law’s house for her future prospect, keeping in view the poor condition of de-facto complainant/father.

On observing the above, Court stated that causing cruelty to deceased victim for her black complexion even after her marriage by the in-law’s members would definitely attract Section 498 A/ 34 IPC against the in law’s members including husband.

Whether the victim suffered homicidal or suicidal death?

Autopsy Surgeon stated categorically in his evidence that if any person is pressed by telephone chord on his throat, then there could be ligature mark, as he found in the instant case, which might have caused the death of deceased victim.

Thus, noticing such continuous ligature mark Autopsy Surgeon opined in absence of poison in the viscera of deceased that it was a case of homicidal death, and ante-mortem in nature.

Whether non-production of weapon in a murder trial will lead to rejection of testimony of autopsy surgeon or not?

Court on noting the facts and circumstances along with the evidence stated that it is an established fact that there was an unnatural death of deceased in the in-laws’s house of the deceased victim after 7 months of her marriage.

Sufficient evidence was placed to show that the victim received oppression, ill- treatment, torture, cruelty in her in-law’s house by her in-law’s members for her black complexion.

Accused husband having failed to offer any explanation for the injuries caused to his wife, the failure would lead to the conclusion that the death of the deceased had occurred in the custody of accused husband as they both shared the same room after marriage.

Non-production of offending weapon in the absence of any explanation may be an error or latches on the part of prosecuting agency, but such error or omission would not itself discard the testimony of Autopsy Surgeon.

Hence, facts and circumstances would thus unerringly point to the guilt of accused husband/appellant for causing homicidal death to deceased/wife by strangulation for his non-satisfaction over the black complexion of his wife, which led to give birth his motive to cause death of his wife.

Commission of cruelty upon the deceased though proved against the mother-in-law under Section 498A read with Section 34IPC, but she should not have been held convicted for causing homicidal death of deceased victim under the behest of Section 302/34 IPC. on the simple ground that death of the victim was held in her matrimonial home.

Bench modified the conviction and sentence of accused mother-in-law under Section 498 A/34 IPC and deserves to be favoured with an order of acquittal for offence under Section 302/34 IPC.

Thus, the appeal was dismissed and accused mother-in-law be set free from correctional authority forthwith upon completion of sentence awarded against her under Section 498A/34 IPC.[Mazidul Miah v. State of W.B., 2020 SCC OnLine Cal 1077 , decided on 25-06-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gauhati High Court: A Division Bench of Ajai Lamba, CJ and Soumitra Saikia, J., granted a decree of divorce to the appellant-husband on the grounds of cruelty by the respondent-wife.

Background of the Case

Appellant husband lived with his mother, sister and brother, After his marriage bother respondent wife and appellant husband started their conjugal life in the matrimonial house of the appellant.

After about a month of their marriage, respondent wife demanded to reside separately with the appellant husband away from the husband’s relatives in a separate house. Appellant being a contractual labourer was not able to sustain separate accommodation for him and his wife as he was required to render service at a place away from his matrimonial house.

Appellant husband in the face of persistent demands by the respondent wife for separate accommodation also attempted to take the respondent wife to his place of work by arranging separate accommodation away from the matrimonial home. However, the respondent wife continued to resort to frequent quarrels with the appellant and started blaming him for the couple not being able to have a child after marriage. The respondent wife alleged that the appellant husband was medically unfit.

Later, respondent wife declared that she was not willing to continue her matrimonial life with the appellant and further insisted on going back home. Respondent wife also filed a case under Section 498(A) Penal Code, 1860.

Appellant husband contended that the respondent wife compelled the appellant to execute a written agreement to the effect that the couple will stay in a separate rental house together away from the joint family of the husband and further that the appellant/husband’s family members will not visit them or maintain any relations with them.

In view of the above agony faced by the husband, he filed a divorce case against the wife.

Respondent wife contended that she was subjected to extreme cruelty by the appellant’s step-mother, sister-in-law, brother and his two sisters.

According to the respondent, the family members of the appellant tortured her physically and mentally by demanding various cash and kinds from her as dowry and also declined to provide her the bare necessities of life. She further stated that the respondent declined to provide her medical treatment, wearing apparels, adequate food and medicine etc. which are provided to her by her brother. She further stated that she was assaulted and sent back to her brother’s house by the appellant and his family members demanding her to bring money from her house.

