State Of Andhra Pradesh vs M. Madhusudhan Rao (498A)

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

           CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

       CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.                      OF 2008
      (Arising out of S.L.P. (Criminal) No. 3426 of 2007)

STATE OF ANDHRA PRADESH                —   APPELLANT (S)
                           VERSUS
M. MADHUSUDHAN RAO                     —   RESPONDENT (S)

D.K. JAIN, J.: Leave granted.

2.Being aggrieved by the judgment and final order dated 12th April, 2006 passed by the High Court of Judicature, Andhra Pradesh at Hyderabad, setting aside the conviction of the respondent-accused A-1 in Sessions Case No.129 of 1998 from the charge of offence punishable under Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (for short `I.P.C.’) and acquitting him, the State of Andhra Pradesh has preferred this appeal.

3.Brief facts, necessary for the disposal of the appeal, are as

follows:

Marriage between the de facto complainant (PW-1) and
the respondent (A-1) was solemnized on 24th November, 1993.
On 22nd May, 1996, the complainant sent a report (Ex.P-1) to
the Additional D.G.P., CID, Hyderabad, inter alia, alleging that
at the time of her marriage with A-1, on the insistence of A-1
and his mother (A-2), her father gave her one house,
Rs.60,000/- in cash, six tolas of gold and household articles
worth Rs.50,000/-. Still after the marriage, her husband,
working as Reserve Sub-Inspector (RSP) at Security Printing
Press, was pressurising her to bring Rs.50,000/- more; he
used to beat her up, scold, shout and threaten to kill her and
on certain occasions he had also pressed her neck saying that
he would kill her. It was also alleged that her mother-in-law
(A-2), her husband’s brother Prabhakar and his wife (A-4), and
the second sister-in-law of her husband (A-3) and her
husband’s last brother also used to help her husband in
beating and harassing her. It was further alleged that one
Mrs. Jalaja, working as Telephone Operator in the Reserve
Bank of India, also used to threaten her by saying that her
husband (A-1) had married her and he did not like to stay
with her. Branding her husband to be a gambler, drunkard
and moving around with anti social elements, it was also
alleged that about six months back her husband and his
family members had made the first attempt to eliminate her by
forcibly pouring poison into her throat and when her condition
became serious, they informed her parents that she had taken
poison. However, then she had not made any complaint to the
police against her husband. But again on 19th April, 1996 at
11.00 a.m., her husband (A-1), his mother (A-2), his second
brother’s wife (A-3) and her husband’s third brother’s wife
(A-4) forced her to consume poison and as a result thereof
she was admitted in the nursing home at about 2.30 p.m. in
an unconscious state. When she was in a semi conscious
state, the police took her statement but she did not know
what statement the police had recorded. Her husband
informed her parents about the incident only in the evening
though she was admitted in the hospital at 2.30 p.m.; her
parents came later and although they had lodged a complaint
with the police but no action was taken against any person.
After being discharged from the hospital on 22nd April, 1996,
she went to stay with her parents and since then she is
staying with them but neither her husband nor his family
members have come to see her. As noted supra, the complaint
regarding the incident on 19th April, 1996 was lodged on 22nd
May, 1996.

4.The complaint was forwarded to the Senior Executive Officer,
CID, Hyderabad and consequently on 7th August, 1996 a case
was registered against accused A-1 to A-4 as also against the
said Mrs. Jalaja under Sections 498-A, 420, 494, 307 I.P.C.
After investigation, chargesheet was laid against accused A-1
to A-4 for offences punishable under Sections 498-A and 307
read with Section 34 I.P.C.

