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Vague allegations of Dowry demand, 304B and 498a quash


IN RE:           ID No. DLSE01­000148­2013

SC No. 1388/16
FIR No.551/13 PS Govindpuri



(1) Mithun S/o Shri Nokhai

(2) Nokhai S/o Shri Tirath Nishad

(3) Sushila Devi W/o Shri Nokhai

All R/o RZ­3121, Gali No. 35,Tughlakabad Extension,New Delhi.

Date of Institution     :      27.11.2013
Date of arguments    : 08.11.2017
Date of judgment                 :      27.11.2017


1.     The accused have been put to trial for the offences u/s 498­ A IPC read with section 34 IPC; 302 IPC read with 34 IPC, 304­B IPC read with 34 IPC and section 406 IPC read with section 34 IPC.

2.   The facts of the case, in brief, are that on 04.08.2013, DD No.   6A   was   noted   in   the   police   station   Govindpuri   regarding   the burning of a lady in H. No. 3121, Tughlakabad Extension. SI Rambir along with Ct. Surender had reached the spot where he came to know that the injured Sita has been taken by her husband namely Mithun (accused) to Majeedia Hamdard Hospital. SI Rambir called the crime team for inspection of the spot and picked up one empty plastic cane which was smelling of kerosene and some matchsticks which he seized and converted into pulanda by putting his seal of RST on the same. He left Ct. Surender at the spot and reached Majeedia Hospital where he obtained the MLC no. 1003/13 of injured Sita. He was told by the doctors that the injured was having burn injury of 65 ­78 % and she has been referred to Safdarjung Hospital. SI Rambir obtained exhibits in the sealed pulanda from Hamdard Majeedia Hospital and reached   Safdarjung   Hospital where   the   injured   Sita   was   found admitted.   Doctors   opined   the   injured   as   unfit   for   statement.   SI Rambir  learnt  that the marriage between injured Sita with Mithun (accused) had taken place on 28.04.2010. Therefore, he informed the SDM,   Kalkaji.   Shri   Ajit   Kumar   Chaudhary,   Tehsildar,   Kalkaji informed   him   that   as   and   when   the   injured   Sita   becomes   fit   for statement, he should be informed. On 05.08.2013 at about 6.50 am, information was received in the police station Govindpuri vide DD no. 106B that the injured Sita has succumbed to the injuries and has expired. SI Rambir informed the father of the deceased namely Shri Dal Singhar and he along with his son Ram Chander was produced before the SDM office, Kalkaji where Shri Ajit Kumar Chaudhary, Tehsildar had recorded their statement.

3.   Shri Dal Singhar, father of deceased Sita gave the statement that deceased was his youngest daughter and she got married with Mithun   (accused)   son   of   Nokhai   (accused)   on   28.04.2010   as   per Hindu rites and customs. He stated that he had spent about Rs.1.00 lac on the marriage and had given Rs.7,000/­ cash, a cycle, a watch and some other household articles. After the marriage, his daughter came to Delhi with her in­laws. However, after few days, the in­laws started harassing her and she was left at her parental home by them. A settlement took place thereafter and his daughter again came to the matrimonial home. It is stated further that after some time again his daughter was subjected to beating and harassment and they started demanding a motorcycle, chain and Rs.5,000/­. He further informed that about four months prior to the incident, his son­in­law namely Mithun had beaten her and had pushed her from the roof. He further informed that his daughter used to tell that she is not provided food and is harassed on account of dowry. He further stated that he had received an information from one of  his relative in Delhi that his daughter has been burnt by her in­laws.

4.   On this statement of Dal Singhar, the FIR was registered for the   offences   u/s   498­A/304/406   read   with   section   34   IPC.   The postmortem   of   the   deceased   was   got   conducted   and   the   cause   of death in the postmortem was shown as burn injuries received by the deceased. The crime team which had reached the spot had found it a case of self immolation as per the report submitted by the Incharge, Crime Team dated 04.08.2013. Cause of death is shock as a result of antemortem   thermal   burn   injuries   caused   due   to   flames   of   fire involving about 70% of total body surface area.

5.   The articles seized by SI Rambir from the spot were sent to FSL  i.e.   one  empty  small  brown  colour  plastic  cane,   burnt  match sticks and partly burnt and torn purpose colour sari, petticoat and a towel and some broken pieces of glass bangles. The FSL report dated 30.04.2014 shows that there was no residue of any kerosene, diesel or petrol on these articles.

