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498a acquital : Neighbours and Panchayatdars not examined

Andhra High Court

P. Vasu And Anr.

vs

State Of A.P. on 2 August, 2004

Equivalent citations: I (2005) DMC 753

Bench: P Narayana
JUDGMENT P.S. Narayana, J.

1. A1 and A3 in Sessions Case No. 462 of 1996 on the file of Sessions Judge, Adilabad, aggrieved by the conviction imposed and sentence recorded by the judgment dated 20.8.1997 had preferred the present criminal appeal.

2. Mr. Venugopal, the learned Counsel representing the appellants would submit that A2, the father of A1 and husband of A3 was acquitted of the charges under Sections 498-A and 304-B, I.P.C. But, however, A1 and A3, though were acquitted of the charge under Section 304-B, I.P.C., they were convicted and sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for three years and also pay a fine of Rs. 1,000/- in default to suffer simple imprisonment for a period of two months each for the offence under Section 498-A, I.P.C. The learned Counsel would point out that P.W. 1 is the father of the deceased, P.W. 2 is the mother of the deceased and P.W. 3 is the brother of the deceased. The learned Counsel pointed out several contradictions and would submit that the alleged harassment as spoken by these witnesses will not attract the ingredients of Section 498-A, I.P.C. The learned Counsel also would point out that the learned Sessions Judge having recorded an acquittal as far as Section 304-B, I.P.C. is concerned, on the strength of the selfsame material, the learned Judge erred in convicting A1 and A3 only under Section 498-A, I.P.C. The Counsel also would submit that there is no legally acceptable evidence before the Court to convict these accused. The learned Counsel had taken this Court through the evidence of P.Ws. 1, 2, 3 and also the evidence of P.W. 4 and P.W. 4 surprisingly speaks about A2 and also had pointed out to the evidence of P.W. 9, the investigating officer through whom the contradictions were well proved. The Counsel would submit that A2 had given the report under Section 174, Cr.P.C. the same was altered to Sections 306 and 498-A, I.P.C. by filing alteration memo Ex. P6 and subsequent thereto, charges were framed under Sections 498-A and 304-B, I.P.C. The learned Counsel would submit that the very approach of the learned Sessions Judge is not in proper perspective and hence the appellants are entitled for acquittal.

3. Per contra, the learned Additional Public Prosecutor had pointed out to the relevant portions of the evidence of P.Ws. 2 and 3 in particular, and also had pointed out the findings, which had been recorded by the learned Judge and would contend that it is a fit case, which would have resulted in the conviction under Section 304-B, I.P.C. itself. But, however, inasmuch as acquittal had been recorded at last, the learned Judge thought of imposing some punishment under Section 498-A, I.P.C. The learned Counsel had drawn the attention of this Court to the other evidence available on record and also the findings recorded by the learned Judge.

4. Heard both the Counsel and perused the oral and documentary evidence available on record.

5. The Circle Inspector of Police, Bellampalli, filed a charge-sheet against the accused for the offences under Sections 498-A and 304-B, I.P.C. in Crime No. 36 of 1996 of Tallagurjala Police Station on a complaint given by A2, who was acquitted even by the learned Judge in Crime No. 36 of 1996 under Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Code. It appears subsequent thereto, the same was altered to Sections 306 and 498-A, I.P.C. and ultimately, the charge-sheet was laid under Sections 498-A and 304-B, I.P.C.

6. The story of the prosecution is that A1 is the husband and A2, A3 are the in-laws of the deceased and the marriage of A1 with the deceased had taken place three years back prior to the death of the deceased and at the time of marriage Rs. 20,000/- cash and Rs. 1,500/- towards purchase of wrist watch, fan and bicycle and also Rs. 2,800/- towards gold ring were presented to A1 according to their caste custom. It is also the case of the prosecution that the deceased and A1 led a peaceful life for one year, but, however, the accused began harassing her physically and mentally and they used to pick up quarrels with her even in ordinary matters and she was teased with harsh words referring to her complexion and other things and they were expressing suspicion about her fidelity, and at times the deceased was not even supplied meals. A1 left the deceased at her parents house and during her stay at her parents’ house, she delivered a still born child after operation and the accused were so indifferent and careless towards the deceased and they did not pay even a courtesy call on the deceased, when she was operated during delivery at the hospital. When P.W. 3, the brother of the deceased informed the accused about the delivery after operation, they refused to see her expressing their-ill will by saying that let her die. After the delivery, and 10 or 15 days before her suicide A1 had taken the deceased to his house and the harassment continued as usual. Due to the intolerable harassment and also in view of the pressure for payment of additional dowry, the deceased committed suicide by consuming poison on 2.6.1996 at 10.00 hour. On 3.6.1996, A2 filed a report before the police, Tallagurjala stating that his daughter-in-law died in their garden at about 10.00 hours on 2.6.1996 and he immediately shifted her to Mandamarri Hospital and as per the instructions of Medical Officer, she was shifted to the Government Civil Hospital, Mancherial, where she was declared dead.