5.During the course of trial, the prosecution examined nine
witnesses. No evidence was produced in defence. The learned
Trial Court, on appreciation of evidence, and relying on the
evidence of the father of the complainant (PW-3), nephew of
PW-3 (PW-4), a store clerk/colleague of PW-3 (PW-5), Security
Inspector/colleague of PW-3 (PW-6), and a neighbour of PW-1
and PW-3 (PW-7), came to the conclusion that all the
aforestated items had been given as consideration for the
marriage on demand of the accused though in the disguise of
being gifts to the bridegroom. The Trial Court also inferred
that accused A-1, who had purchased a lorry in the name of
the complainant–wife (PW-1) on 6th November, 1995 was
harassing her to get Rs.50,000/- from her parents for the
purchase of lorry. Inter alia, observing that though no
specific instances of harassment had come on record but
the long course of conduct of accused A-1 showed that the
allegations of harassment were not totally baseless, the trial
judge finally found accused A-1 guilty of the offence
punishable under Section 498-A I.P.C. and accordingly
sentenced him to undergo simple imprisonment for one year
and to pay a fine of Rs.8000/- with default stipulation. Out of
the fine amount, a sum of Rs.6000/- was ordered to be paid to
PW-1. However, he did not find accused A-1 guilty under
Section 307 I.P.C. and accordingly acquitted him of the said
charge. Accused A-2 to A-4 were not found guilty of both the
charges framed against them and were acquitted accordingly.

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6.Aggrieved, the respondent (A-1) challenged his conviction by
preferring appeal before the High Court. The High Court, as
stated above, on a re-appraisal of the entire evidence, has set
aside the conviction. Against this judgment, the State of
Andhra Pradesh is in appeal before us.

7.We have heard learned counsel for the parties.

8.Mrs. June Chaudhary, learned senior counsel appearing on
behalf of the State vehemently submitted that the High Court
has taken an unreasonable view in acquitting the respondent,
overlooking his conduct before and after the marriage. It was
submitted that the evidence produced by the prosecution
clearly proves that even before the marriage, the respondent
(A-1) was insisting on transfer of the house in his name; even
on the date of marriage demand for money was made and
though the lorry was purchased in the name of the
complainant, it was not by way of any love and affection but to
extract more money from her parents. Learned counsel, thus,
argued that in the light of these surrounding circumstances, a
clear case for conviction under Section 498-A I.P.C. had been
made out against the respondent.

9.Mr. R. Venkatramani, learned senior counsel appearing on
behalf of the respondent, while supporting the view taken by
the High Court, submitted that the High Court having re-
appreciated and carefully analyzed the entire evidence before
reaching the conclusion that no case for conviction of the
respondent had been made out, this Court should be loathe to
exercise its jurisdiction under Article 136 of the Constitution.
It was argued that apart from the fact that in the light of the
evidence on record no illegality can be attributed to the
conclusion recorded by the High Court, even otherwise, it is
well settled principle of law that where on an appraisal of the
evidence, adduced in the case, the court below has taken a
plausible view, the appellate court should not interfere,
particularly with an order of acquittal, even if different view
can possibly be taken. In support of the proposition, reliance
was placed on the decisions of this Court in Harbans Singh
& Anr. Vs. State of Punjab1; Shri Gopal & Anr. Vs.
Subhash & Ors.2, State of M.P. Vs. Sanjay Rai3, Vijaybhai
Bhanabhai Patel Vs. Navnitbhai Nathubhai Patel & Ors.4
and State of Goa Vs. Sanjay Thakran & Anr.5

10.In order to appreciate the rival stands, it would be useful
to notice the statutory provisions. Section 498-A I.P.C. makes
“cruelty” by husband or his relative a punishable offence. The
word “cruelty” is defined in the Explanation appended to the
said Section. Section 498-A I.P.C. with Explanation reads

thus: “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
1 [1962] Supp 1 SCR 104
2 (2004) 13 SCC 174
3 (2004) 10 SCC 570
4 (2004) 10 SCC 583
5 (2007) 3 SCC 755

punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

Explanation-For the purpose of this section,”cruelty” means–

(a) Any wilful conduct which is of such a nature
  as is likely to drive the woman to commit
  suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to
  life, limb or health (whether mental or
  physical) of the woman; or

(b) harassment of the woman where such
  harassment is with a view to coercing her or
  any person related to her to meet any unlawful
  demand for any property or valuable security
  or is on account of failure by her or any person
  related to her meet such demand.”