6.   The chargesheet in this case was filed and since the offences u/s   304­B   IPC   was   a   Sessions   triable   offence,   the   case   was committed to the Sessions court for trial. On 21.05.2014, my learned Predecessor   framed   charges   against   the   accused   persons   for   the offences u/s 498­A/302/304­B/406/34 IPC. All accused had pleaded not guilty to charge and claimed trial.

7.   Prosecution in order to prove its case, examined following witnesses :­ i. PW­1 is Dal Singhar. He has deposed that his daughter Sita was married   to   Mithun.   He   had   spent   about   Rs.1.00   lac   in   the marriage. The in­laws of his daughter has started beating her for demand   of   dowry   and   she   was   sent   to   the   parental   home.   A compromise thereafter took place and she returned back to her matrimonial home. However, his daughter Sita was again beaten by   her   in­laws   with   a   demand   of   motorcycle   and   cash   of Rs.5,000/­. He also deposed that four months prior to the incident, his son­in­law accused Mithun had pushed his daughter from the roof as a result of which she received injuries. He has proved his complaint   made   to   the   SDM,   Kalkaji   Ex.PW1/B.   He   has   also placed on record the compromise which was entered into between the parties vide Ex.PW1/A.

This   witness   was   not   cross­ examined   by   the   accused. However,   he   was   summoned   again   u/s   311   Cr.P.C.   on   the application   of   the   accused   on   07.10.2015.   However,   it   was reported that he has suffered a paralytic attack and has become mentally   weak   and   thus   unable   to   stand   on   his   own   legs. Therefore, my learned Predecessor directed on 21.12.2016, not to  summon   this   witness   considering   his   medical   and   physical condition.

ii. PW­2 in this case is Ram Chander, brother of deceased Sita. His deposition is on the same lines as that of PW­1.

iii. PW­3   is   Pushpa   Devi.   She   was   a   neighbour   of   the   accused persons. She has not supported the case of the prosecution and has only deposed that on 04.08.2013 at about 9.30 am, she had helped the accused Mithun to board a TSR, with his wife wrapped in the sari. She deposed that there was a quarrel between the accused persons   and   the   deceased   but   the   matter   later   on   was compromised.

iv. PW­4 is Anita. She is the cousin sister of Sita. She has also not supported the case of prosecution.

v. PW­5   is   Ct.   Anita,   who   had   joined   the   investigation   with   IO Madan Pal Bhati on 07.08.2013 when the accused Sushila Devi was arrested vide arrest memo Ex.PW1/E.

vi. PW­6 is ASI Yadram. He was the Duty Officer on 07.08.2013. He deposed that at 4.15 pm, SI Rambir had produced one rukka, on the basis of which, he registered the FIR Ex.PW6/A and has sent the FIR for investigation to Insp. Madan Pal Bhati.  vii.PW­7   is     HC   Satbir   Singh,   who   was   the   Duty   Officer   on 04.08.2013. He deposed that at about 10.10 am, he had received information regarding burning of a lady which he noted vide DD no. 6 (Ex.PW7/A). He deposed that this DD was assigned to SI Rambir for necessary action. He further deposed that on the same day,   he   received   another   telephonic   information   regarding admission   of   Sita   wife   of   Mithun   in   Safdarjung   Hospital   vide MRD No. 80837/13 with 60% burn injuries, which information he noted   vide   DD   no.   42B   (Ex.PW7/B).   He   also   proved   DD   No. 106B (Ex.PW7/C) with regard to the death of Sita in Safdarjung Hospital.

viii.PW­8 is HC Ved Parkash. He was the MHC(M) and deposed that SI Rambir, who had deposited one sealed pulanda with seal of HAH, Centrary Hospital, Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi and another sealed pulanda with the seal of RST, which he deposited in the maalkhana vide entry in Register No. 19 (Ex.PW8/A). He further deposed that on 17.09.2013, the exhibits were sent to FSL through Ct. Hari Mohan.

ix. PW­9 is Ct. Surender Singh. He was beat officer in Tughlakabad Extension on 04.08.2013, who had reached the spot after learning that a lady was burnt in H. No. 3121, Gali No. 35, Tkd Extension. He deposed that SI Rambir has also reached the spot, who had seized one plastic cane smelling of kerosene, some broken glass bangles,   broken   artificial   mala,   burnt   match   sticks   and   empty match box.