7. On the basis of the report, P.W. 9, the then Sub-Inspector of Police, Tallagurjala registered a case in Crime No. 36 of 1996 under Section 174, Cr.P.C. and issued Ex. P5 First Information Report and had taken up investigation and gave requisition to the Mandal Revenue Officer P.W. 7, who conducted inquest over the dead body of the deceased in the presence of P.W. 6 and others and drafted inquest report under Ex. P1. Later P.W. 8, the Medical Officer, Mancherial conducted post-mortem over the dead body of the deceased and issued post mortem report Ex. P2 and he also preserved the viscera of the deceased, which was sent to Forensic Laboratory, Hyderabad for examination and report and Ex. P3 is the Forensic Science Laboratory Report. Later, P.W. 9 Sub-Inspector of Police arrested the accused on 12.6.1996 at 14.00 hours and on interrogation; A1 to A3 admitted their guilt and they were remanded to judicial custody and later, the Circle Inspector of Police had taken up further investigation, verified the investigation done by P.W. 9 and found it on correct lines and after completion of investigation filed the charge-sheet. The Judicial Magistrate of First Class, Asifabad, had taken the case on file as P.R.C. No. 54 of 1996 and inasmuch as the offences are exclusively triable by the Court of Session, the same was committed.

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8. The prosecution had examined P.Ws. 1 to 9 and Exs. P1 to P6 were marked. On appreciation of the evidence available on record, the learned Judge acquitted A2 of all the charges and acquitted A1 and A3 also relating to the charge under Section 304-B, I.P.C. but convicted only A1 and A3 for the offence under Section 498-A, I.P.C. and hence the present appeal.

9. P.W. 1 is the father of the deceased and father-in-law of A1, P.W. 2 is the wife of P.W. 1 and mother of the deceased and P.W. 3 is the elder brother of the deceased. P.Ws. 1 to 3, no doubt, speak about the marriage of the deceased with A1 and giving Rs. 20,000/- of cash and other articles at the time of marriage and later the harassment of deceased by A1 to A3 at their house. P.W. 4 speaks about the coming of P.W. 2, the deceased and another elderly person to his house and making night halt in his house and also informing about A1 and A2 not allowing the deceased to come into the house of the accused as there were some disputes between the deceased on one hand and A1 to A3 on the other and he told them that he will intervene in the matter. P.W. 5 also speaks to the fact that P.W. 2, deceased and another elderly person came to his house and introduced themselves as relatives of A2 and P.W. 2 told him that A2 is not allowing them to come into their house on the ground that some dowry amount is not paid by P.W. 2 and P.W. 2 requested him to intervene in the mater and do justice. But, he suggested them to go to their caste elders for getting the dispute resolved. P.W. 6 speaks about his presence at the time of conducting inquest over the dead body of the deceased and his signing in inquest Panchnama Ex. P1. P.W. 7 is the Mandal Revenue Officer, Mancherial, who had deposed about his conducting of inquest over the dead body of the deceased and preparing inquest report Ex. P1 and his signing in Ex. P1, and subsequently on 8.8.1996 forwarding Ex. P1 a covering letter to the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court, Asifabad. P.W. 8 is the doctor, who had conducted post-mortem over the dead body of the deceased. Post-mortem report is Ex. P2 and Ex. P3 is the Forensic Science Laboratory Report. P.W. 9 is the then Sub-Inspector of Police, who registered the case under Section 174, Cr.P.C. and issued Ex. P5 First Information Report and sent to the Mandal Revenue Officer on the same day and gave requisition to P.W. 7 for conducting inquest over the dead body of the deceased and accordingly on 4.6.1996, P.W. 7 conducted inquest and after recording the statements of. P.Ws. 1 to 3, he altered the section of law from Section 174, Cr.P.C. to Sections 306, and 498-A, I.P.C. and filed alteration memo Ex. P6. Subsequently he had recorded the statements of the accused and arrested the accused on 12.6.1996. P.W. 9 collected the viscera of the deceased from the doctors and sent it to the Forensic Science Laboratory through the Sub-Divisional Police Officer and no receipt of the report from Forensic Science Laboratory under Ex. P3 and after perusal, the doctors gave the final opinion about the cause of death of the deceased and, subsequently, the Circle Inspector of Police had taken to investigation and filed charge-sheet. The learned Judge had recorded reasons in detail commencing from paras 9 to 22 of the judgment in S.C. No. 462 of 1996 and ultimately arrived at a conclusion that the offence under Section 304-B, I.P.C. had not been established and acquitted all the accused and as far as A2 is concerned, the learned Judge recorded acquittal in relation to the offence under Section 498-A, I.P.C. also, but convicted these accused present before this Court as appellants i.e., A1 and A3.