11.Thus, providing a new dimension to the concept of
“cruelty”, clause (a) of Explanation to Section 498-A I.P.C.
postulates that any wilful conduct which is of such a nature
as is likely to drive a woman to commit suicide would
constitute “cruelty”. Such wilful conduct, which is likely to
cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether
mental or physical) of the woman would also amount to
“cruelty”. Clause (b) of the Explanation provides that
harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a
view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any
unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on
account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet
such demand, would also constitute “cruelty” for the purpose
of Section 498-A I.P.C. It is plain that as per clause (b) of the
Explanation, which, according to learned counsel for the
State, is attracted in the instant case, every harassment does
not amount to “cruelty” within the meaning of Section 498-A
I.P.C. The definition stipulates that the harassment has to be
with a definite object of coercing the woman or any person
related to her to meet an unlawful demand. In other words,
for the purpose of Section 498-A I.P.C. harassment simpliciter
is not “cruelty” and it is only when harassment is committed
for the purpose of coercing a woman or any other person
related to her to meet an unlawful demand for property etc.,
that it amounts to “cruelty” punishable under Section 498-A I.P.C.

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12.Having noticed the basic ingredients which are required to
be proved in order to bring home an offence under Section
498-A I.P.C., at this juncture, we may also briefly note the
general principles to be kept in view by the appellate court
while dealing with an appeal against acquittal.

13.There is no embargo on the appellate court to review,
reappreciate or reconsider the evidence upon which the order
of acquittal is founded. Yet, generally, the order of acquittal is
not interfered with because the presumption of innocence,
which is otherwise available to an accused under the
fundamental principles of criminal jurisprudence that every
person shall be presumed to be innocent unless he is proved
guilty by a court of law, gets further reinforced and
strengthened by his acquittal. It is also trite that if two views
are possible on the evidence adduced in the case and the one
favourable to the accused has been taken by the trial court, it
should not be disturbed. Nevertheless, where the approach of
the lower court in considering the evidence in the case is
vitiated by some manifest illegality or the conclusion recorded
by the court below is such which could not have been possibly
arrived at by any court acting reasonably and judiciously and
is, therefore, liable to the characterised as perverse, then, to
prevent miscarriage of justice, the appellate court is obliged to
interfere.

14.All these principles have been succinctly culled out by one
of us (C.K. Thakker, J.) in Chandrappa & Ors. Vs. State of Karnataka6.

15.Bearing the aforestated broad principles in mind and
having bestowed our anxious consideration to the facts at
hand, in our judgment, the High Court has not committed any
error in dealing with the evidence, which could be said to be
patently illegal or that the conclusion reached at by it is
wholly untenable, warranting our interference.

16.Though it is true the Trial Court has observed that there is
some evidence on record to show that there was a demand for
dowry even at the time of marriage but it is clear that the
foundation for action against the respondent was laid when
the complaint was lodged by the wife on 22nd May, 1996 and
the prosecution machinery was set into motion. Again it is
6 (2007) 4 SCC 415
true that in the complaint there is a reference to the past
conduct of the respondent and his family members but from
the tenor of the complaint, it is clear that the allegation of
harassment including the alleged poisoning incident is linked
solely with her failure to get an additional amount of
Rs.50,000/- from her parents for the purchase of lorry.
Furthermore, though the Trial Court records that in the
evidence there are no specific instances of harassment, yet
it has proceeded to presume that long course of conduct of the
respondent is indicative of the fact that the allegation of
harassment is not totally baseless. Even the deposit of initial
amount of Rs.1,50,000/- by the respondent for the purchase
of lorry in the name of the complainant has been doubted by
the Trial Court. It is pertinent to note that in so far as the
allegation of poisoning by the accused to kill the complainant
is concerned, the Trial Court has found the evidence of PW-3
–the father of the complainant (PW-1) to PW-7 to be
unreliable and has rejected the version of the prosecution to
that extent. Adversely commenting on the conduct of PW-3,
the Trial Court has also observed that none of the accused
attempted to escape after the incident which corroborates the
anxiety of accused A-1 to A-4 about the life of the
complainant. Rejecting the prosecution version based on the
complaint, accused A-2 to A-4 were acquitted by the Trial
Court. In the light of these circumstances, the learned Judge
of the High Court entertained grave doubts about the
correctness of the prosecution story.