x. PW­10 is Shri Ajit Kumar Chaudhary, Tehsildar, Kalkaji. He had recorded the statement of Dal Singhar and Ram Chander, father and   brother   of   the   deceased   respectively.   He   deposed   that   on 05.08.2013, he was informed about the death of the deceased lady in   the   hospital   and   the   relatives   of   deceased   came   to   him   on 07.08.2013   and   he   recorded   their   statement   Ex.PW1/B   and Ex.PW2/A.   He   also   asked   for   the   postmortem   of   the   deceased lady   vide   his   letter   Ex.PW10/A.   He   also   deposed   about   the identification on  the dead  body  of   the deceased  on  08.08.2013 vide   identification   memos   Ex.PW2/B   and   Ex.PW1/C.   He   also proved the death report prepared by him as Ex.PW10/B.  xi. PW­11 is Dr. Mohd. Aftab. He was working in HAHC Hospital, Jamia Hamdard. He deposed that on 04.08.2013, he had examined Ms. Sita (injured/deceased), who had suffered burn injuries and has opined that patient was unable to open the eye and patient was conscious   and   drowsy.   There   was   a   smell   of   kerosene   on   her body. He prepared the detailed MLC No. 1003/13 (Ex.PW11/A).  xii.PW­12 is Insp. K. P. Sah, who was the Incharge of Crime Team which   had   been   visited   to   H.   No.   RZ­3121,   Tughlakabad Extension and examined the place of occurrence between 11.55 am to 12.20 pm. He has proved his report Ex.PW12/A.

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xiii.PW­13   is   Insp.   Madan   Pal   Bhati,   who   was   assigned   the investigation after the registration of FIR and he arrested accused Nokhai, Mithun and Sushila Devi vide arrest memo Ex.PW1/D, Ex.PW1/E   and   Ex.PW1/F   respectively.   He   deposed   that   on 17.09.2013,   the   exhibits   of   the   case   were   sent   to   FSL,   Rohini through Ct. Hari Mohan. During the investigation, he took Insp. Mahesh Kumar, Draftsman on 16.10.2013 to the spot where the draftsman prepared the rough notes of the spot at the instance of SI Rambir and thereafter prepared scaled site plan (Mark X­1).  xiv.PW­14   is   Dr.   Shadab   Raheel   from   Department   of   Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Safdarjung Hospital. He deposed that the postmortem report no. 1212/13 dated 08.08.2013 was prepared by   Dr.   Shabarish   Dharampal   and   Dr.   Anshuman   Tripathi   vide Ex.PW14/A on which he identified their signatures at points A and B as he was familiar with the writing and signatures of these two doctors.

xv.PW­15   is   W/Ct.   Kiran   Yadav,   who   had   recorded   the   call   on 04.08.2013 at PCR Control Room, PHQ, New Delhi. The copy of the said call  was  placed by her  on record as Ex.PW15/A. She deposed   that   this   call   was   received   from   mobile   number 8826462300.

xvi.PW­16   is   Dr.   Amol   Dhopte   from   Safdarjung   hospital,   who deposed that a death report dated 05.08.2013 of Ms. Sita is in the handwriting   of   Dr.   Shabnam   with   whom   he   had   worked   and therefore, was able to identify her  signatures. The death report Ex.PW16/A was prepared by Dr. Shabnam with her signature at point A.

xvii.PW­17 is Ct. Hari Mohan, who deposed that on 17.09.2013, he was directed by the IO to deposit the exhibits of the case to FSL, Rohini   vide   RC   No.   162/21/13.   He   deposed   that   he   kept   the exhibits in safe custody and there was no tampering with them while they were in his custody.

xviii.PW­18 is Dr. Sameer Prabhakar, from Safdarjung Hospital, who deposed that he had examined lady Sita vide MLC No. 14399 and she was having 60% deep thermal burn with facial and inhalation burn. The injuries were dangerous in nature and the patient was intubated   and   could   not   speak.   He   proved   the   MLC   as Ex.PW18/A.

xix.PW­19 is Dr. Nikhil S. Shetty from Department of Burns and Plastic   Surgery,   Safdarjung   Hospital.   He   deposed   that   on 04.08.2013 at about 1.15 pm, he declared a patient Sita as not fit to give statement. He proved his endorsement  Ex.PW19/A. He further deposed that on 05.08.2013, Sita had died at about 1.15 am and he prepared the death summary Ex.PW19/B. The cause of death was opined by him as burn shock due to 60% deep thermal burns with facial and inhalation burns.

xx.PW­20 is Ct. Puneet, who was a member of the crime team, who had taken the photographs of the place of incident from different angles.   He   proved   the   photographs   Ex.P­1   to   Ex.P­4   and   the negatives Ex.P­5.

xxi.PW­21   is   HC   Mahender   Singh,   who   was   duty   officer   and recorded DD No. 106B (Ex.PW7/C).

xxii.PW­22 is Insp. Mahesh Kumar, who has prepared and proved the scaled site plan of the spot (Ex.PW22/A).

xxiii.PW­23 is Insp. Rambir Singh Tomar. He is the Investigating Officer of the case.

