SC Judgments highlights on 498A,304B(The Tribune 06.08.10)

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      SC: No conviction for mere demand of dowry

      New Delhi, August 5

      The Supreme Court has ruled that a person cannot be convicted for merely demanding dowry unless the demand is followed by mental or physical torture resulting in the death of the victim.

      A Bench of Justices RM Lodha and AK Patnaik said in a judgement that the prosecution has to establish convincing evidence that the accused had subjected the victim to torture soon before her death in connection with the demand.

      “The evidence of Prosecution Witness-2, PW-4 and PW-5 shows that Jagdish and Gordhani played a role in the demand of dowry for a scooter or Rs 25,000 for Amar Singh, but demand of dowry by itself is not an offence under Section 498A or Section 304B IPC.

      “What is punishable under Section 498A or Section 304B of IPC is the act of cruelty or harassment by the husband or the relative of the husband against the woman,” the Bench said.

      The Bench passed the judgement while upholding the acquittal of Gordhani, mother-in-law, and Jagdish, brother-in-law, in a dowry death case of newly-married woman Santosh in Rajasthan’s Alwar district in March, 8, 1993. It however, upheld the conviction of the husband Amar Singh.

      The sessions court had convicted all three for dowry death(304B) and 498A (harassment of married woman by husband/relatives). The Rajasthan High Court had on an appeal from the accused quashed the conviction of Jagdish and Gordhari while sustaining the life sentence imposed on Amar Singh.

      While the state government had appealed against the acquittals, Amar Singh challenged his conviction.

      “Thus, there was evidence in the case of Amar Singh about his exact conduct which caused harassment to the deceased, but there was no such evidence in the case of Jagdish and Gordhani.”

      The apex court altered the life sentence of Amar Singh from life imprisonment to 10 years.

      “A prosecution witness, who merely uses the word ‘harassed’ or ‘tortured’, and does not describe the exact conduct of the accused which, according to him, amounted to harassment or torture may not be believed by the court in cases under Section 498A and 304B IPC,” Justice Patnaik writing the judgement observed.

      Citing its earlier ruling in Kans Raj v. State of Punjab and Others (2000) case, the apex court said in cases where accusations of dowry deaths are made, the overt acts attributed to persons other than the husband are required to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

      At that time, the apex court had said a tendency has developed for roping in all relatives of in-laws of the deceased wife in a matter of dowry death, which, if not discouraged, is likely to affect the case of the prosecution even against real culprits. — PTI

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