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17.Analysing and re-appreciating the entire evidence
threadbare, in particular the testimony of the complainant
(PW-1) and her father (PW-3), the learned Judge has observed
that though as per her complaint (Ex.P-1), the respondent had
been pressurising her to bring Rs.50,000/- as additional
dowry for purchase of lorry but her version was not supported
even by her father (PW-3). The learned Judge, on an analysis
of the entire evidence, reached the conclusion that there is no
direct evidence, other than the self-serving testimony of PW-1
regarding alleged beatings or scolding; if really the version of
PW-1 that all the accused attempted to kill her by forcibly
pouring poison in her mouth, not once but twice, she would
not have kept quiet without reporting the matter to the police;
even after the second incident she kept quiet for a period of
one month; the contents of the complaint clearly showed that
PW-1 (the complainant) wanted to see that the respondent
loses his job in the police department and that merely because
PW-1 attempted to commit suicide, it cannot be presumed
that only on account of harassment or cruelty meted out to
her that she made an attempt to commit suicide. Taking all
these circumstances into consideration, the learned Judge
held that it was not safe to rely on the evidence of PW-1, more
so, when her relations with the husband were very much
strained and, therefore, the Trial Court ought to have given
benefit of doubt to the respondent also while acquitting
accused A-2 to A-4.

18.Having gone through the depositions of PW-1 and PW-3,
to which our attention was invited by learned counsel for the
State, we are convinced that in the light of the overall
evidence, analysed by the High Court, the order of acquittal of
the respondent is well merited and does not call for
interference, particularly when the First Information Report
was lodged by the complainant more than one month after the
alleged incident of forcible poisoning. Time and again, the
object and importance of prompt lodging of the First
Information Report has been highlighted. Delay in lodging the
First Information Report, more often than not, results in
embellishment and exaggeration, which is a creature of an
afterthought. A delayed report not only gets bereft of the
advantage of spontaneity, the danger of the introduction of
coloured version, exaggerated account of the incident or a
concocted story as a result of deliberations and consultations,
also creeps in, casting a serious doubt on its veracity.
Therefore, it is essential that the delay in lodging the report
should be satisfactorily explained.

19.In the present case, as noted supra, First Information
Report in regard to the alleged occurrence on 19th April, 1996
was lodged on 22nd May, 1996. Admittedly after her discharge
from the hospital on 22nd April, 1996, the complainant went to
her parents’ house and resided there. In her testimony, the
complainant has deposed that since no one from the family of
the accused came to enquire about her welfare, she decided to
lodge the First Information Report. No explanation worth the
name for delay in filing the complaint with the police has come
on record. We are of the opinion that this circumstance raises
considerable doubt regarding the genuineness of the
complaint and the veracity of the evidence of the complainant
(PW-1) and her father (PW-3), rendering it unsafe to base the
conviction of the respondent upon it. Resultantly, when the
substratum of the evidence given by the complainant (PW-1) is
found to be unreliable, the prosecution case has to be rejected
in its entirety.

20.For the foregoing reasons, we are of the opinion that the
judgment of the High Court, acquitting the respondent, does
not suffer from any infirmity, warranting our interference. The
appeal is devoid of any merit and is dismissed accordingly.

( C.K. THAKKER)
  ( D.K. JAIN)
NEW DELHI,OCTOBER 24, 2008.

One thought on “State Of Andhra Pradesh vs M. Madhusudhan Rao (498A)

  1. Dear sir,

    My name is srinivas.Iam sending this mail from mumbai.The issue is related to my sister.
    She got married in 2004 may.
    We have given satisfaction dowry also.But still my brother in law,his mother and his four sisters are harassing my sister.They have one baby boy also.My father is working in gulf country.My mother and my two sisters are living in sircilla, karimnagar district, andhrapradesh.
    My mother and father are not understanding what to do and they bacame moody persons and like patients.We thought that may tomorrow or day after tommorrow he may change, but still they are doing like that only.So many times we have spoken to elder persons and we have send my sister to thier house.
    But from last 15 days onwards, his behaviour has been cheanged and he was behaving rudely.Daily he was beating my sister.Day before yesterday i came to know this matter.So atlast i have decided to give a complaint to house arrest department.So kindly help me in this matter.
    My mobile number is 09769642656.

    Please tell me what to do,

    Regards,
    Srinivas.T

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