13 Principles of Section 304-B of I.P.C. and Section 113-B of the Evidence Act stated
Kashmir Kaur & Anr vs State Of Punjab
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO(S). 915-916 OF 2008
About/from the judgment:
The principles of Section 304-B of I.P.C. and Section 113-B of the Evidence Act are summerised by Supreme Court are as under:-
- To attract the provisions of Section 304B IPC the main ingredient of the offence to be established is that soon before the death of the deceased she was subjected to cruelty and harassment in connection with the demand of dowry.
- The death of the deceased woman was caused by any burn or bodily injury or some other circumstance which was not normal.
- Such death occurs within seven years from the date of her marriage.
- That the victim was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband.
- Such cruelty or harassment should be for or in connection with demand of dowry.
- It should be established that such cruelty and harassment was made soon before her death.
- The expression (soon before) is a relative term and it would depend upon circumstances of each case and no straightjacket formula can be laid down as to what would constitute a period of soon before the occurrence.
- It would be hazardous to indicate any fixed period and that brings in the importance of a proximity test both for the proof of an offence of dowry death as well as for raising a presumption under Section 113B of the Evidence Act.
- Therefore, the expression “soon before” would normally imply that the interval should not be much between the concerned cruelty or harassment and the death in question. There must be existence of a proximate or life link between the effect of cruelty based on dowry demand and the concerned death. In other words, it should not be remote in point of time and thereby make it a stale one.
- However, the expression “soon before” should not be given a narrow meaning which would otherwise defeat the very purpose of the provisions of the Act and should not lead to absurd results.
- Section 304B is an exception to the cardinal principles of criminal jurisprudence that a suspect in the Indian Law is entitled to the protection of Article 20 of the Constitution, as well as, a presumption of innocence in his favour. The concept of deeming fiction is hardly applicable to criminal jurisprudence but in contradistinction to this aspect of criminal law, the legislature applied the concept of deeming fiction to the provisions of Section 304B.
- Such deeming fiction resulting in a presumption is, however, a rebuttable presumption and the husband and his relatives, can, by leading their defence prove that the ingredients of Section 304B were not satisfied.
- The specific significance to be attached is to the time of the alleged cruelty and harassment to which the victim was subjected to, the time of her death and whether the alleged demand of dowry was in connection with the marriage. Once the said ingredients were satisfied it will be called dowry death and by deemed fiction of law the husband or the relatives will be deemed to have committed that offence.
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