Upon due consideration of the evidence, the court below came to the finding that there was no cruelty extended to the appellant husband and his family members or that they were neglected by the respondent wife and accordingly rejected the petition for divorce by the husband.

High Court noted that respondent wife did not dispute on the fact that there was an agreement wherein appellant was required to provide separate accommodation to the respondent wife, where appellant’s family members were not permitted.

Under the custom of Hindu Marriage, a lady who has entered into marriage according to Hindu rituals and customs, and which has not been denied by the respondent in her evidence, her refusal to wear ‘sakha and sindoor’ will project her to be unmarried and/or signify her refusal to accept the marriage with the appellant. Such categorical stand of the respondent points to the clear intention of the respondent that she is unwilling to continue her conjugal life with the appellant.

In view of the above, it can be said that the wife inflicted cruelty upon the appellant and his family members.

Family Court erred in evaluating the evidence in the proper perspective. Acts of lodging criminal cases on unsubstantiated allegations against the husband and/or the husband’s family members amounts to cruelty.

Bench also cited a Supreme Court Decision — Rani Narasimha Sastri v. Rani Suneela Rani, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1595, wherein it was held that

filing of criminal cases like case under Sections 498(A) IPC etc. against the husband and the family members and which are subsequently dismissed/rejected by the Family Court, is sufficient to be construed as an act of cruelty by the wife.

Adding to its conclusion, Court also stated that under the “Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 children shall mandatorily be required to maintain parents and senior citizens.

Thus, it is evident that the lower Court completely ignored the fact that the respondent compelled and prevented the appellant from performing his statutory duties towards his aged mother.

Hence, the above stated is sufficient to construe as an act of cruelty leading to punishment or imprisonment as well as fine.

Impugned judgment of the Family Court be overturned in view of the discussions rendered. Divorce decree is allowed and marriage between the appellant husband and respondent wife is dissolved.[Bhaskar Das v. Renu Das, 2020 SCC OnLine Gau 2954 , decided on 19-06-2020]

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

Delay in lodging a complaint cannot be used as a ritualistic formula for doubting prosecution case

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., addressed an appeal impugning an order and judgment of acquittal of the accused of offences punishable under Section 498-A (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty), Section 323 (Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 506 (Punishment for criminal intimidation), 494 (Marrying again during lifetime of husband or wife) read with Section 109 (Punishment of abetment if the act abetted is committed in consequence and where no express provision is made for its punishment) of Penal Code, 1860.

The complainant- PW-1 got married to accused 1. It has been stated that at the time of complainant’s father’s retirement he received a cheque of retirement benefits that the accused 1 got to know about and demanded PW-1 to get Rs 1 lakh from her father. It has been added that accused 1 also suspected PW-1 of immortality.

Accused 1 got married to accused 5 while he was still married to PW-1. Thus PW-1 lodged a complaint.

In the Supreme Court’s decision of Murlidhar v. State of Karnataka, (2014) 5 SCC 730, it was held that,

Unless the conclusions reached by the trial court are found to be palpably wrong or based on 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 conclusions of the trial court.

High Court while deciding the matter, noted that there is a presumption of innocence in favour of respondent and such presumption is strengthened by the order of acquittal passed in favour of the trial court.

Further, the bench stated that, according to PW-1, accused 1 demanded Rs 1 lakh when he saw the retirement benefits cheque in the hand of her father and her father got retired on 28-02-2001. PW-1/Complainant lodged the complaint on 04-01-2002, but the delay for the same was not explained. PW-1 left her children behind when she left the accused 1’s house but she never filed for divorce, custody petition. But filed for maintenance petition on 10-03-2003 for which the delay was not explained again.

Delay in lodging the complaint cannot be used a ritualistic formula for doubting the presecution case and discarding the same solely on the ground of delay in lodging the complaint.

Delay has the effect of putting the Court in its guard to search if any explanation has been offered for the delay, and if offered, whether it is satisfactory.

Hence, the Court stated that in the present case there was not even an attempt by the prosecution to explain the delay. Court noted that, PW-1 had no problems living alone with her parents but when PW-1 heard from her father that accused 1 had married accused 5, PW-1 decided to teach accused 1 a lesson.

