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498a/304b discharge on suspicion vs Grave suspicion

Delhi High Court
Sarbans Singh And Ors.
State Of Nct Of Delhi on 18 January, 2005
Equivalent citations: 2005 CriLJ 2625, 116 (2005) DLT 698, I (2005) DMC 305, 2005 (79) DRJ 542

JUDGMENT Manju Goel, J.

1. The petitioners have been charged for offences under Sections 498A/304B of the Indian Penal Code. The deceased got married to petitioner No. 3, Charanjit Singh, on 26.3.2000. She committed suicide on 26.5.2000. The FIR was registered on the statement of Sohan Singh Gujral, the father of the deceased, which was recorded by Shri Shamim Akhtar, SDM on 29.5.2000. He narrates in the statement that Sarabjeet was married to Charanjit and thereafter she went with her husband on a honeymoon to Dalhousie; thatharanjit brought her back to Jabalpur on 6.4.2000 so that she could take her B.Ed. examinations; that Sarabjeet left Jabalpur, the deceased parents’ house asking her to secure good marks in her examination; that Sarabjeet stayed there till 13.5.2000 anduring this period Charanjit used to call her up but Sarabjeet remained sad; that on enquiry she kept saying that they were making demands and were not able to adjust with her; that on 12.5.2000 Charanjit came to take her back and Sarabjeet although not wlling to go back went with her husband on the advice of her father; that on 16.5.2000 at 11.30 p.m. Sarabjeet told me on phone that “they” were making demands but did not answer all the questions properly and that on 26.5.2000 at 6.30 p.m. the father ofarabjeet, petitioner No. 1 herein, called me up and told me that Sarabjeet was not well; on reaching on 27.5.2000 at night he was told by her sister, who lived in Delhi, that she had seen the body of Sarabjeet and that she had been strangulated and had ben hung. A suicide note was shown to me by IO Babu Lal.

2. The mother of the deceased also made a statement on 29.5.2000 before the S.D.M. in which she makes a specific allegation that the petitioners were asking for a Maruti car and that the deceased feared that unless the Maruti car was given she would be kiled by the petitioners. The mother further stated before the SDM that the deceased used to remain depressed and even in her sleep she used to talk about her fear of being killed unless the Maruti car had been given.

3. The learned trial court on the basis of these two statements framed charges under Sections 498A/304B of the Indian Penal Code. The impugned order says that the accused had relied upon the suicide note on which no allegation of any kind had been made against the petitioners. The charge was, however, made as the learned trial court found that the statements of witnesses and documents brought on record provided sufficient material for framing of charge.

4. In the revision petition the petitioners have raised several grounds for challenging the impugned order. It has been pointed out that the E-mails exchanged between the deceased and her husband which express deep love between the two have not been takeninto account by the learned trial court. These, E-mails and letters, it is stated at the bar by Mr. K.T.S. Tulsi, Senior Advocate appearing for the petitioners, and not disputed by the state, were seized by the investigation and have been placed on the chalan file. It is further pointed out here that the statements of the mother of the deceased was self-contradictory and that the statement of the father of the deceased was vague. The suicide note itself stated that she committed suicide because she was no proving to be a good wife and that the members of the petitioners’ family have been cordial towards her. The E-mails and letters together with the suicide note, Mr. Tulsi submits, showed that the deceased was not prepared for a matrimonial knot and could not adjust and find herself in the new surroundings of the matrimonial home and, therefore, went into depression.

5. Before going to the law cited by the learned counsel for the petitioners, it will be appropriate to have a look at the contents of the E-mails and letters and to the suicide note. The handwriting of the suicide note has been established by forensic labratory and there is no doubt that the document is genuine. The note is rather long. It narrates that she married in March, 2000 and that she had become somewhat different (ajeeb) and that she did not know why she had become like that. She says that her bain has been asking her to commit suicide. She has expressed her regrets for not possessing the good virtues of a woman and that she is unable to look after either her husband or her in-laws. She specifically says that her in-laws have not caused her any harassment on any count and that her death be treated as merely a suicide. There is a post script again asserting her request that the members of the family may not be harassed on account of her suicide.