8.   The incriminating evidence of the witnesses was explained to the accused persons when they were examined u/s 313 Cr.P.C. The accused Nokhai, who is the father­in­law of the deceased stated that the   deceased   was   not   subjected   to   harassment   for   demand   of motorcycle, chain and Rs.5,000/­ nor they have misappropriated any dowry articles. He stated that he was not even present at the spot i.e. at the house at the time of alleged offence. Smt. Sushila Devi is the mother­in­law of the deceased. She also took the same defence as taken by her husband. She examined one witness in support of her defence. Accused Mithun also denied that he subjected the deceased to harassment and he also said that he was not present at home when Sita sustained injuries.

9.   The  accused   Sushila   had   examined  Ms.   Divya   as   DW­1, who deposed that Sushila had been working in her house for about seven years as a domestic help and she used to work from 7.30 am to 6.00 pm. She deposed that on 04.08.2013 i.e. the day of incident, Sushila Devi had come at 7.30 am and was working in her house and she got a call from her home at about 11­-11.30 am and thereafter she left home.

10.  I   have   heard   the   arguments   from   the   learned   Additional Public   Prosecutor   for   the   State   and   the   counsel   for   the   accused persons.   The   learned   defence   counsel   has   also   filed   written submissions,   which   I   have   perused.   I   have   also   gone   through   the evidence on the record carefully and the law applicable to the facts of the case.

11.  The learned Public Prosecutor has argued that the evidence with regard to the offence u/s 304­B IPC is available in the statement of PW­1 and PW­2 namely Dal Singhar and Ram Chander i.e. father and   brother   of   the   deceased   Sita   respectively.   He   placed   heavy reliance   on   the   statement   of   these   two   witnesses   to   show   that deceased was subjected to demand of dowry and in that connection was also subjected to cruelty and harassment. He submitted that PW­ 1   Dal   Singhar   stated   that   after   the   marriage,   the   in­laws   of   his daughter has started demanding dowry and a compromise took place vide   Ex.PW1/A.   He   further   said   that   four   months   prior   to   the incident, the accused Mithun had thrown her daughter Sita from the roof in which she received injuries. He submitted that statement of PW­1  has   been  corroborated   by   PW­2   in  all   material   aspects.   He further submitted that the marriage between the deceased Sita and the accused Mithun had taken place in the year 2010 and the incident has happened   in   the  year   2013.  Thus,   the  death   of   deceased   Sita  had taken   place   within   seven   years   of   her   marriage   and   it   is   not   an accidental death nor a natural death. Therefore, the presumption of section 304­B IPC and section 113­B of Indian Evidence Act will be attracted.   He   also   argued   that   the   MLC   Ex.PW18/A   and   the postmortem report Ex.PW14/A proved the fact that deceased Sita had succumbed to the burn injuries suffered by her. He also argued that PW­11   Dr.   Mohd.   Aftab   has   also   proved   that   there   was   smell   of kerosene from the body of the deceased. He submitted further that the statement of PW­1 was unchallenged and nothing has come in the cross -­examination of PW­2 to discredit the version of the incident.