In view of the above, Court held that,

It is unfortunate that in a matter like this even the family members get dragged. Prosecution should refrain from dragging all family members unless there is enough specific evidence against the family members otherwise provisions of Section 498-A will, unfortunately, be misused as a weapon.

Therefore, the allegation of offence under Section 494 of IPC had not been proved and the decision of the trial court of acquittal of all the accused persons was rightly taken. [State of Maharashtra v. Ashok, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 331, decided on 26-02-2020]

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

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of S.S. Shinde and V.G. Bisht, JJ., dismissed the criminal appeal on finding the trial court’s decision which was challenged to be in consonance with evidence on record.

A criminal appeal was filed by the deceased’s father (Informant) against the judgment and order that acquitted the respondents of the offence punishable under Sections 498-A, 304B, 302 read with 34 of Penal Code, 1860.

Deceased (Ambavva) was married to accused 2 and during the settlement of their marriage, the informant had agreed to give an amount of Rs 10,000 and one tola gold to the accused 2. As per custom, informant went to the accused persons house to take back Ambavva for a ceremony but was refused to go. After about 12 days when no message was received from Ambavva, informant again went to see her but accused persons did not allow meeting him.

Ambavva once had informed the informant that she was subjected to mental cruelty and insulting treatment by the accused persons.

One of the daughters of the informant informed that Ambavva had left the house of the accused persons without informing anybody and on that event informant along with his family went to the police station to report the same and were informed by the police that Ambavva had died.

Thereafter, informant when went to the accused persons house found in the adjoining land of their house, dead body of Ambavva floating on the well water.

In view of the above, informant lodged a complaint against the accused persons and a report was lodged by complainant offences punishable under Sections 498-A, 306 of Penal Code.

Trial Court had acquitted the respondents from all the charges and hence the present appeal was filed.

Trial Court had relied on the medical evidence and opined that in case of a homicidal death, there would have been some injuries on the persons of Ambavva, but there were none.

Conclusion

High Court on noting the facts and evidence placed by the prosecutions stated that the evidence of the witnesses suffers from non-disclosure of specific details of alleged cruelty and harassment to Ambavva at the hands of the accused.

Mere allegations of harassment and cruelty, in absence of mentioning specific-time, date and specific overact qua accused would not attract any ingredients of Section 304B of IPC. Prosecution failed to establish that there was cruelty and harassment to Ambavva by the accused.

Further, the Court stated that even to attract the ingredients of Section 498-A of IPC, prosecution must have shown specific acts of the accused suggesting cruelty and harassment.

Thus on vague and general allegations, it is not possible to base the conviction of the accused thereby reversing the well-reasoned order of acquittal passed by the trial court. [State of Maharashtra v. Basveshwar Kallapa Patne, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 219, decided on 03-02-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., dismissed an appeal filed against the order of the trial court whereby the respondent-accused were acquitted of the offences under Section 498-A (husband or relative of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and Section 306 (abetment of suicide) read with Section 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Penal Code.

The case of the prosecution was that prior to date of incident, the accused (husband and in-laws of the deceased), in furtherance of their common intention, subjected the deceased to cruelty and abetted a suicide. The accused were chargesheeted and tried for the offences under Sections 498-A and 306 read with Section 34 IPC. However, they were acquitted of all the charges by the trial court. Aggrieved thereby, the State filed the instant appeal.

Regarding the offence under Section 498-A, the High Court observed: “Law on what would amount to an offence under Section 498-A, has been well discussed in catena of judgments. It is settled law that under Section 498-A IPC, every cruelty is not an offence. The cruelty must be of such a degree as contemplated by this Section, i.e. it must be willful 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.” It was noted by the Court that the allegations made against the accused regarding demand of money, ill-treatment due to inability to cook, cruelty due to not conceiving, were general allegations and no details were mentioned. In such circumstances, it was held that the allegations under Section 498-A were not proved.

Coming to the offence under Section 306, the High Court noted that this was a case of abetment by instigation. It was observed: “In order to constitute ‘abetment by instigation’ there must be a direct incitement to do the culpable act.” After referring to a catena of decisions on the subject and considering the facts of the instant case, the Court stated: “It is nobody’s case that the accused intended Aarifa to commit suicide. A fatal impulse or an ill-fated thought of the deceased, however unfortunate and touchy it may be, cannot fray the fabric of the provision contained in Section 306 IPC. In short, it is not what the deceased ‘felt’, but what the accused ‘intended’ by their act which is more important in this context.”

