Customary gifts, money demanded is not abetment to Suicide

IN THE HIGH COURT OF KARNATAKA AT BANGALORE

DATED THIS THE 21ST DAY OF AUGUST 2014

PRESENT

THE HON’BLE MR.JUSTICE MOHAN M SHANTANAGOUDAR AND THE HON’BLE MR.JUSTICE K.N.PHANEENDRA

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 668 OF 2010

BETWEEN:

STATE OF KARNATAKA
BY BYATARAYANAPURA P.S.BANGALORE CITY(BY C.O.D)..APPELLANT
(BY SRI.B.T.VENKATESH, SPP-II)

AND:

1. T.S.RAJESH,
S/O SHANKAR
AGED 32 YEARS.

2. SMT.NAGARATHNA
W/O SHANKAR
AGE 73 YEARS

3. SHANKAR
S/O LATE SAMPARGISA
AGE 81 YEARS

4. T.S.GOVARDHAN
S/O SHANKAR
AGE 36 YEARS

5. SMT.PARVATHI
S/O T.S.GOVARDHAN
AGE 30 YEARS.

ALL ARE RESIDING AT 68:A
2ND D MAIN, 4TH CROSS, BAPAJI NAGAR, MYSORE ROAD BANGALORE -26…RESPONDENTS
(BY SRI.Y.S.SHIVAPRASAD, ADV.)

THIS CRL.A. IS FILED U/S 378(1)(3) CR.P.C. BY
THE STATE P.P. FOR THE STATE PRAYING TO GRANT
LEAVE TO FILE AN APPEAL AGAINST THE JDUGMENT OF
ACQUITTAL DT. 22.1.2010 PASSED BY THE P.O. FTC-VIII,
BANGALORE IN S.C.NO.1043/05-ACQUTTING THE
RESPONDENTS/ACCUSED FOR THE OFFENCE P/U/S 498-
A, 304(B) IPC AND SEC.3 4 OF D.P.ACT.

THIS CRL.A COMING ON FOR HEARING THIS DAY MOHAN M SHANTANAGOUDAR J., DELIVERED THE FOLLOWING:-

JUDGMENT

The judgment and order of acquittal dated 22.01.2010 passed by the Fast Track Court, Bangalore, in S.C. No1043/2005 is called in question in this appeal by the State.

2. The accused/respondents were tried and acquitted of the offences punishable under Sections 498-A and 304-B of IPC and Sections 3  4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act (for short, D.P.Act).

3. The case of the prosecution in brief is that the marriage of the deceased Seema was taken place with Accused No.1 on 22.02.2002 at Balaji Mantapa, Mysore Road, Bangalore. At the time of marriage, the complainant (PW.6-mother of the deceased Seema) had given a gold ring, bracelet, necklace, a watch to Accused No.1 as dowry; after the marriage, the deceased went with her husband to her matrimonial house and lived there with Accused No.1 happily for six months; Accused Nos.2 and 3 are the mother and father of Accused No.1 respectively; Accused No.4 is the brother of Accused No.1; Accused No.5 is the wife of Accused No.4; All of them resided under the same roof happily for six months with the deceased; Subsequently, they started demanding a sum of Rs.50,000/- as additional amount of dowry; Since the said demand was not fulfilled, they started ill-treating the deceased Seema both physically and mentally; They used to scold and assault the deceased; Inspite of giving Rs.25,000/- on two occasions, totalling to Rs.50,000/-, the accused did not stop harassing the deceased; Consequently, on the intervening night of 22/23.05.2005, the deceased committed suicide in her matrimonial house by hanging to the roof. Thus, it is the case of the prosecution that the deceased committed suicide due to abetment and harassment by the accused who demanded additional amount of dowry and who harassed her both physically and mentally because of non-payment of additional amount of dowry.

4. In order to prove the case, the prosecution in all examined 16 witnesses and got marked 8 exhibits and a saree, MO-1 was marked and on behalf of the defence, 4 witnesses were examined and 8 exhibits were got marked. As aforementioned the trial court on evaluation of the material acquitted all the accused.

5. Sri.Venkatesh, learned SPP taking us through the entire record including the Judgment of the Court below submits that the evidence of PWs-1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 conclusively goes to show that it was accused No.1 who used to torture the deceased by pressurizing her to bring additional amount of dowry of Rs.50,000/- from her parents; despite getting Rs.50,000/- as demanded by accused No.1 in two instalments, harassment did not stop; all other accused used to instigate accused No.1 for commission of crime; all the accused were teasing and assaulting the deceased on one pretext or the other, more particularly, by pressurizing to bring additional amount of dowry. Thus, according to him, the evidence of the aforementioned witnesses is consistent, cogent and reliable, hence ought not to have been disbelieved by the Court below while coming to the conclusion. He further submits that material on record is sufficient to convict all the accused, particularly accused No.1.

