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Unnatural death of wife in matrimonial home within seven years of marriage in itself not sufficient to convict husband for dowry death
Charan Singh Vs State of Uttarakhand
Criminal Appeal No. 447 of 2012
About/from the judgment:
The Supreme Court held that mere death of a wife under unnatural circumstances, in a matrimonial home, within seven years of marriage is not sufficient to convict the husband for dowry death.
“Mere death of the deceased being unnatural in the matrimonial home within seven years of marriage will not be sufficient to convict the accused under Section 304B and 498A IPC.”
A Bench set aside the conviction and sentence of the appellant under Sections 304B (dowry death), 498A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty), 201 of the Indian Penal Code imposed by the Trial Court and upheld by the Uttarakhand High Court. The Trial Court had sentenced the appellant to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 10 years under Section 304B, 2 years under Section 498A and 2 years under Section 201(causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information, to screen offender) IPC. However, the High Court reduced the sentence under Section 304 to seven years.
Since 1993, when the appellant and the deceased got married, she has been residing in her matrimonial home. In 1995, the father of the deceased filed a complaint with the local Police Station alleging dowry death. He provided a detailed account of the dowry demands made by his daughter’s in-laws. The father further claimed that his daughter was beaten up and strangulated to death by her husband (appellant), brother-in-law and mother-in-law; and they cremated her body without informing the father. Post investigation chargesheet was filed against all three. The Trial Court convicted them under Sections 304B, 498A and 201 of the Indian Penal Code. In appeal, the High Court of Uttarakhand set aside the conviction and sentence of the brother-in-law and the mother-in-law, acquitting them of all the charges. The appellant’s term of sentence under Section 304B was reduced from ten to seven years.
Analysis by the Supreme Court
The Court noted that the conviction of the appellant under Sections 304B and 498A IPC raises presumption regarding dowry death within seven years of marriage. On perusal of Sections 304B, 498A IPC; Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act; and the judgments pertaining to dowry death, the Court thought fit to examine if in the present case the presumption can be raised against the appellant, thus shifting the onus on him to prove his case.
It was noted that though the parents of the deceased were not present at the time of cremation, her maternal grandmother and two maternal uncles were present, but they neither raised any issue nor informed the police. In cases of dowry death, the cruelty and harassment has to be soon before the death. However, in the present case, the testimony of the father of the deceased did not disclose anything regarding the demand of dowry being raised immediately before her death. All the instances of dowry demand put forth by the father of the deceased were quite old.
Upon perusal of the statements of the prosecution witnesses, the Court noted that none stated about the cruelty or harassment of the deceased by the appellant or any of his family members on account of dowry. There were only averments of demands for motorcycle and land which was made much prior to the death.
The Court concluded -
“The aforesaid evidence led by the prosecution does not fulfil the pre-requisites to invoke presumption under Section 304B IPC or Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act. Even the ingredients of Section 498A IPC are not made out for the same reason as there is no evidence of cruelty and harassment to the deceased soon before her death.”
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