Bombay High Court Dhiraj-vs-State Of Maharashtra on 12 January, 2006
Equivalent citations:II (2006) DMC 775
Author: R Chavan
Bench: R Chavan
R.C. Chavan, J.
1. The appellant and his mother were sent for trial by the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Akola before the Court of Sessions at Akola for the alleged commission of an offence punishable under Sections 498-A and 306 of the Penal Code on the following facts.
2. The appellant was married to Savita about four years prior to the incident. In the marriage necessary dowry and gifts were given. It was the prosecution case that after first six months of the marital bliss, Savita was ill treated on account of failure of family of Savita to fulfill the demand of Rs. 5,000 made by the appellant and his mother. Eventually, on 10.5.2003 dead bodies of Savita and her child were noticed on the railway track by railway lineman on whose report an accidental death was registered. On the report by the victim’s sister Sunita an offence was registered and investigation commenced. The dead body of Savita had already been sent for post-mortem examination after drawing inquest. After examining witnesses and completing investigation, charge-sheet was sent to the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Akola who committed the case to the Court of Sessions.
3. The appellants and his mother were charged of the offence punishable under Sections 498-A and 306 r/w 34 of the Penal Code. They pleaded not guilty and hence were put on trial. The prosecution examined five witnesses to bring home guilt of the accused. Upon consideration of the prosecution evidence in the light of defence raised, the learned trial Judge acquitted the appellant’s mother Satyabhamabai, but convicted the appellant for the offence punishable under Sections 498-A and 306 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment for one year and fine of Rs. 500 and rigorous imprisonment for five years and fine of Rs. 1,000. Aggrieved thereby, this appeal has been filed.
4. I have heard the learned Counsel for appellant and the learned A.P.P. for the State.
5. The learned Counsel for the appellant submitted that the evidence on record points to the victims having met with an accidental death while proceeding to the hospital of P.W. 1 Sunita or to the house of victim’s other sister Sujata at village Gurdhi. He points out that there was no evidence of any ill-treatment and the entire story had been cooked up taking advantage of the unfortunate mishap. In order to examine these contentions, the evidence tendered was evaluated with the help of both the learned Counsel. Though P.W. 1 Sunita stated that the appellant had been asking Savita to bring a sum of Rs. 5,000 for opening vegetable business, in the cross-examination she admitted that family of the appellant Dhiraj used to run grocery as well as vegetable business and also that victim Savita herself used to work in the said business. The leaned Counsel further points out that even P.W. 2 Mahendra, victim’s brother, admitted that family of the appellant was financially better off as compared to them. In view of this, according to the learned Counsel for the appellant, it was not open to the prosecution to contend that there was any demand of Rs. 5,000 from the accused.
6. Both P.W. 1 Sunita and P.W. 2 Mahendra stated that in the past Savita had lodged a report for the offence punishable under Section 498-A of the Penal Code and the compromise was reached therein whereafter the parties started residing together. However, no documentary evidence about any such complaint having been made by the victim in the past or any such case being settled by compromise had been tendered, though P.W. 5 P.I Mahajan stated that at their police station earlier a crime was registered against the appellant on the basis of report under Section 498-A of the Penal Code and that he could file copy of the papers relating to the offence. It would have been useful to file those papers in the present case: Without those papers it would be improper to speculate as to what was the nature of the allegations made.
7. It is pertinent to note that P.W. 1 Sunita stated that after the compromise in the earlier case under Section 498-A of the Penal Code, accused behaved fairly with Savita for two years. She stated in the cross-examination that when Savita’s daughter was two years old the appellant had invited all of them to celebrate her birthday about two-three months before the incident. She had also admitted in the cross-examination that whenever she visited the house of Savita, vegetable business used to go on and Savita used to be busy in the said business. Even P.W. 2 Mahendra admitted that after the settlement of earlier case, accused treated Savita fairly. He had stated that at the settlement of the case even Savita had executed a bond of good behaviour just as the accused executed one such bond, indicating that the case had occurred out of discord, rather than one way ill-treatment. Even Mahendra stated that he had attended the birthday of Savita’s daughter about two to three months prior to the incident. Thus, there is every evidence that the couple was going on well and that there was no problem when the unfortunate incident had taken place.
8. P.W. 1 Sunita is serving in a Hospital. She stated that the distance between her place of work and Chikhalpura where the victim was residing was about 1 km. and the distance between railway gate and her hospital is about 15 minutes walk. P.W. 1 Sunita further stated that at the distance of about 10 minutes walk from Chikhalpura, her other sister Sarla used to reside. She stated that her sister Sujata was residing at village Gurdhi.