6. Per contra Sri.Shivaprasad, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the accused argued in support of the Judgment of the Court below.

7. PW-1 is the classmate and friend of the deceased; she has deposed about the demand and payment of dowry by the mother of the deceased at the time of marriage; she has also deposed about the harassment meted to by the deceased in her matrimonial home, particularly by accused No.1 after six months of the marriage; according to her the deceased used to tell PW-1 that she was being harassed by the accused repeatedly by pressurizing her to bring additional amount of dowry.

8. PW-2 is the elder sister of the deceased; PW-3 is the neighbour of mother of the deceased; PWs 4, 5 and 7 are the uncles of the deceased. All of them have deposed about the demand of dowry by the accused; payment of dowry by the complainant (PW-6) and subsequent harassment by the accused. PW-6 is the mother of the deceased; she lodged the complaint Ex.P1 based on which crime No.59/2005 is registered by Police Sub-Inspector of Byatarayanapura (PW-15). It is relevant to note here itself that the incident has taken place in the night intervening between 22.2.2005 and 23.2.2005. PW-6 got the message of the incident on the early hours of 23.2.2005; immediately thereafter she came to the spot and saw the dead body of the deceased. She has given the statement as per Ex.P4 wherein she has completely exonerated all the accused; Ex.P4 reveals that the deceased was of ill tempered character and adamant; accused are not responsible for the death of the deceased. She has further stated in Ex.P4 that the deceased was living happily with all the accused in her matrimonial house. However, Ex.P1 came to be lodged by PW-6 on 3.3.2005 i.e. after lapse of about 10 days making allegations of demand of dowry and consequent harassment by the accused; as aforementioned, based on the said Ex.P1 Crime No.59/2005 is registered.

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9. PW-8 is the witness for inquest panchanama- Ex.P5; PW-9 is the Police Constable who carried the first information Ex.P8 to the jurisdictional magistrate; PW-10 is the Head Constable ; he delivered the dead body to the relatives for cremation after post-mortem examination; PW-11 is another Police Constable who registered UDR 13/2005 at 10.45 a.m. based on Ex.P4. PW-12 is the Assistant Commissioner of Police who completed the investigation and laid the charge sheet; PW-13 is the doctor who conducted post-mortem examination of the dead body of the deceased; post-mortem report is at Ex.P7. PW-14 is another Assistant Commissioner of Police, who investigated the crime in part. PW-15 is the Police Sub-Inspector who registered Crime No.59/2005 based on Ex.P1. PW-16 is the Taluka Executive Magistrate who conducted inquest proceedings immediately after the death of the deceased on 23.2.2005. The inquest report is at Ex.P5. At the time of inquest, he recorded the statements of PW-6 and accused Nos.1 and 2.

10. As aforementioned the defence has also let in evidence in the form of DWs 1 to 4. DW-1 is none other than accused No.1 i.e. husband of the deceased. DW-2 is the Jewellery shop owner who had sold gold ornaments to the accused at the time of his marriage and Exs.D3 and D4 are the receipts issued by DW-2 in favour of accused No.1 for having sold the jewellery. DW-3 is the President of Somavamsha Sahasarjuna Kshatriya community, to which the accused and the deceased belong to. He has deposed that there is no practice of demanding and accepting dowry in their community. He has given letter dated 11.2.2006, Ex.D6 disclosing that there is no dowry system in the said community. DW-4 is the father of accused No.5 and father-in-law of accused No.4. According to him, the deceased was living happily with all the accused; the deceased and accused No.5 were living under the same roof as genital sisters; accused are not responsible for the death of the deceased. Exhibits D7 and D8 are also produced by the defence to show that cooking contractor’s bill was paid by the accused; Ex.D8 is Kshatriya Vani book of October 2006 disclosing that there is no dowry system in Somavamsha Sahasarjuna Kshatriya community.

11. There cannot be any dispute that the evidence let in on behalf of the prosecution as well as the defence will have to be considered with equal importance. The aforementioned facts make it clear that the prosecution has adduced evidence of PWs 1 to 7 including the complainant, PW-6, to prove the demand of dowry by the accused, so also harassment by the accused.