In light of what has been mentioned above, the High Court concluded that the opinion of the trial court could not be held to be illegal or improper or contrary to law. The order of acquittal, in Court’s view, required no interference. [State of Maharashtra v. Nabab Mohammad Shaikh, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 290, decided on 04-02-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: A Full Bench of Prashant Kumar Mishra, Rajendra Chandra Singh Samant and Gautam Chourdiya, JJ., has held that the prospective accused is neither necessary nor a proper party in a writ petition seeking direction for registration of FIR and investigation into a cognizable offence. The Court was answering the question formulated by the Single Judge.

The daughter of the petitioner was married to one Mithilesh Kumar. The petitioner alleged that on account of ill-treatment and demand of dowry, his daughter committed suicide by hanging. He filed an application before the police against Mithilesh and his family members. Since no action was taken by the police, the petitioner filed the writ petition seeking a direction to the police authorities to register FIR and arrest Mithilesh and his family members for committing offences punishable under Sections 498-A and 304-B IPC. The Single Judge before whom the petition was placed, referred the following question for an effective pronouncement by the Full Bench:

“Whether in a writ petition preferred under Article 226, 227 of the Constitution of India seeking direction for registration of FIR and investigation against the accused persons alleged to have committed the cognizable offence(s), the said accused persons are necessary or proper party and they are required to be noticed and heard before issuing any such writ/direction, if any?”

Relying on a catena of decisions including Lalita Kumari v. State of U.P., (2014) 2 SCC 1Union of India v. WN Chadha, 1993 Supp (4) SCC 260Anju Chaudhary v. State of U.P., (2013) 6 SCC 384; etc., the High Court observed: “In the above view of the matter, it is an absolutely settled legal position that a prospective accused has no right of hearing before registration of FIR and investigation by the police officer or before the Court including the writ court, therefore, in a writ petition seeking direction for registration of FIR and investigation into a cognizable offence, the prospective accused is neither necessary nor a proper party.”

The Full Bench answered the reference accordingly and directed the matter to be placed before the appropriate Bench for further proceedings. [Dhananjay Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2020 SCC OnLine Chh 4, decided on 30-01-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of P.N. Deshmukh and Pushpa V. Ganediwala, JJ., allowed a criminal appeal filed against the order of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for committing the offence of murder punishable under Section 302 IPC and for the offence of cruelty to women punishable under Section 498-A IPC. 

The appellant was convicted for the murder of his wife. It was alleged by the prosecution that the appellant used to ill-treat and harass the deceased after consuming liquor. The deceased died as a result of a hundred percent burn injuries. The conviction of the appellant was based on the dying declaration of the deceased recorded in the hospital. Aggrieved by his conviction, the appellant filed the instant appeal. 

The High Court considered the submissions made by R.M. Daga, Advocate appearing for the appellant, and S.P. Deshpande, Additional Public Prosecutor representing the State. 

Perusing the order of the trial court, the high court noted that the order convicting the appellant was based only on the dying declaration of the deceased. Considering the post mortem report, the Court found that the deceased died of hundred percent burn injuries.  In such circumstances, the Court was of the opinion that a bare perusal of the dying declaration would reveal the deceased’s thumb impression thereon with clear ridges, which creates a doubt in the case of the prosecution. 

Moreover, no medical officer was examined by the prosecution to bring on record the fact of the physical and mental state of the deceased before and after recording the statement, nor there is anything on record to establish that in spite of any attempts made by the prosecution, no presence of concerned medical officer could be obtained. Reliance was placed on the decision of the Supreme Court in State of H.P. v. Jai Lal, (1999) 7 SCC 280. wherein it was held that the report of an expert witness cannot be accepted as it is unless the expert witness has been examined and in the absence of examination of the medical expert, the certificate given by him cannot be read into evidence. It was also held that medical witness is an expert witness and his evidence stands on a different pedestal than an ordinary witness.    

In such view of the matter, the High Court allowed the appeal and set aside the order of the trial court conviction the appellant. [Pravin v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 95,  decided on 07-01-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: K.K. Sonawane, J., allowed an appeal filed against the order of the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for committing the offence of cruelty to women punishable under Section 498-A IPC and for abetment of suicide punishable under Section 306 IPC. 

