Just because wife died in matrimonial house within two months of marriage, entire family cannot be stigmatized for serious offence of murder

Just because wife died in matrimonial house within two months of marriage, entire family cannot be stigmatized for serious offence of murder

Sachin Ramchandra Teke Vs State of Maharashtra

Bombay HC

06/04/2021

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 825 OF 2012

About/from the judgment:

The High Court recently acquitted husband and in laws of a deceased wife who committed suicide within two months of marriage after observing that just because the wife died in the matrimonial house within a period of two months, the entire family cannot be stigmatized as having committed offences as serious as offence under sec. 302 of Indian Penal Code providing for the punishment for murder.

The Court set aside a Sessions Court judgment dated 29th June 2012 convicting husband and other family members for offences punishable under sec. 498-A, 302, 304-B r/w 34 of Indian Penal Code and sec. 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

The Court was of the view that the marriage was hurriedly effected by the parents of deceased wife since they found a suitable match for their daughter thereby going against her wishes and will of continuing her education. The Court also opined that the suicide was committed in a "state of stress".

Sachin and Megha got married on 28th July 2010 and resided in a joint family. In September 2010, two months after the marriage, Megha was found hanging to the rafter inside her bedroom. A report was then lodged by her father at the police station alleging that her daughter complained to him that she was subjected to ill treatment and harassment for not getting a gold ring for Sachin and was also subjected to starvation.

About 9 witnesses were examined by the prosecution whereas the defense examined 4 witnesses.

It was the case of the appellants that there was cogent and convincing evidence showing that there was no dispute between the members of both the families over dowry or goal ornaments. Moreover, it was also argued that the fact that Megha committed suicide within 2 months of her marriage shows that she was married against her wishes.

On the other hand, the prosecution submitted that Megha died in her matrimonial home due to the mental depression leading to her suicide which ought to have been known to the accused persons. It was also submitted that Megha's complaints to her father and brother on previous occasion also showed that she was ill treated for not honoring the family well at the time of marriage and not fulfilling the demand of giving golden ring.

The Court after going to the facts of the case and examination of witnesses, observed that the medical evidence proved beyond all reasonable doubt that the cause of Megha's death was asphyxia due to hanging and therefore, conviction for an offence under section 302 of IPC was unwarranted. The Court also took note of the statement of the neurologist with whom Megha was taking treatment, that she was under mental stress since 2005 and was a sensitive girl.

"Therefore, no case is made out for conviction under section 498A of IPC. In cases like the present one just because wife has died in her matrimonial house within two months of marriage, the entire family cannot be stigmatized as having committed offences as serious as an offence under section 302 of IPC. In absence of legally admissible evidence there cannot be moral conviction." The Court observed.

Noting that the presumption under sec. 113B of Indian Evidence Act was attracted in the case, however the Court opined that it is a rebuttable presumption and does not absolve the prosecution from proving the case beyond all reasonable doubt. In view of this, the Court observed thus:

"The surrounding circumstances also need to be taken into consideration. In the present case, it cannot be said that she has died in suspicious circumstances. It is a case of suicide within two months of marriage. The prosecution has failed to prove any ill-treatment meted out to the victim within two months of her matrimony. The offence under sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act are not proved beyond reasonable doubt."

The Court set aside the impugned judgment after observing that:

"It prima facie appears that the deceased Megha was willing to continue her education, however, she was married hurriedly by her parents since they found a suitable match for their daughter in all aspects. However, she did not seem to be happy with the marriage and in all probabilities, in a state of stress had committed suicide. All these facts speak for themselves and the appellants/accused deserve to be acquitted."

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