12.  Per contra, the learned defence counsel has argued that to establish   the   case   u/s   304­B   IPC,   the   prosecution   had   to   prove beyond doubt that the deceased was subjected to harassment / cruelty on account of demand of dowry “soon before her death”. He argued that   PW­1   namely   Dal   Singhar   has   nowhere   spoken   about   any demand of dowry being made at the time of marriage or thereafter. His statement is too vague and general without any specific incident of a demand for dowry and of subjecting his daughter to any kind of cruelty or harassment in connection with that demand. He submitted that   the   statement   of   PW­2   would   show   that   he   is   not   a   reliable witness because as per his own admission, he is residing in Punjab for the last ten years and he had not visited his sister Sita since she was residing in Delhi with her in­laws. He submitted that statement of PW­1 cannot be read in evidence because he was summoned u/s 311 Cr.P.C. for cross­examination but he did not appear. He further argued that PW­4 Smt. Anita through whom PW­1 came to know about   the   incident   has   not   supported   the   case   of   the   prosecution. Similarly,   the   other   public   witness   has   also   not   supported   the prosecution case. He has also argued that there is delay in registration of FIR. He submitted that the death occurred on 05.08.2013 while the FIR was registered on 07.08.2013. He argued that as per prosecution case, PW­1 Dal Singhar was informed on 04.08.2013 itself regarding burning of his daughter by PW­4 Smt. Anita, who happens to be their relative   but   they   made   their   statement   before   the   SDM   on 07.08.2013.   Therefore,   he   argued,   there   is   unreasonable   delay   in registration of the FIR. He concluded his argument saying that the basic ingredient of the offence u/s 304­B IPC or 302 IPC have not been proved on record by the prosecution.

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13.  The accused have been charged for the offence u/s 302/34 IPC, 304­B/34 IPC, 498­A/34 IPC and 406/34 IPC. Legally, there cannot be conviction of a person for the offence u/s 302 IPC as well as   u/s   304­B   IPC.   Conviction   can   be   under   either   of   these   two offences. Therefore, first of all I shall deal with the offence u/s 302IPC, whether it stands proved or not?

14.  As   per   the   prosecution   case,   the   first   information   with regard   to   the   incident   was   recorded   in   DD   No.   6A   (Ex.PW7/A) wherein the burning of a lady was reported. The second information with  regard  to the  incident was  received  vide  DD No.  42B  dated 04.08.2013   (Ex.PW9/B)   regarding   the   admission   of   Sita   at Safdarjung   Hospital.   Third,   information   is   vide   DD   No.   106B (Ex.PW7/C) that Sita had expired in the hospital. Since the death has occurred in unnatural circumstances within seven years of marriage, information   was   sent   to   the   SDM   for   necessary   action.   On 07.08.2013,   the   father   and   brother   of   the   deceased   namely   Dal Singhar and Ram Chander i.e. PW­1 and PW­2 respectively came to Delhi   and   recorded   their   statement   before   Shri   Ajit   Kumar Chaudhary (PW­10), Tehsildar, Kalkaji. In this statement, they have of 30 spoken about the marriage, the dispute between the deceased and her husband and a  demand of a cycle and Rs.5,000/­ etc. So far during the investigation till the statement of these witnesses were recorded, nothing could be collected to indicate how the deceased got burnt. The prosecution alleges that all the three accused persons are liable for causing death of the deceased but there is no evidence that any of the accused had put the deceased to fire.

15. Section 300 IPC provides punishment for culpable homicide which amounts to murder :­  Murder.­­Except in the cases hereinafter  excepted, culpable homicide is murder, if the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death, or­  Secondly­ If   it   is   done   with   the   intention   of   causing   such bodily injury as the offender knows to be likely to cause the death of the person to whom the harm is caused. or­ Thirdly­   If   it   is   done   with   the   intention   of   causing   bodily injury to any person and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, or­   Fourthly­ If the person committing the act knows that it is so imminently dangerous that it must, in all probability, cause death, or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, and commits such act without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such injury as aforesaid.

However, there are certain exceptions to cases where culpable homicide   will   not   be   termed   as   murder.     These   exceptions   are provided in section 300 which are as under:­  Exception   1.­When   culpable   homicide   is   not   murder.­ Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender, whilst deprived of the power of self­ control by grave and sudden provocation, causes the death of the person who gave the provocation or causes the death of any other person by mistake or accident.

Exception 2.­Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender in the exercise in good faith of the right of private defence or person or property, exceeds the power given to him by law and causes the death   of   the   person   against   whom   he   is   exercising   such   right   of defence without premeditation, and without any intention of doing more harm than is necessary for the purpose of such defence.

Exception 3.­Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender, being   a   public   servant   or   aiding   a   public   servant   acting   for   the advancement of public justice, exceeds the powers given to him by law,   and   causes   death   by   doing   an   act   which   he,   in   good   faith, believes to be lawful and necessary for the due discharge of his duty as such public servant and without ill­will towards the person whose death is caused.

Exception   4.­Culpable   homicide   is   not   murder   if   it   is committed   without   premeditation   in   a   sudden   fight   in   the   heat   of passion   upon   a   sudden   quarrel   and   without   the   offender’s   having taken undue advantage or acted in a cruel or unusual manner.