The appellant was the sister-in-law of the deceased. The prosecution case was that the deceased was tortured by her for the demand of dowry. One fateful day, the deceased was rushed to the Government Hospital with severe burn injuries. The deceased ultimately succumbed to her injuries. It was alleged that the deceased was abused and beaten up by the appellant for not fulfilling the dowry demand. It was alleged further that on the day of the incident, the appellant had poured kerosene on the deceased and set her ablaze. 

Notably, in her initial statements, including the one given to the Special Executive Magistrate, the deceased stated that she sustained the burns accidentally due to a sudden blaze of the stove. However, later, the deceased changed her statement and said that the appellant poured kerosene on her and put her on fire. 

At the commencement of the trial, the trial court framed charges against the appellant for the offence of cruelty to women punishable under Section 498-A and for the offence of murder punishable under Section 302 IPC. In the alternative, the charge was also framed for the commission of the offence of abetment of suicide punishable under Section 306 and for the offence of dowry death punishable under Section 304-B IPC. At the conclusion of the trial, the appellant was acquitted of the offences punishable under Sections 302 and 304-B. However, the trial court convicted her for the offence punishable under Section 498-A and Section 306. 

The High Court gave anxious consideration to the arguments advanced by P.F. Patni, Advocate representing the appellant, and A.A. Jagatkar, APP appearing for the State. 

Delving into the oral and circumstantial evidence adduced on record and the factual score of the matter, the Court found it painful to subscribe to the findings of conviction of the appellant recorded by the trial court. The Court noted that there were no allegations on behalf of the prosecution that owing to maltreatment/cruelty, the deceased committed suicide. In contrast, the prosecution came forward with specific allegations that the death of the deceased was homicidal and the appellant was responsible for her death. In the alternative, the prosecution alleged that it was an offense of dowry death punishable under Section 304-B IPC. But, the trial Court acquitted the appellant on both these counts and proceeded to convict her under Sections 306 and 498-A IPC. 

Albeit, the trial Court held the appellant guilty for the offence punishable under Section 306 on the allegation that the deceased committed suicide by pouring kerosene and set herself ablaze. The trial court drew the adverse inference of self-immolation of deceased on the basis of attending circumstances found prevailing over on the scene of occurrence. 

The High Court was of the opinion that the observations of the trial court for the conclusion of suicidal death appear to be rest on a figment of imagination, surmises and conjuncture. It was noted that the trial court on its own proceeded to substitute a new story of suicidal death, totally different from one propounded on behalf of the prosecution in this matter. 

Placing reliance on Bhagirath v. State of M.P., (1976) 1 SCC 20 and Sohrab v. State of M.P., (1972) 3 SCC 751, the Court observed: “It is to be born in mind that law does not permit such endeavour on the part of learned trial Court to reconstruct a new theory of its own from the residual part of evidence of prosecution and convict the accused on that basis.”

In such circumstances, the opinion of the Court was that it would be fallacious to fasten the guilt on the accused for offence under Section 306 IPC under the pretext of the suicidal death of the deceased. Resultantly, the conviction of the appellant for the offence punishable under Section 306 was set aside and quashed.

Also, considering the entire record, the High Court held that the conclusion drawn by the trial court about the cruelty meted out to the deceased were erroneous, imperfect and perverse. Therefore, the appellant’s conviction under Section 498-A IPC was also set aside. [Rekha v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 7218, decided on 19-11-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Sachdeva, J., set aside the order of the trial court challenged by the appellant, whereby the appellant was convicted for the offences punishable under Section 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and Section 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Penal Code.

The wife of the appellant had committed suicide and left behind a suicide note stating that the appellant had an affair with some other lady and that he had beaten her on the day when she committed suicide. The appellant was tried and convicted by the trial court as mentioned above. Aggrieved thereby, he filed the instant appeal.

Firstly, regarding conviction under Section 498-A IPC, the High Court noted that the facts alleged in the suicide note were not proved by the prosecution. None of the prosecution witnesses supported the allegation and the appellant was having an affair with some other lady outside his marriage. Also, the parents and relatives of the deceased denied having made a statement about any demand or harassment for dowry. Furthermore, the post mortem report of the deceased showed that there was one mark of a slap, which did not prove the allegation in her suicide note that the appellant has beaten her a lot that day.