10. The evidence of P.W. 1 is that some dowry was given at the time of marriage and the dowry amount was settled and paid by his wife and his son, and his daughter lived in the house of the accused happily for a period of six months. After six months, A1 to A3 started harassing his daughter and when his daughter was pregnant, A1 brought his daughter to his house and left in his house. For about one year, the deceased was in his house and the deceased delivered a still-born child. After about one year, his deceased daughter along with his wife and another person Narsaiah went to the house of the accused and his deceased daughter was not allowed to come into the house by the accused and a Panchayat was held at Sallur village in the presence of Krupaiah and some other caste elders. P.W. 1 also attended that Panchayat and the elders decided in the said Panchayat that his deceased daughter should live in the house of the accused and should lead marital life with A1 and after that, A1 to A3 came to their house. After taking food, the accused took his daughter to their house and they again lived happily for three months and again, the deceased became pregnant. After about five months of the Panchayat, they got information about the death of the deceased. On receipt of information, P.W. 1 and his family members had gone to the house of the accused and found the dead body and they found contusion injury marks on left abdomen region and left collar region and they came to know that the deceased died due to consuming pesticides.

11. The evidence of this witness (P.W. 1) is not so material on the aspect of harassment. At the best, he speaks about the Panchayat and what he came to know about what had happened.

12. P.W. 2 is the mother of the deceased, who speaks about the details and she also deposed that when her deceased daughter was pregnant, A3 stopped providing food to her deceased daughter and A3 did not attend her deceased daughter when she suffered stomach-ache and all these things were told by her daughter prior to her death. It is needless to say that what had been spoken by the deceased to P.W. 2 may be in the nature of hearsay and the same is not admissible. No doubt, this witness has deposed in detail all the other events and she also deposed about the incident which had happened and which was informed by her son. It is needless to say that this is also hearsay evidence. But, however, the relevant portion of the evidence of P.W. 2 is that A1 to A3 did not care much for her deceased daughter and after about three months of the delivery, P.W. 2, her deceased daughter and an elderly person by name Narsaiah had gone to the house of A1 to A3 and after reaching the house of A1 to A3, and when her deceased daughter entered the house and wanted to drink some water, A3 did not allow her daughter to enter into the house and after sending the deceased out locked the house from outside and A3 did not allow her deceased daughter on the ground that her deceased daughter underwent operation and that her deceased daughter was not able to do any work and, meanwhile, A1 reached there and A1 was angry with her deceased daughter as to why her deceased daughter did not come back all these days. A1 was about to beat her deceased daughter with a stick and Narasaiah who came with them intervened and convinced A1. A2 was not there on that day. A1 and A3 did not allow them to enter into their house and they waited till evening. She had taken shelter in the house of one Rajalingu at their village. On the following day, her deceased daughter again went to the house of A1 to A3 and told A2 about the attitude and ill-treatment of A1 and A3. But, A2 kept quiet. After that, they returned to the village. After two months, her deceased daughter, herself and her elder son-in-law by name Ramaswamy again went to the house of A1 to A3. A1 to A3 asked her to discuss the matter with the sister of A1, who is at Sallur village. A Panchayat was convened at Sallur village. Some caste elders were mediators. It was decided at the Panchayat that they should pay Rs. 15,000/- to A1 and A1 should lead married life with the deceased. On the following day, A1 to A3 came to their house and had taken her daughter to their house. At that time, they had also given Rs. 15,000/- as decided in the Panchayat. Subsequent thereto, when they had gone to bring back their daughter to their house for staying for some days, A2 and A3 had not allowed her deceased daughter to come to their house and after two months, her elder son Krupaiah went to the house of A1 to A3 and brought the deceased daughter. The deceased daughter, stayed with them for about 13 days and returned and at that time she was pregnant for the second time and after 13 days, A1 came and took her deceased daughter with him and they requested A1 to look after the deceased well as she was pregnant and after one year, on one day, they got information from the sister of A1 from Sallur about the death of the deceased and then they had gone there. She was cross-examined at length and certain material omissions had been put up to this witness, which were also proved through the investigating officer. P.W. 3 is the brother of the deceased, who also no doubt in detail had spoken about the Panchayat by caste elders at Sallur village and also the events, which had happened and what had been informed to the other family members and what had transpired. But, however, in the cross-examination, this witness admitted that they had not conducted any Panchayat regarding the ill-treatment of the deceased and the payment of additional amount to the accused.

