Madras High Court Murugesa Pandian-vs-State By Inspector Of Police on 2 February, 2010
THE HONOURABLE MRS.JUSTICE ARUNA JAGADEESAN
State by Inspector of Police
Tirupur South Police Station
Tirupur, Coimbatore District Respondent
Prayer:- This Criminal Appeal is filed against the judgement dated 8.1.2003 passed in SC.No.343/2002 by the learned Sessions Judge, Mahila Court, Coimbatore convicting and sentencing the appellants for the offence under Section 498A of IPC to undergo three years of Rigorous Imprisonment each and to pay a fine of Rs.10,000/- each, in default to undergo Simple Imprisonment for six months each. For Appellant : Mr.C.D.Johnson for
For Respondent : Mr.Hasan Mohammed Jinnah, APP
This Criminal Appeal is filed against the judgement dated 8.1.2003 passed in SC.No.343/2002 by the learned Sessions Judge, Mahila Court, Coimbatore convicting and sentencing the appellants for the offence under Section 498A of IPC to undergo three years of Rigorous Imprisonment each and to pay a fine of Rs.10,000/- each, in default to undergo Simple Imprisonment for six months each.
2. The case of the Prosecution is as follows:-
a. The 1st Appellant/A1 is the husband of the deceased Kavitha and the Appellants 2 and 3/A2 and A3 are the parents of the 1st Appellant. The marriage between the deceased Kavitha and A1 took place on 22.11.2001 and they were living jointly at Door No.1, Muniappan Koil Street, Mettupalayam, Tiruppur for few months and thereafter, the deceased and A1 were living separately at Hudco, Mudalipalayam, Tiruppur. PW.1 Karuppammal is the mother of the deceased. PW.2 Gunasundari is the sister of the deceased and PW.3 is the brother of the deceased. The parents of the deceased were living at No.18, Chettiar Thottam, Sengundarapuram, Tirupur. At the time of marriage, the deceased was given a sum of Rs.10,000/- along with house hold articles. The Appellants harassed and tortured the deceased by demanding a sum of Rs.5000/- from her parents. But, PW.1 could give only Rs.1000/- through her son PW.3. The Appellants scolded her for not getting the money as demanded by the Appellants and the deceased was slapped by her husband and one Manikandan threatened the deceased and her brother PW.3 with an aruval. The deceased was brought back to her parental home. The 1st Appellant is said to have given a complaint to the police and thereafter, she was sent to the matrimonial home. In the meanwhile, quarters was allotted to the first Appellant and the 1st Appellant and the deceased had shifted to the said quarters. Again the 1st Appellant demanded a cash of Rs.2500/- to meet the expenses of shifting the house, which was agreed to be given. As the 1st Appellant had to go out of stations, he asked PW.1 to take the deceased and keep her with her for one day. Accordingly, the deceased was brought to PW.1’s house and she was found in a depressed mood. When PW.1 enquired with her, she appeared to have stated that the 1st Appellant was harassing her after consuming liquor. While the deceased was in her sister’s house which is nearby, she had committed suicide by hanging on 21.4.2002. According to the Prosecution, unable to tolerate the torture and harassment meted out to her, the deceased had committed suicide by hanging. On being suspected that the deceased was harassed and not properly treated by the Appellants, PW.1 had gone to the Tirupur South Police Station and gave the complaint Ex.P1. b. PW.8 the Head Constable attached to the said Police Station on receipt of Ex.P1, registered a case in Cr.No.621/2002 for the offence under Section 174 of Code of Criminal Procedure and prepared FIR Ex.P8 and sent the copies of the same to the concerned Revenue Divisional Officer and the officials. c. PW.7 the Revenue Divisional Officer on receipt of the FIR on 22.4.2002 conducted inquest at the Government Hospital, Tiruppur and examined the witnesses and panchayatars and recorded their statements and sent a requisition to the Superintendent of Police for further investigation and Ex.P5 is the inquest report. d. PW.6 Dr.Shanthi attached to the Government Hospital, Tirupur on receipt of the requisition from the Sub Collector, Tirupur on 22.4.2002 conducted postmortem on the body of the deceased and opined in the post mortem report Ex.P4 that the deceased died of injuries due to hanging about 23 to 26 hours prior to autopsy. e. PW.8 Additional Superintendent of Police on receipt of Ex.P8 took up the case for further investigation and went to the place of occurrence and prepared a rough sketch Ex.P9 and prepared observation mahazar in the presence of the witnesses and seized the saree Mo.1 in the presence of the witnesses and examined the witnesses and recorded their statements and altered the case into one under Section 304B of IPC under Ex.P10 alteration report and sent the same to the concerned court and on 25.4.2002 arrested the 1st Appellant and on 30.4.2002 the Appellants 2 and 3 and sent them for judicial custody and after completing investigation, filed a final report against the accused under Section 498A and 304B of IPC.