12. PWs 1 to 7 in one voice in their examination-in-chief have deposed that the marriage talks took place prior to the marriage and in such talks, accused demanded gold chain, bracelet, ring and watch for the accused and also demanded gold bangles and necklace, silver articles and silk sarees for the bride. It is also in their deposition that such demand was satisfied by the mother of the deceased i.e. PW-6; a child was born from out of the wedlock and delivery charges/hospital charges were also borne by PW-6; despite the same, the accused, more particularly accused No.1 used to demand Rs.50,000/- from PW-6 with a view to establish a shop of his own; though PW-6 was not in a position to pay said huge sum of money, she borrowed the said amount of Rs.50,000/- in two instalments from the brothers of her husband and in turn paid the same to accused No.1; despite the same harassment continued; consequent upon the deceased committed suicide.

13. In the cross-examination, PW-6 (mother of the deceased) has admitted that the deceased was ill-tempered and she used to become angry even on small issues. PWs 4 and 5, the paternal uncles of the deceased have admitted in the cross-examination that marriage expenses were shared equally by the accused as well as PW-6. It is also admitted that the marriage of accused No.1 with deceased was performed along with the marriage of accused No.4 with accused No.5, which means both the marriages were performed under the same roof at the same time. Therefore, it is quite natural for the accused to share, atleast to an extent of half of the marriage expenses and the said fact is admitted by PWs-4 and 5.

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14. PW-3, neighbour of PW-6 has admitted that it is customary to gift gold chain, bracelet, necklace, ring, watch, etc to the bride and bridegroom at the time of marriage. Thus it is more than clear that the marriage expenses were borne by PW-6 and the accused, equally, and that the gold ornaments gifted by the mother of the deceased to her daughter and son-in-law are all customary in nature. It is relevant to note here itself that in a portion of further statement, she has clearly admitted under Ex.D1 that accused No.1 himself gifted a pair of ear studs, a pair of bangles, one chain, so also PW-6 has gifted necklace, hangings and one pair of bangles apart from Mangala sutra chain to her daughter in the marriage. Therefore, it is amply clear that whatever is gifted either by accused No.1 or PW-6 are voluntary and are part of the tradition and custom in the society in which parties are living. There is absolutely no material to show that the accused demanded any amount in cash at the time of marriage. In view of the same, we are of the clear opinion that the trial Court is justified that there is no demand of dowry or payment of dowry at the time of marriage.

15. Coming to the aspect of demand of Rs.50,000/- by the accused after six months of the marriage, the evidence on record is not sufficient to conclude that the accused demanded Rs.50,000/- as dowry. PW-6 in her cross examination admits that she is a petty cloth vendor and she sells clothes sitting on the footpath of Jayanagar market, Bangalore. Her earning per day is Rs.100/- to Rs.200/-. However, she used to earn more on Saturdays and Sundays. From such little income, it is clear that mother of the deceased (PW-6) was not in a condition to pay any amount to anybody inasmuch with the amount of Rs.100-200/- earned by her would be sufficient for her livelihood. Accused No.1 is an electrician by profession. PW-3 in her examination-in-chief itself has deposed that deceased had told her that she had come to the house of PW-6, i.e. her mother asking for money since her family needed some amount to establish a shop. It is not uncommon either for the daughter to ask her mother or for son-in-law to ask his mother-in-law whenever they are in financial difficulties. Anything asked by the daughter from the mother or son-in-law from her mother-in-law cannot be termed as dowry. Under the given circumstances, the son-in-law might have asked certain financial help from his in-laws for establishing the shop. Even assuming that such a request stated to have been made by accused No.1 through the deceased to her mother is true, even then it cannot be said that accused No.1 had demanded additional amount of dowry since no dowry was asked by accused No.1 or any accused at the time of marriage, there is no question of demanding additional amount of dowry. Even the evidence on record, prima facie, reveals that the deceased had requested her mother to pay Rs.50,000/- for establishing the shop.

16. At this stage, it is relevant to note the evidence let in on behalf of the defence. Accused No.1 is examined as DW-1. He has deposed on par with the statement of PW-6 in UDR No.13/2005. He has deposed that his wife i.e. deceased was of ill tempered and was adamant and she used to get angry even on small matters. On the previous night of the date of incident the deceased had brought an application form for admitting the child to the school; she pressurized accused No.1 to fill up the form at 11.30 p.m., since accused No.1 was not in a mood to fill up the form at such late hours, he told his wife that form could be filled up next day morning; the deceased got angry because of the afore said fact and went to sleep; since accused No.1 felt bad because of the conduct of the deceased, he went out of the bedroom and slept along with parents in the hall leaving the deceased and the child in the bedroom; on the next day morning of accused Nos.1 to 3 found that the deceased had committed suicide by hanging. The same version as deposed by Accused No1 is supported by the information given by PW-6 at the time of registration of UDR No.13/2005. The First Information, Ex.P4 given by the mother of the deceased which was registered in UDR No.13/2005 does not reveal any incriminating material against any of the accused, on the contrary, Ex.P4 reveals that deceased herself was responsible for her death and not the accused. It is further stated in Ex.P4 by PW-6 that the deceased was ill tempered and was adamant; she used to get angry even on small issues and she was very happy in her matrimonial home; and all the accused were looking after the deceased properly. Same is the version of accused No.1 before the Court.