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13. P.W. 4 is the witness who deposes that about more than one year back, P.W. 2, deceased and another elderly person came to their house and on that day, they made night halt in their house and they informed him that A2 is not allowing the deceased to come into the house of the accused and there were some disputes between the deceased on one hand and A1 to A3 on the other. He told them that he would intervene in the matter. On the following morning, at about 4.00 a.m., those three persons went back to their village. After some days, he came to know that the deceased died by consuming some poisonous substance.

14. The evidence of P.W. 5 also is that he knows P.W. 2 and about two years back on a day, P.W. 2, deceased and another elderly person came to their house and introduced themselves as relatives of A2 and P.W. 2 informed him that A2 was not allowing them to come into their house. P.W, 2 requested him to intervene in the matter but he suggested to go to their caste elders for resolving the said dispute.

15. P.W. 6 is the mediator for conducting inquest over the dead body of the deceased and he was called by the Mandal Revenue Officer and he had spoken about the details.

16. P.W. 7 is the Mandal Revenue Officer, who had spoken about the requisition report of the police while conducting inquest and other details about the inquest Panchnama.

17. P.W. 8 is the doctor who had conducted post-mortem examination over the dead body. P.W. 9 is the Sub-Inspector of Police, who had deposed about the receipt of complaint from A2 marked as Ex. P.4. He also deposed about the registration of Crime No. 36 of 1996. Ex. P.5 is the First Information Report and on the same day, he gave requisition to the Mandal Revenue Officer for conducting inquest over the dead body and P.W. 7 conducted inquest under Ex. P.1. He examined and recorded the statements of P.Ws. 1 to 3 on the same day and subsequent thereto, he altered the section of law from 174, Cr.P.C. to Sections 306 and 498-A, I.P.C. and filed the alteration memo and subsequently, he examined and recorded statements of other witnesses and he arrested A1 to A3 on 12.6.1996 and interrogated them. In the cross-examination, he had deposed that in the statements recorded, the said witnesses have stated that they reached Mancherial on 3.6.1996 but he has not seen them. No complaint was given by P.Ws. 1 to 3. It is not true to suggest that P.Ws. 1 to 3 gave some reports at Mancherial and that he had suppressed the same. This witness also denied the suggestion that he did not examine any witness and did not record any statement on 4.6.1996 and that the statements were subsequently prepared to suit the case P.W. 7 prepared Ex. P.1 at their instance. This witness also deposed that he had not examined any neighbours of the accused and he had not examined Krupaiah and Narasaiah. This witness also deposed that P.W. 2 did not state before him to the effect that Rs. 40,000/- was given as dowry. He also deposed that P.W. 2 did not state before him to the effect that A3 was not providing food to the deceased while the deceased was pregnant and also to the effect that A3 did not attend when deceased suffered stomach-ache. This witness also deposed that it is true that P.W. 2 did not state before him that A1 informed P.W. 2 about not providing of food by A3 to the deceased. It is true that P.W. 2 did not state before him that A3 did not allow P.W. 2 and the deceased to enter into the house of the accused. It is true that P.W. 2 did not state before him to the effect that Rs. 15,000/- being paid by the deceased to A1 to A3, as per the decision in the Panchayat. It is true that P.W. 2 did not state before him to the effect that if A1 is married to some other girl, A3 would have got Rs. 1,50,000/- towards dowry. It is true that P.W. 2 did not state before him to the effect that regarding the payment of Rs. 15,000/- to the accused. It is true that P.W. 3 did not state before him that the deceased complained P.W. 3 about the payment of dowry by A1 to A3. It is true P.W. 3 did not state before him that the deceased complained P.W. 3 about the harassment and beating by A1 to A3. It is true P.W. 4 had not stated before him that A2 had not allowed the deceased to enter into the house due to some disputes regarding dowry. It is true that P.W. 5 did not state before him that the deceased and P.W. 2 started that A2 was not allowing them to enter into their house and, no doubt, he had denied the suggestion that he had foisted a false case against A1 to A3. This is the nature of evidence which is available on record.