Exception   5.­Culpable   homicide   is   not   murder   when   the person whose death is caused, being above the age of eighteen years, suffers death or takes the risk of death with his own consent.

16.  In   the   present   case,   there   is   nothing   to   indicate   even remotely that the accused persons had put the deceased on fire. The presence of the accused Sushila Devi at the house is doubtful in view of the statement of DW­1. It is pertinent to mention that the statement of a defence witness cannot be treated with any suspicion or doubt unless and until there are circumstances to indicate so. DW­1 has employed Sushila as a domestic help at her house at 218, Narmada Apartments, Alaknanda, New Delhi. She deposed that Sushila had reached at her residence on 04.08.2013 at about 7.30 am and she got a call from her home at about 11­11.30 am and thereafter, she left the house.   In   the   cross­examination   by   the   State,   nothing   could   be extracted from her to raise any doubt on her statement that Sushila was working at her residence on the date and time of incident. So the presence of Sushila Devi could not be proved on the record. There is no witness examined by the prosecution which could suggest that Sushila Devi was present in the house.

17.  Same is with regard to the accused Nokhai. He has deposed that he was not present in house at the time of incident. Although he should have come out with the details as to where he was present at the   time   of   incident   but   his   failure   to   give   such   details   will   not absolve the prosecution to prove his presence at the place of incident on 04.08.2013. Silence of accused is not a substitute for evidence by prosecution. No witness from the neighbour hood had been examined by the IO to prove that the accused Nokhai was also present at the house at the time of incident. PW­23 Insp. Rambir Singh Tomar, IO of the case had admitted that he had not examined any independent witness in this case. So far as the presence of the accused Mithun is concerned,   the   prosecution   evidence   show   that   it   was   accused Mithun, who had brought the injured to the hospital. The prosecution case is that at the time of the visit of SI Rambir Singh Tomar, he had found some burnt matchsticks, some broken bangles and an empty case of matchbox with one empty plastic cane which was smelling of kerosene. If from the presence of these articles like broken bangles, one draw an inference of the presence of accused Mithun at the time of incident it being an indicator of struggle at spot, and a presumption that   the   accused   Mithun   had   put   the   deceased   on   fire,   then   the subsequent conduct of the accused will restrain the court to draw any such presumption. If there was any intention on the part of accused Mithun to cause death of his wife Sita, he would have left his wife unattended in the house. On the contrary, he took the deceased to hospital   for   the   treatment.   So   any   intention   to   cause   death   of deceased   was   absolutely   absent   in   the   present   case.   The   other ingredients of the offence u/s 302 IPC i.e. the knowledge etc. will not be attracted in the case because there is no evidence that the accused Mithun   had   put   the   deceased   on   fire.   Therefore,   I   am   of   the considered   view   that   the   offence   u/s   302   IPC   is   not   established against the accused persons.

18.  Section 304­B is based on a presumption that if a death of a woman had taken place by burn or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of marriage, a presumption of dowry death will be raised provided it is established that soon before her death, the said woman had been subjected to cruelty by her husband or any relative of her husband.

19.  Section 304­B IPC deals with dowry death which reads as follows:

“304­B. Dowry Death­ (1) Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with any demand for dowry, such death shall be called “dowry death” and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.

Explanation – For the purpose of this sub­section ‘dowry’ shall have same meaning as in Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (28 of 1961).

(2)   Whoever   commits   dowry   death   shall   be   punished   with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.”

The provision has application when death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relatives of her husband for, or in connection with any demand for dowry. In order to attract application of Section 304­ B IPC, the essential ingredients are as follows:­

(i) The death of a woman should be caused by burns or bodily injury or otherwise than under a normal circumstance.

(ii)  Such  a  death   should  have  occurred  within  seven   years  of   her marriage.

(iii)She must have been subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband.

(iv) Such cruelty or harassment should be for or in connection with demand of dowry.

(v) Such cruelty or harassment is shown to have been meted out to the woman soon before her death.

20.  Section 113­B of the Evidence Act is also relevant for the case at hand. Section 113­B reads as follows:­ “113B: Presumption as to dowry death­ When the question is whether a person has committed the dowry death of a woman and it is shown that soon before her death such woman has been subjected by such person   to   cruelty   or   harassment   for,   or   in   connection   with,   any demand   for   dowry,   the  Court   shall   presume   that  such   person   had caused the dowry death.