Observing that the prosecution was unable to prove that there was any harassment of the deceased, it was held that the trial court erred in convicting the appellant under Section 498-A Accordingly, the High Court set aside appellant’s conviction under Section 498-A.

Now, considering the conviction for abetment of suicide under Section 306, the High Court noted that the trial court further held that since the appellant has committed the offence under Section 498-A, he can also be convicted for the offence punishable under Section 306 IPC.

The Court relied on the decision of the Supreme Court in Gurjit Singh v. State of Punjab, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1516, wherein it was held that merely because an accused is found guilty of an offence punishable under Section 498-S of the IPC and the death has occurred within a period of seven years of the marriage the accused cannot be automatically held guilty for the offence punishable under Section 306 of the IPC by employing the presumption under Section 113-A of the Evidence Act. Unless the prosecution established that some act or illegal omission by the accused has driven the deceased to commit suicide, the conviction under Section 306 would not be tenable.

Noting that there was no evidence in that the appellant treated the deceased with cruelty immediately prior to committing suicide, the Court held that the order of the trial court convicting the appellant of the offences under Sections 498-A and 306 IPC was liable to be set aside. The appellant was acquitted of all the charges. [Kunwar Pal v. State, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 8, decided on 07-01-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: N. Anil Kumar, J. allowed this application for anticipatory bail under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

The applicant of this bail is the accused in Crime No. 2227 of 2019 of the Sasthamkotta Police Station in Kollam District. The applicant was accused of committing offences punishable under Section 498-A of the Penal Code.

The contentions made by the counsel for the complainant, C.N. Prabhakaran, are that the wife of the accused is the de facto complainant. The de facto complainant got married to the accused on 5-11-2018. After that the wife lived at the matrimonial home of the accused of 3 months where she alleged was treated with cruelty and was mistreated. The wife filed a petition before District Police Chief, Kollam against the accused of the same reasons.

The contentions made by the counsel for the petitioner, M.R. Jayalatha, are that the accused filed O.P. No. 982 of 2019 before the Family Court and alleged that the wife has stolen the gold ornaments which were entrusted with her by the applicant’s family after the marriage.

After hearing both the sides, the Court held that both the parties are in a matrimonial dispute and the Original Petition is already pending in the Family Court. The Court held that because the matter is matrimonial, the petitioner can be granted the bail-in case he gets arrested. Though the Court laid down certain conditions-

  1. the petitioner will be granted the bail-in case of arrest, but he will have to execute a personal bond of Rs 50,000 along with bonds of two solvent sureties amounting to the satisfaction of the arresting officer
  2. the petitioner will have to make himself present before the Investigating Officer, as when directed
  3. the petitioner will not intimidate or influence the prosecution witness
  4. in case of non-compliance with the order of this Court, the Court having jurisdiction over the case can cancel his bail. [Sunil Kumar v. State of Kerala, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 6060, decided on 27-12-2019]
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: K.R. Shriram, J., dismissed an appeal filed against the order of the trial court whereby it had acquitted of the offences punishable under Sections 498-A, 306, 201 read with Section 34 Penal Code, 1860.

The accused were the in-laws of the deceased. The complainant (father of the deceased)and harassed her due to the non-fulfilment of their demand. Further, it was alleged that subsequent to the harassment, the accused persons murder the deceased. However, during the trial, the charge of murder against the accused persons was altered to that of the abetment of suicide. At the conclusion of the trial, the trial court acquitted all the accused. Aggrieved thereby, the State approached the High Court in the instant appeal.

The High Court considered the findings of the trial court and held that the offence under Section 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) was not established as the demand of money, such as alleged by the complainant, could not be proved by the prosecution.

Coming to the charge under Section 306 (abetment of suicide), the High Court, relying on Sanju v. State of M.P., (2002) 5 SCC 371, explained: “Here is the case of abetment by instigation. The word ‘instigate’ means to goad or urge or forward or to provoke, incite, or encourage to do an untoward act which that person would have otherwise not done. It is also well settled that in order to amount to abetment, there must be mens rea. 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. In order to constitute ‘abetment by instigation’, there must be a direct incitement to do the culpable act. The word ‘instigate’ denotes incitement or urging to do some drastic or unadvisable action or to stimulate or incite. Presence of mens rea, therefore, is the necessary concomitant of instigation.”