9. P.W. 3 Himmat, the railway lineman, states that he found dead bodies of a woman and a child on the railway track. He admitted in the cross-examination that distance between Chikhalpura and Gurdhi is about 11/2 hours walk and that people pass by railway line for going to Gurdhi since it takes only 20 minutes. The learned Counsel for the appellant, therefore, submitted that the possibility that victim had taken a shortcut cannot be ruled out. He submitted that the contentions of the learned A.P.P. about reliability of the evidence of P.W. 1 Sunita and P.W. 2 Mahendra about the ill-treatment has to be rejected because these statements about ill-treatment came only after the incident, contrasted with the fact that victim and the appellant were residing happily: for about two years after the compromise that the victim and her husband had celebrated the second birthday of their daughter just two months before the incident.
10. Relying on the decision in Vishwanath Namdeo Shirsat v. State of Maharashtra reported in II (2002) DMC 137 : II (2002) 2002 ALL MR (Cr) 1961, the learned Counsel for the appellant submitted that, this Court held that for the purpose of proof of the offence punishable under Sections 306 and 409-A of the Penal Code, vague statement of witnesses about unfulfilled demands and resultant ill-treatment were not sufficient and that conviction could not be handed down on the basis of such vague statements.
11. In Prabhakar Pandurang Ingole v. State of Maharashtra reported in 2003 ALL MR (Cr) 1530, on which the learned Counsel placed his reliance, this Court held that mere vague allegations of harassment would not amount to abetment of suicide. Harassment must be of such a nature so as to constitute instigation to commit suicide.
12. In Suresh Murlidhar Bhagat v. State of Maharashtra reported in I (2005) DMC 777 : 2004 ALL MR (Cr) 3201, this Court held that since possibility of victim having died accidental death was not ruled out, conviction of the appellant was not tenable.
13. The learned Counsel for the appellant submitted that there is no witness to state that victim was subjected to any ill-treatment on account of failure to comply with any unfulfilled demands. The evidence of ill-treatment came from the communication which P.W. 1 Sunita and P.W. 2 Mahendra claim to have received from the victim. He submited that first, receipt of this communication itself is doubtful. Secondly, for the purpose of proving an offence punishable under Section 498A of the Penal Code, the said communication was inadmissible as dying declaration, in view of the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Gananath Pattnaik v. State of Orissa . In
para 10 of the judgment, the Court had referred to the evidence which had come up for scrutiny in the said case. Just as in the present case, the sister of the victim in the reported decision had said before the Court that whenever, she had gone to see the victim, the victim had complained that she is not well treated by her husband for non-fulfilment of dowry demands. The Court categorically held that such a statement is not admissible in evidence for the offence punishable under Section 498-A of the Penal Code. Therefore, according to the learned Counsel, the entire evidence of P.W. 1 and P.W. 2 would have to be discarded, as not contributing anything to establish the charge of offence punishable under Section 498-A of the Penal Code.
14. As far as abetment to commit suicide is concerned, the learned Counsel rightly submitted that since there is nothing to show that before the unfortunate mishap there was any incident, which provoked the victim to commit suicide, the offence punishable under Section 306 of the Penal Code was not at all established.
15. The sum up of the evidence of P.W. 1 Sunita and P.W. 2 Mahendra shows that parties were residing happily for about two year prior to the incident and had celebrated the birthday of their daughter about two months prior to the incident. Except for the vague and ex post facto allegations, there is nothing to show that the victim was subjected to ill-treatment for any unfulfilled demands. The possibility of there being any demand is doubtful because of the admission that the appellant is already running a grocery and green grocery and that the victim too was working in the said business. There is absolutely no evidence to indicate that prior to her death, there was any incident, which could have led the victim to commit suicide. The evidence of P.W. 1 and P.W. 2 would show that all the siblings resided within a small radius and, therefore, if there was any problem, the victim could have immediately reported to her brother or sisters. The posibility that victim met with an accident has also not been ruled out. The conviction recorded by the learned trial Judge cannot, therefore, be sustained.
16. The appeal is allowed. The conviction and sentence of the appellant for the offence punishable under Sections 498-A and 306 of the Penal Code are set aside and he is acquitted of both these offences.
The appellant be set at liberty forthwith, if, not wanted in any other case.
Fine, if any paid, be returned to him.