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Explanation – For the purposes of this section ‘dowry death’ shall have the same meaning as in Section 304­B of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).”

21.  Presumption under Section 113­B is a presumption of law. On proof of the essentials mentioned therein, it becomes obligatory on   the   Court   to   raise   a   presumption   that   the   accused   caused   the dowry death. The presumption shall be raised only on proof of the following essentials:

(1) The question before the Court must be whether the accused has committed   the   dowry   death   of   a   woman.   (This   means   that   the presumption can be raised only if the accused is being tried for the offence under Section 304­B IPC).

(2)   The   woman   was   subjected   to   cruelty   or   harassment   by   her husband or his relatives.

(3) Such cruelty or harassment was for, or in connection with any demand for dowry.

(4) Such cruelty or harassment was soon before her death.

22.  A conjoint reading of Section 113­B of the Evidence Act and Section 304­B   IPC shows that there must be material to show that   soon   before   her   death   the  victim   was   subjected   to   cruelty   or harassment. Prosecution has to rule out the possibility of a natural or accidental death so as to bring it within the purview of the ‘death occurring otherwise than in normal circumstances’. The expression ‘soon before’ is very relevant where Section 113­B of the Evidence Act and Section 304­B IPC are pressed into service. Prosecution is obliged to show that soon before the occurrence there was cruelty or harassment and only in that case presumption operates. Evidence in that regard has to be led by prosecution. ‘Soon before’ is a relative  term and it would depend upon circumstances of each case and no strait­jacket 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. The expression ‘soon before her death’ used in the substantive Section 304­B and Section 113­B of the Evidence Act is present with the idea of proximity test. No definite period has been indicated and the expression ‘soon before’ is not defined. A reference to expression ‘soon before’ used in Section 114. Illustration (a) of the Evidence Act is relevant. It lays down that a Court may presume that a man who is in the possession of goods soon after the theft, is either the thief or has  received the goods  knowing them to be stolen, unless he  can account for his possession. The determination of the period which can come within the term ‘soon before’ is left to be determined by the Courts,   depending   upon   facts   and   circumstances   of   each   case. Suffice, however, to indicate that 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 and live­link between the effect of cruelty based on dowry demand and the concerned death. If alleged incident of cruelty is remote in time and has become stale enough not to disturb mental equilibrium of the woman concerned, it would be of no consequence.

23.  At   this   stage,   it   would   be   appropriate   to   look   at   the provision of section 498 IPC. The law is settled that even if charge under section 304­B IPC fails, still a person can be held guilty under section 498­A IPC. The accused here in have also been charged for the offence under section 498­A IPC. Section 498­A reads as follows:

“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  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 to meet such demand.”

24.  The question now before the court is whether the evidence on the record is sufficient to prove that the deceased was subjected to a demand of dowry and subsequently on account of and in connection with   said   demand   of   dowry,   she   was   subjected   to   cruelty   or harassment?

25.  In the case of  Baljeet Singh Vs. State of Haryana AIR 2004 SC 1714, it was observed that the presumption u/s 304­B IPC will   not   be   available   to   the   prosecution   without   it   proving   the required preliminary facts i.e. the deceased was subjected to cruelty and   harassment   “soon   before   her   death”   and   such   cruelty   and harassment was related to demand of dowry.

26.  In   another   case   in  Amar   Singh   Vs.   State   of   Rajasthan AIR 2010 Supreme Court 3391, the Hon’ble Supreme Court was of the view that  mere allegation of  dowry or  harassment will not be sufficient and a mere demand of dowry without any proof of cruelty or harassment for or in connection with any demand of dowry will not be covered u/s 304­B IPC or 498­A IPC.

