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Unhappiness in Marriage or Suicide will not comes under 498A

Karnataka High Court

State By C.O.D. Police, Anti Dowry …
K. Sridhar

on 31 July, 1999

Bench: M S Veerabhadraiah

M.F. Saldanha

1. We have heard this appeal at considerable length principally because the learned State Public Prosecutor submitted before us that the Trial Court has totally and completely bypassed all those parts of the evidence which clearly indicates that there was a demand for money which was effectively the unpaid dowry amount and that this was the reason for the unhappiness that emanated in the mind of the deceased wife. He has relied principally on the evidence of P.W. 3 in order to demonstrate to us that the reason for the unfortunate suicide was the continuous demand coupled with harassment that is traceable to the accused and that the learned Trial Judge has not accorded due weight to this very important evidence. The learned State Public Prosecutor relies on the position in law because he submits that once the prosecution established that the aspect of dowry was very much in the forefront at the time of the marriage, that despite having demanded and received certain amount of money and other expensive presents that the accused-husband persisted in further demands, that he pressurised and ill-treated the wife with the object of seeing to it that the demands were met and that in view of this continuous pressure that the deceased ultimately put an end to her life. The overall contention was that all the ingredients necessary to establish the charges under Section 498A and Section 304B of the IPC are present in this case and that the acquittal is totally unjustified.

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2. We need to record here that we have taken careful note of the legal submission canvassed and the proposition advanced both of which are upheld as there could be no two opinions about the fact that where there is basic evidence of the demand and receipt of dowry and where the evidence discloses that there were demands which continued after the marriage and allegation that ill-treatment of a serious nature was linked to this demand that not only would the offence under Section 498A be established but that it would in most cases lead up to the more serious offence under Section 304B of the IPC. The Supreme Court has very clearly elucidated the interlinking between these two offences but what we also need to take note of is that the very definition of Section 498A of the IPC and the case law clearly postulates that the evidence of cruelty is required to be established, cruelty of a grave level which is sufficient to seriously jeopardise the mental or physical well-being of the spouse. The law does not contemplate the usual day-to-day misunderstandings or quarrels or minor matrimonial problems which do not have this kind of after-effects and it is this last aspect of the matter that has been uppermost in our minds while evaluating the evidence before us.

3. We agree with the learned State Public Prosecutor that there are overtones of subsequent demands and that there are some incidents such as leaving the girl at her parents’ place and the like, which are relied on by the prosecution as incidents of cruelty of a serious nature. There is also a charge that the accused was friendly with one Meenakshi and that this is also one of the aspects of cruelty vis-a-vis the wife who had reacted seriously to this. That allegation is only in the form of a suggestion and Meenakshi, who was even cited as a witness was not examined. More importantly, what we find on a very minute evaluation of the record is that a review of the incident would undoubtedly disclose some level of unhappiness to the deceased, but in order to establish the criminal offence under either or both of the charges the incidence, gravity and the volume of the cruelty would have to be much higher. All that we can hold is that this material comes dangerously close, but that in its totality, it is not good enough to sustain a conviction under either of the two charges.

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4. We need to deal in passing with the last submission on a point of law canvassed by the learned State Public Prosecutor where he argued that since the defence taken was that the delivery of the first child and the subsequent abortion had taken a heavy toll on the deceased that she was physically in a very low condition which in turn had affected her mind and that in this state of depression, she has committed suicide. The learned State Public Prosecutor submitted that assuming without admitting that the material falls short of being good enough for a conviction under Section 304 of the IPC that the lesser charge under Section 498A of the IPC is certainly sustainable. We have already referred to the close interlinking between these charges which also means that where the lesser of the two charges is established, that the more serious one under Section 304B of the IPC invariably succeeds. The reverse’ is not necessarily true, but is invariably the case. It may be that in a microscopically small number of cases that even if the more serious charge fails that the lesser one would survive, but for this again, independent and strong evidence of serious cruelty is the sine qua non. It is this last ingredient that we find wanting in the present case. After a very careful appraisal and a detailed hearing, we are of the view that a conviction would be impossible and consequently, we refrain from interfering with the order of acquittal.

5. The appeal fails on merits and stands dismissed.

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