It was noted that in the instant case, “There is no evidence to suggest or indicate that the accused knew or had reason to believe that 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.”

The offence under Section 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender) was also held to be not proved. Therefore, the order of the trial court was upheld and the instant appeal was dismissed. [State of Maharashtra v. Vijay Maruti Bombale, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 5985, decided on 19-12-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Deepak Roshan, J., modified the sentence of the trial court to the extent in lieu of compensation which should be paid to the victim-wife.

In the pertinent case, the petitioner moved to this Court against the judgment passed by the Additional Sessions Judge-I, whereby the appeal preferred by the petitioners was dismissed and the judgment of conviction and order of sentence whereby the petitioners were found guilty for offence punishable under Section 498-A of Penal Code, 1860 and they were convicted and sentenced to undergo RI for 18 months and fine of Rs 1000 each has been affirmed.

The counsel for the petitioners, J.P. Pandey, submitted that there are contradictions in prosecution witnesses and the allegations made in the FIR does not corroborate with the evidence of the informant hence, the petitioners deserve to be acquitted. Further, the petitioners have remained in custody for about one month as such some leniency may be granted by this Court.

The Court held that it cannot interfere with the findings of the courts below due to the limited scope of the revisional jurisdiction, therefore, the conviction against the petitioners are confirmed. With respect to the sentence, the Court observed that the incident is of the year 2004 and 15 years have elapsed and the petitioners have suffered the rigors of litigation for the last 15 years and also remained in custody for 36 days. The court was of the view that it may not be proper for this Court to send the accused persons back to prison and found that it is expedient in the interest of justice that the sentence should be modified in lieu of compensation which should be paid to the victim-wife. Hence, the Court modified the impugned order to the extent that the petitioners are sentenced to undergo for the period already undergone subject to the payment of fine of Rs 5000 each failing which they shall serve the rest of the sentence as directed by the trial court. [Santosh Mandal v. State of Jharkhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 1453, decided on 18-10-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Vibhu Bhakru, J. dismissed a criminal appeal filed against the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for offences punishable under Sections 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Penal Code.

H.S. Sharma, Advocate for the appellant, submitted that the appellant could not be held guilty under Section 498-A as the trial court had found that there was no material to establish that the accused or his family members had demanded any dowry. Per contra, Amit Gupta, APP, supported the order of the trial court.

The High Court noted that though the allegations of demand of dowry against the appellant were not proved, the allegations that the appellant used to beat the deceased (his wife) were well substantiated by the evidence on record. It was noted further that a note written in the handwriting of the deceased was the principal piece of evidence on which the appellant’s conviction was based. A plain reading of the note indicated that the appellant was not happy with the deceased giving birth to a female child, and she feared for her and her daughter’s life.

Admittedly, the appellant was habitual of consuming ganja that led to quarrels between him and the deceased. It was also evident that the appellant used to beat the deceased. The High Court observed: “The contention that the appellant could not be convicted under Section 498-(a) IPC as the trial court had not accepted the allegation of demand of dowry, is unsustainable. Clause (a) of Section 498-A IPC refers to offensive conduct of nature so as to drive a woman to commit suicide. It is not necessary that such offensive conduct is in connection with the demanded dowry. The note was written by the deceased clearly indicates that the conduct of the appellant had led her to fear for her life and that of her girl child. She had eventually taken her own life.”

Further, it was held that the contention that the appellant could not be held guilty under Section 306 IPC was also unmerited. Reference was made to Section 113-A (presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman) of the Evidence Act. The Court observed: “There is a statutory presumption that if an accused is found guilty of the offence of cruelty under Section 498-A IPC and the wife of the appellant has committed suicide within seven years of her marriage, it would be presumed that the appellant was guilty of abetting the commission of suicide. The presumption is a rebuttable presumption and it was open for the appellant to lead evidence to rebut the same. However, the appellant has failed to do so. The appellant led no evidence to dispel the said presumption.”

In such view of the matter, the appeal was dismissed. [Rohit Gupta v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 10670, decided on 21-10-2018]