27.  It means that cruelty and harassment having nexus with the demand   of   dowry   is   to   be   proved   on   the   record   before   the presumption u/s 113­B of Indian Evidence Act and for the offence u/s 304­B IPC can be attracted. Having considered this position of law, I would appreciate the statement of PW­1 Dal Singhar and PW­2 Ram Chander. The salient aspect of the statement of these two witnesses are that the marriage between the accused Mithun and deceased Sita took place in 2010; that after the marriage, the in­laws of deceased Sita started beating her for demanding dowry; that deceased Sita was sent to her parents home but thereafter a compromise took place; that after the matter was compromised, sometime thereafter, the accused demanded a motorcycle, a chain and Rs.7,000/­ and that four months prior to the incident, the accused Mithun allegedly pushed Sita from the   roof.   The   prosecution   was   relying   on   the   statement   of   PW­3 Pushpa Devi to prove that 2­3 days prior to 04.08.2013, deceased Sita was   beaten   by   the   accused   Mithun   and   she   was   taunted   by   her mother­in­law for not knowing how food is prepared. However, PW­ 3 Pushpa Devi did not support the prosecution in this regard. She simply deposed that on 04.08.2013 at about 9.30 am, she had helped the accused Mithun to put his wife Sita in a TSR, who was wrapped in   a   sari.   PW­4   Smt.   Anita   also   did   not   support   the   prosecution though through her the prosecution wanted to prove that Sita used to tell   her   that   her   husband   used   to   beat   her   under   the   influence   of liquor. In the cross­examination, she said that she did not speak to Sita for about one and a half year prior to her death though she told that she used to hear about the quarrel between the deceased and her in­laws. So the statement of PW­3 and PW­4 does not even remotely indicate   any   demand   of   dowry   or   any   cruelty   or   harassment   on account   of   said   demand.   PW­1   and   PW­2   had   stated   about   the demand of dowry but their statements are vague, uncertain and non­ specific and therefore an implicit reliance cannot be placed on their statement to draw any inference of demand of dowry or consequent act of cruelty or harassment. There is no evidence in the statement of PW­1 and PW­2 as to when, how and by whom the demand was made   and   there   is   no   evidence   that   “soon   before   her   death”,   the deceased was subjected to any cruelty on account of dowry demand. The expression “soon before death” has to be considered in the light of surrounding circumstances of the case and this term cannot be put in any time bracket. The incident which PW­1 and PW­2 talk about that four months prior to the incident, accused Mithun had pushed Sita from the roof is too remote in time to fall under the terminology of soon before death. There is no evidence about this incident, no medical report of deceased in this regard has been collected during investigation   nor   there   is   any   police   complaint   of   this   incident. Moreover,   this   incident   even   if   accepted   to   be   correct   and   true, though would amount to harassment or physical cruelty but there is nothing to suggest that this incident was in consequence to demand of dowry.   Therefore,   the   ingredients   of   section   304­B   will   not   be attracted on these allegations.

28.  The allegations of demand of dowry by the accused persons is not substantiated by the prosecution, rather a compromise placed on record by PW­1 as Ex.PW1/A would negate any demand of dowry by the accused persons. This agreement although is a photocopy but has been produced by the prosecution witness during his examination by the prosecution, therefore, it can be read. This document is dated 23.06.2011. The deceased and accused Mithun are signatories of this document amongst others. It refers to certain terms and conditions which were agreed upon between the parties by which they settled their   dispute.   The   terms   and   conditions   of   settlement   are   that whenever   the  child of  Mithun  and  deceased  Sita  would be  ill, he would be taken to doctor with the knowledge of her mother­in­law and husband. Sita would be provided with necessary expenses and whenever she would like to go to her parents home, she will take necessary   permission   from   her   husband   and   mother­in­law.   This compromise letter Ex.PW1/A does not even indicate that the dispute between the deceased and her in­laws was ever related to any demand of dowry or any cruelty or harassment given to her. Had there been any demand of dowry and a consequent harassment and cruelty, there would have been something in this compromise deed with regard to the said demand of dowry and cruelty or harassment to the deceased Sita.   Moreover,   once   matter   was   resolved   between   parties   vide settlement   deed   Ex.PW1/A,   there   can   not   be   any   presumption   of section 113­B in absence of subsequent act of cruelty or harassment. (Ref. Kans Raj Vs. State of Punjab AIR 2000 SC 2324).

29.  For   the   above   reasons,   I   am   of   the  considered  view   that offences under sections 304­B IPC and 498­A IPC are not proved against the accused persons. So far as section 406 IPC is concerned, there is no evidence of any handing over of any dowry articles to the accused persons and any demand from them to return those dowry articles and they having failed to return those articles to the deceased.

30.  Therefore, in view of the above discussion, I have come to conclusion that the prosecution has failed to prove its case against the accused persons for the offences u/s  302/304­B/498­A/406/34 IPC. Accordingly, all the accused are acquitted of these charges. Accused are in custody, they be released if not required in any other case.

31.  They are directed to furnish bail bonds u/s 437­A Cr.P.C.

Announced in the open  court today i.e. 27.11.2017
Addl. Sessions Judge­
South­East, Saket Courts, New Delhi

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