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18. It is a case where originally the crime was registered under Section 174, Cr.P.C. and subsequently altered to Sections 306 and 498-A of I.P.C. but, subsequently charge-sheet was lodged under Section 304B and Section 498-A, I.P.C.

19. Section 498-A, I.P.C. reads as hereunder:

“498-A. 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 healthy (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.”

While dealing with Section 498-A and Section 306 of I.P.C., the Apex Court in Giridhar Shankar Tawade v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 2002 Supreme Court 2078, held that the charges under Section 306, I.P.C. and 498-A, I.P.C. are independent of each other, and, therefore, acquittal of accused under Section 306, I.P.C. would not entail acquittal under Section 498-A, I.P.C. This Court in Ch. Narender Reddy v. State of A.P., I (2002) DMC 780 (SC)=II (2002) CCR 177 (SC)=III (2002) SLT 447=2002(2) ALT (Crl.) 409. had explained the meaning of “cruelty” for the purpose of Section 498-A, I.P.C.

20. If the evidence available on record is carefully crystallized, it will boil down to the harassment to the effect that the deceased was prevented from entering into the house. The deceased was not even provided with water. She was not looked after well. She was not provided with food and she was not attended when she had undergone operation and there were certain, disputes relating to which a Panchayat was held and the caste elders decided payment of an amount of Rs. 15,000/- and the same amount was paid and the deceased was taken again by the accused to their house. Most of the evidence available on record is more in the form of hearsay what the deceased had communicated to these witnesses. The only evidence available is that at a particular point of time, they informed P.Ws. 4 and 5 as to what actually happened and how A2 prevented them from entering into the house and no doubt as far as this incident is concerned, direct evidence is available on record. But, however, the evidence of P.Ws. 4 and 5 is not clear on the aspect. None of the neighbours were examined. Apart from this aspect of the matter, it is pertinent to note that none of the persons concerned with the Panchayat had been examined. The crucial aspect which would suggest that there would have been harassment in relation to demand of some additional dowry, i.e., payment of Rs. 15,000/- is the evidence of those witnesses and the Panchayatdars, caste elders would be the proper independent witnesses to speak about the same. Those witnesses were not examined and the other independent witnesses relating to the other events also had not been examined. Except the testimony of P.Ws. 2 and 3, the mother and brother of the deceased, there is no other evidence available on record. On such a scant evidence, it would be totally unjustified to convict A1 and A3 under Section 498-A of I.P.C. since the ingredients of the said provision are not satisfied specially in the light of the fact that on the same set of facts an acquittal had been recorded relating to the main charge under Section 304-B, I.P.C.

21. For the aforesaid reasons, this Court is of the considered opinion that the prosecution was unable to establish the guilt of A-1 and A-3 in relation to Section 498-A, I.P.C. also and hence, the appellant-accused are entitled for an acquittal. Accordingly, the appeal is hereby allowed and the bail bonds shall stand cancelled.

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