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6. The translated version of suicide note is extracted below for a complete understanding of state of mind that is revealed by the note:

“I was married on 26th March, 2000. Ever since that day, I am not feeling normal. I do not know the reason. In spite of being a woman, I am not able to fulfilll the responsibilities of a woman. I do not know what has come over me. I am committing suicide because my mind tells me to do this. The members of this house are very good. But I am not feeling as if I am a woman. My husband is a very nice man. But I am not up to him. I do not want that after my death, anybody should trouble the members of this house. I simply sit idle the whole day. I am left with no emotions or feelings. There is neither any happiness within me nor any grief. I cannot live like this. I am not able to take care of my husband nor anyone else. My heart as well as my mind is not able to accept this change. Maybe it is natural that immediately after marriage, a woman is able to adjust to her matrimonial home but I am not able to do it. I have become shameless. If I go to my parents home at Jabalpur, still there won’t be any solution. I have not suffered anything at the hands of my in-laws. Therefore, no one should trouble them and this should be considered as a suicide. My real name is Sahanubhooti (Sannu) but I am known here as Sarabjeet. Please don’t trouble the family members.”

7. Apart from this suicide note there is another letter addressed by her to her parents dated 19.5.2000 which translated into English stands as under:

“Dearest Mummyji and Daddyji I am committing suicide. Because I am not able to follow your footsteps. I know you and Daddyji would feel very sad. But I do not have any other option. I do not want to live. I am not able to fulfilll my duties. Therefore, I am dying.”

1. The E-mails and letters show frequent communication between the husband and wife. Apart from the daily casual affairs these E-mails and letters express her discomfort in new matrimonial home. For example in the letter dated 17.4.2000 she says “You must be thinking what kind of girl you have married. But when I come close and other members of the family I became nervous, I don’t know why? I wanted to say something I say something else. My mind stops working.”

2. In the letter dated 25.4.2000 she says, inter alia, “Your e-mail is great help for me. You are helping me a lot.” and then “Yes only few days are left for me to come to Delhi. I am afraid as well as anxious to meet you and everybody at home. I think tis time I will cry a lot”. In her letter dated 26th April, 2000 she says “I am fine here. Most of the time I was not in senses. I don’t understand what to say. In these days of separation I try to understand the relationship between husband an wife. I will always be there with you. I love you and will always love you….. I am also counting the days and now I am mentally prepared.”

3. It is not necessary to narrate all the E-mail messages here because they are of the same quality. There is no mention in any of these communications of there being any unhappiness on her part on account of behavior of any of the petitioners.

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4. The question that arises is whether in view of the statements of the parents of the deceased alone charge can be framed by overlooking the other evidence including the suicide note which also is a part of material placed on the record by the prosecutioitself.

5. What emerges prima facie is as under:-

a) The prosecution is utterly dependent on two statements, namely, that of the father and that of the mother of the deceased. The two statements do not corroborate each other. The father’s statement vaguely says that the accused used to have demands. The words `demands’ have not been clarified in any way. The father does not mention any torture. The mother, on the other hand, makes a specific statement of a demand regarding the Maruti car and her daughter’s apprehension of being killed unless the Maruti car was given.

b) The suicide note exonerates the accused and even makes a specific request not to harass them on account of her death.

c) The relationship between the deceased and the her husband during the brief period between the marriage and the death was loving, if the E-mails exchanged between the deceased and the her husband have any weight.

d) The E-mails as well as the suicide note show that the deceased had something in her mind which disturbed her on account of which she felt that she was not being able to prove a good wife and that made her sad.

6. The total evidence so far discussed above is all collected by the investigation itself. The entire thing has to be placed before trial court and when the totality of the circumstances is seen the prima facie case that emerges is one of innocence and noof guilt. The facts of this case appear to be very similar to those in the case of Gurcharan Kumar and Anr. v. State of Rajasthan . In that case the suicide note of the woman who died within 2-1/2 months of her marriageid not contain any statement which could be used against the accused, the several letters written by her to the mother, sister and friends also produced by the prosecution did not show that the woman was being subjected to cruelty or harassment in connecion with any demand of dowry. On the contrary, the letters indicated that she was receiving love and affection in her matrimonial home. Despite the fact that the father, mother and sister of the deceased were produced in support of the prosecution, the cse resulted in acquittal.