3. The case was taken on file in SC.No.343/2002 by the learned Sessions Judge, Mahila Court, Coimbatore and necessary charges were framed. In order to substantiate the charges levelled against the accused, the prosecution examined as many as 9 witnesses (PW.1 to PW.9} and also relied on Exs.P1 to P10 and one material object (Mo.1). On the side of the defence, two witnesses were examined as Dw.1 and 2 and Ex.D1 was marked.
4. On completion of the evidence on the side of the prosecution, the accused were questioned under Section 313 Cr.PC as to the incriminating circumstances found in the evidence of prosecution witnesses and the accused denied the same as totally false.
5. The court below, after hearing the arguments advanced on either side and looking into the materials available on record, found the accused/appellants guilty only under Section 498A of IPC and awarded punishments as referred to above. However, the Trial Court acquitted the Appellants for the offences punishable under Section 304B of IPC and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. The Appellants have challenged the said conviction in this Criminal Appeal.
6. This court heard the submissions of the learned counsel on either side and also perused the material records placed.
7. Mr.C.D.Johnson, the learned counsel for the Appellants strenuously contended that the Prosecution witnesses PWs.1 to 4, who are related to the deceased have made substantial improvements and embellishments in their testimonies and their evidence would clearly indicate that their intention was to implicate the Appellants falsely and therefore, no reliance can be placed on such evidence to sustain conviction under Section 498A of IPC. The learned counsel would submit that the Trial Court having disbelieved the evidence regarding the demand of dowry and the alleged cruelty meted out to the deceased on account of such demand ought not to have convicted the Appellants under Section 498A of IPC on the same unreliable evidence. The learned counsel took the court to the entire evidence of those witnesses and pin pointed that they have not stated many vital things during the investigation.
8. According to the Prosecution, the husband and in-laws of the deceased pressurised the deceased to get money from her mother and when their demand could not be met, asked the deceased to give her jewels which was declined by the deceased at the instance of the mother of the deceased. It is stated that the Appellants demanded a cash of Rs.5000/- from the deceased, but PW.1 could arrange only Rs.1000/- and sent the money through her son PW.3 along with the deceased. But, the Appellants scolded her for not getting the money as demanded by the Appellants. PW.1 would state that the deceased was slapped by her husband and one Manikandan threatened the deceased and her brother PW.3 with an aruval and on seeing the unhappy atmosphere the deceased was brought back to PW.1’s house. It is the case of the Prosecution that the deceased and the 1st Appellant shifted to the quarters allotted by his Company. It is stated that again the 1st Appellant demanded Rs.2500/- and PW.1 had promised to pay the amount on the next day. However, the 1st Appellant telephoned to PW.1’s house to have the deceased in their house till he returned from out stations as he had to be away on account of his Company’s work. It appears from the evidence that the deceased was in her sister’s house in a depressed mood and when her sister PW.2 and her husband was away, the deceased had committed suicide by hanging.
9. On going through the evidence of PWs.1 to 4, it is clearly seen that many of the above said allegations have not been stated by them to the investigating officer at the time of the investigation and stated before the court for the first time. In the complaint given by PW.1 nearly after five hours of the occurrence, the only allegations that were made are that the Appellants asked the deceased to give her jewels and she refused. The deceased had handed over the jewels to her mother who was retaining it with her. On account of that, there had been a quarrel and her in-laws said to have scolded her. After they shifted to the separate house on 20.4.2002, the mother of the deceased was informed through phone to have the deceased with her for one day as he had to go out of station. It has been further stated that PW.1 brought the deceased to her house and she was informed by the deceased that her husband was quarreling with her under the influence of alcohol. It is stated by her that once the deceased consumed heavy doze of pills and she was admitted in the hospital and was given treatment. On 21.4.2002, when PW.2 and her husband had been to their Company, the deceased was in their house and in the evening at about 4.15 p.m. she was informed by PW.2’s husband about the suicide committed by the deceased.