17. It is further relevant to note that the statement of PW-6 is recorded during the inquest proceedings. During inquest proceedings, PW-6 (mother of the deceased) particularly stated before the Taluka Executive Magistrate that accused are not at all responsible for the death of the deceased and they were looking after the deceased properly and consequently deceased was living happily in the matrimonial house with the accused. It is also relevant to note that at the time of inquest proceedings, number of villagers had gathered; police had arrived at the scene, so also the Taluka Executive Magistrate was present. It is also relevant to note that other prosecution witnesses including PWs-1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 were present at the time of inquest. If really PWs 1 to 8 were under pressure or threat by anybody including by the accused, they would have openly stated either before the police or the Taluka Executive Magistrate. They could have complained that they are being threatened by the accused. None of the witnesses PWs-1 to 5 and 7 to 8 have deposed that there was threat by the accused at any point of time. If it is so, there was no reason as to why PW-6 did not tell the police during the inquest proceedings before the Taluka Executive Magistrate, so also there is no reason why PWs-1 to 5 and 7 kept quiet without disclosing the so called real fact of harassment by the accused before the Taluka Executive Magistrate at the time of inquest proceedings.

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18. After lodging Ex.P4 based on which UDR 13/2005 was registered, the police did not take any step against the accused immediately. Once again she approached the police on 3.3.2005 i.e. after 10 days by lodging Ex.P1 based on which Crime No.59/2005 came to be registered. In Ex.P1, PW-6, the complainant has made number of allegations against the accused such as demand of dowry, harassment, etc., the only reason assigned by PW-6 explaining as to why she lodged Ex.P4 as aforementioned is that she was threatened by the accused that the child born to accused No.1 and deceased would be killed if she did not tell the falsehood to the police. Such explanation cannot be accepted, particularly in the light of the fact that at the time of conducting inquest proceedings, not only number of villagers had gathered but also own relatives of PW-6 including brothers of her husband were present, apart from the Taluka Executive Magistrate. Even assuming that PW-6 was not threatened by the accused, there is no reason as to why PWs 4, 5 and 7 kept quiet. They are none other than the uncles of the deceased. It is admitted by PW-4 that he is the eldest in the family after the death of father of the deceased. Even as the eldest member of the family, he did not disclose the alleged real fact before the police. All the family members kept quiet for 10 days. Only as foresaid after 10 days Ex.P1 came to be lodged. Such lodging of Ex.P1 after 10 days raises serious suspicion in the mind of the Court about the case of the prosecution, particularly in the light of the entire material available on record.

19. DW-2 is the owner of the Jewellary shop. He has deposed that he had prepared gold chain, bracelet, ring and earrings and sold in favour of accused No.1. He has produced Exs.D2 and D3 for having sold the same to accused No.1 at the time of marriage. DW-4 is the father of accused No.5 and father-in-law of accused No.1 and 4. He is the elderly person, aged about 60 years. He has deposed that his daughter-in-law, accused No.5 and the deceased were living under the same roof as sisters. No complaint whatsoever is found against any of the accused. All of them were looking after the deceased very well. The uncles of the deceased had not given any properties to PW-6. From the evidence let in on behalf of the defence, which cannot be ignored, we are of the opinion that the trial Court is justified in concluding that the prosecution has not proved its case beyond doubt. It is also relevant to note that PW-7, uncle of the deceased has admitted in the cross-examination (despite being questioned twice) that all the properties of the family of PW-6 and PWs-4, 5 and 7 were kept joint; they have not divided; PW-6 had not asked for any share; however she had told PW-7 that in case if he deposes before the Court against the accused and in her favour, she would relinquish her share in the properties in his favour. This admission of PW-7 wholly destroys the case of the prosecution. Whatever is stated by accused on oath may be applicable to PWs 4 and 5 also, who are the genital brothers of PW-7. Therefore, it is clear that the prosecution has not come with true facts before the Court.

20. Having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case, we are of the opinion that the impugned Judgment of the trial Court is fully justified and does not call for interference.

Appeal fails and is, accordingly dismissed.

SD/-

JUDGE SD/-

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