7. On behalf of the prosecution, Ms. Richa Kapoor, places reliance on the Supreme Court judgment in Munna Devi v. State of Rajasthan and Anr. Reported as 2001(8) Supreme 172 to argue that once the trial court has framed a charge the High Court cannot appreciate the evidence in the manner as in trial and interfere in the framing of charge. Similarly in Omwati (Smt.) and Anr. v. State, Through Delhi Admn., and Ors. reported as 2001 SCC (Crl.) 685 the High Courts have been discouraged from interfering at the stage of charge. None of the two judgments, however, holds that the High Court does not have the revisional power over an order of charge. Only this power has to be exercised with caution.

8.The judgment in the case of Ram Kumar Laharia v. State of M.P. and Anr. reported as 2001 SCC (Crl.) 375 is on its own peculiar facts. The judgment in the case of Tuncay Alankus and Anr. etc. etc. v. Union of India and etc. reported as 2000 Crl. Law Journal 3280 of this High Court is cited to argue that when material collected show strong suspicion to form a presumptive opinion as to the existence of the factual ingredients constituting an alleged offence, it would be appropriate to frame a chare. Another judgment of this court cited by the prosecution is in the case of Romesh Sharma v. State reported as 2001 I AD (Crl.) DHC 304 which also shows that circumstances showing grave suspicion against the accused would be sufficient to frame a charg. Another judgment cited by the prosecution is State of M.P. v. S.B. Johari and Ors. etc. reported as 2000(1) Crimes 165 (SC) is also on its own peculiar facts in which the Supreme Court has set aside the judgment of the High Court of M.P. in discharging aaccused.

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9.The law on the point as to when an accused can be discharged or can be charged in situation where contradictory evidence is on record has been best laid down in the case of Union of India v. Prafulla Kumar Samal and Anr. .

9. After examining all the pros and cons the following guideline has been laid down in para 10 of the judgment which can be extracted with profit:-

“10. Thus, on a consideration of the authorities mentioned above, the following principles emerge:

(1) That the Judge while considering the question of framing the charges under Section 227of the Code has the undoubted power to sift and weigh the evidence for the limited purpose of finding out whether or not a prima facie case against the accused hasbeen made out.

(2) Where the materials placed before the Court disclose grave suspicion against the accused which has not been properly explained the Court will be fully justified in framing a charge and proceeding with the trial.

(3) The test to determine a prima facie case would naturally depend upon the facts of each case and it is difficult to lay down a rule of universal application. By and large however if two views are equally possible and the Judge is satisfied that the evidence produced before him while giving rise to some suspicion but not grave suspicion against the accused, he will be fully within his right to discharge the accused.

(4) That in exercising his jurisdiction under Section 227 of the Code the Judge which under the present Code is a senior and experienced court cannot act merely as a post office or a mouthpiece of the prosecution, but has to consider the broad probabilities of the case, the total effect of the evidence and the documents produced before the Court, any basic infirmities appearing in the case and so on. This however does not mean that the Judge should make a roving enquiry into the pros and cons of the mattr and weigh the evidence as if he was conducting a trial.

10. The first thing that this judgment gives us is an assurance that the court has the power to sift and weigh the evidence although for the limited purpose of finding out whether a prima facie case against the accused has been made out. What is a prima fcie case, the judgment again says, would naturally depend upon the facts of each case and then it proceeds to say that if two views are equally possible and the Judges are satisfied that the evidence produced before him while giving rise to some suspicio but does not raise grave suspicion against the accused, he will be fully within his right to discharge the accused. If these two principles are put to work in this case, then the decision has to go in favor of the accused. The fact of sifting and weighing of evidence has been done in paragraph 12 above. The prima facie case has emerged in favor of the accused rather than in favor of the prosecution. This case is better than the two equally possible views. I am not able to pursuade myself with the plea of the prosecution that it gives rise to grave suspicion against the accused, although in view of the statement of the mother of the deceased some suspicion can arise. Finally, the judgment says that the Court is not merely a post office or mouth-peace of the prosecution but has to consider the broad probabilities before the court, any basic infirmity appearing in the case and so on. The guidelines given by the Supreme Court in the case of Prafulla Kumar (Supra) requires that the petitioners to be discarged. Accordingly I allow the revision petition and set aside the order framing charge and discharge the petitioners.

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