10. The only allegation that was made in the complaint is that the Appellants had demanded the jewels of the deceased, but she refused and gave it to her mother for safe custody. This had irritated the Appellants and it appears that they have quarreled with the deceased. The other allegation is that the deceased had told PW.1 that the 1st Appellant was quarreling with her frequently after consuming alcohol. PW.1 had only complained in Ex.P1 report that the in-laws of the deceased did not treat her properly that had driven her daughter to commit suicide.
11. In the evidence of PW.1 to 4, it is found that there are material omissions which has been elicited in their cross examination and they had been confronted with all such statements with suggestion that no such material statements were made by them at the time of the investigation. Though they denied to such suggestion, but it is seen that they have not stated certain relevant aspects at the time of the investigation. Through PW.8, the Head Constable who registered the FIR, it is elicited that there were material omissions relating to the instances cited by the witnesses and it transpires from the FIR that the jewels that were given to the deceased were kept back by PW.1. Further, she had intervened in the matrimonial life of her daughter which had resulted in lodging of complaint by the 1st Appellant before shifting to a separate house.
12. There is no indication in the evidence that the 1st Appellant used to consume alcohol daily or frequently and subjected the deceased to ill-treatment. The evidence adduced by the Prosecution is not only sufficient to hold that the deceased was subjected to harassment or ill-treated by the Appellants, but also is sketchy to prove that the deceased was harassed due to demand of dowry. A demand for money on account of some financial stringency or for meeting some urgent domestic expenses or demand of jewels for some purposes cannot be termed as a demand for ‘dowry’ as defined under Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.
13. In the present case, even assuming that there was some demand for money, that too some time back, long before her commission of suicide on account of some financial stringency, it cannot be said that there was harassment or cruelty inflicted on the deceased for dowry. Indisputably, the deceased and the 1st Appellant were living separately and there is no evidence about the participation of the Appellants 2 and 3 in the matrimonial affair of the deceased prior to the commission of suicide. DW.1 a private Doctor has given treatment to the deceased for epilepsy and his evidence is very significant. He has stated as below:-
VERNACULAR (TAMIL) PORTION DELETED
14. Even the Prosecution witnesses have stated that the deceased was found in a depressed mood immediately before the commission of suicide and there is no evidence that either the 1st Appellant or his parents have maltreated her or their conduct was such that it has driven her to end her life.
15. The term ‘cruelty’ has been given a defined meaning in Section 498A of IPC under two heads. Under first clause, cruelty cannot be held to be committed merely on the ground that the conduct of the accused is willful and offensively unjust to the woman, because it is further necessary that the degree of intensity of such unjust conduct of the accused should be such as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or such conduct is likely to cause grave injury or endanger to her life or limb or to her mental or physical health. Harassment of the wife before the incident for demand of the dowry constitute cruelty under the second limb of Section 498A of IPC. But, in the instant case, none of the above ingredients are present and therefore, on analyse of the evidence, I am of the view that the evidence adduced by the Prosecution falls short of the required standard of proof for convicting the Appellants under Section 498A of IPC. I am, therefore, not in a position to agree with the findings of the court below and in that view, the conviction and sentence imposed on the Appellants under Section 498A of IPC are liable to be set aside.
16. In the result, this Criminal Appeal is allowed. The conviction and sentence imposed on the Appellants in SC.No.343/2002 under Section 498A of IPC are set aside and the Appellants are acquitted of the charges levelled against them. It is seen from the records that the Appellants had been enlarged on bail by this court. The bail bond if any executed by the appellants shall stand terminated and the fine amount if any paid is ordered to be refunded to them.
1.The Sessions Judge, Mahila Court, Coimbatore
2.The Public Prosecutor, High Court,