Bombay High Court Rakesh Ramnath Saigal-vs-State Of Maharashtra on 6 July, 1992
Equivalent citations:II (1992) DMC 276
Author: S Daud
Bench: S Daud
S.M. Daud, J.
1. A mother and son seek the quashing of proceedings initiated against them by the Chambur Police Station attributing to them the commission of offences punishable Under Sections 306 and 498-A read with Section 114 of the Indian Penal Code.
2. Petitioner Rakesh is the soli of deceased Ramnath Saigal and Petitioner No. 3 Raj. Rakesh got married to deceased Madhu alias Prapti in the month of February 1986. From what Madhu’s parents say it would appear that both of them were opposed to her marrying Rakesh. Rakesh had a child by a previous marriage, the child being a daughter named Kaniksha. Madhu was averse to Rakesh even meeting Kaniksha, much less was she prepared to allow the father and daughter to live together. On 12.9.1986, Madhu while at the flat, which was the marital home of the couple, consumed a Pesticide known as ‘Baygon’. She was rushed by the neighbours to the Sion Hospital. Despite attempts made to save her, Madhu died of poisoning. On a report made by Madhu’s father Keshavchandra Khosla, the Chembur Police registered an offence against Rakesh and his parents. The three were said to have treated Madhu cruelly, which cruelty amounted to the abetment of suicide by Madhu. It was this which led Madhu to consume poison. The Chembur Police in the course of the investigation recorded further statements of Keshavchandra, K. Chandrasama Branch Manager of the Vijaya Bank, Dayaram Lalwani, Manager of the Kukraja Construction Company, Smt. Sahani, Govind Ramchandra Batra, Sheela Khosla, mother of Madhu, and Dr. D.G. Sinkar. On the basis of three statements, the Chembur Police has lodged a charge-sheet in the Court of the 11th Addl. Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Kurla at Bombay. That charge-sheet is sought to be quashed by the present petition.
3. During the pendency of the petition Ramnath Saigal, father of Rakesh and husband of Raj, has expired. The limited point for determination is whether any case warranting the commitment of the Petitioners to the Court of Sessions or framing a charge against them for the commission of any offence triable by a Magistrate is made out ? I find in the negative for the reasons given below :
4. Keshavchandra describes how Madhu came into contact with Rakesh. Rakesh had a daughter from a previous wife named Neelam After Madhu came to know about the previous marriage and the existence of the child, she made it clear that she did not want to be saddled with the responsibility of looking after the child. According to Keshavchandra, the disinclination was on account of her desire to avoid being faced with allegations commonlv levelled against step-mothers. Witness then speaks of a flat having been booked by the couple in the Lavkush Apartment, the consideration for which according to Keshavchandra, came entirely from him. This claim to having financed the purchase of the flat is falsified by the statement of Chandrasama and Dayaram Lalwani. The first named person is the Branch Manager of the Vijaya Bank Chembur Branch. He says that the certificate which was encashed stood in the name of Ramnath Saigal i.e. the deceased father of Rakesh. The proceeds were utilised for paying off the builder, viz. Kukraja Construction Co. This version is corroborated by Dayaram Lalwani who says that the entire consi deration for the flat was paid in three instalments, the first two being paid by Rakesh and last by Ramnath Saigal. In his statement to the Police Keshavchandra has not cared to explain how he financed the acquisition of the flat in the name of Madhu. It is true that the flat stood in the name of Madhu. But that may seem to have been for reasons other than the fact that Madhu’s parents or father had anything to do with the payment of consideration to the builders. Keshavchandra says that Madhu was disinclined to accept the advice of Rakesh that she dispose of the flat or to transfer is in his name so that he could sell it of, mortage, or acquire a hold over the ownership of the flat According to Keshavchandra, it was Madhu’s disinclination to accept the advice which led to her being tortured. Witness then goes on to say that Madhu was being beaten even before her marriage by Rakesh. Assuming this to be true, the offence would not be that punishable Under Section 498A of the IPC. Keshavchandra says that even after the marriage, Madhu was being beaten and tortured by Rakesh However, the couple had settled the matter amicably and the settlement had taken place at the residence of Keshavchandra with him playing and active part as a mediator. In the month of May 1986 Rakesh is said to have disappeared for about a month without giving any previous intimation to Madhu. The object, according to Keshavchandra, was to force Madhu to succumb to his demand for the transfer of the flat to his name. Keshavchandra has relied freely on his imagination to allege that Rakesh’s parents were actively instigating their son to torture Madhu This he claims to have learnt from Madhu’s neighbours. Not a single neighbour has been examined by the investigating agency to elicit corroborative material Witness then goes on to speak of what took place on 12 9 1986 At about 10.45 p.m. he received a telephone call informing him of Madhu lying uncons cious and being in a serious condition. He therefore went with his wife and son to the Lavkush Apartment, where they were told of the daughter having been removed to the Sion Hospital. At the Sion Hospital where the Trio later went, the neighbours are said to have informed the parents of a request made by Madhu that Rakesh should not be allowed to touch her body after her death. Again, no corroboration is forthcoming for this statement allegedly made by Madhu. Keshavchandra says that he learnt of MADHU HAVING CONSUMED Baygon from the neighbours of the unfortunate woman According to him the information given by neighbours to him was that Rakesh had tortured Madhu. He was sure that but for the torture and harassment to which madhu had been subjected to by Rakesh and his parents, she would not have committed suicide. Witness had made over a certain number of documents None of these established that the acquisition of the flat in the Lavkush Apartmentwas was by means of finance provided by Keshavchandra. I now turn to the statement of Madhu’s mother Sheela. She claims that Rakesh an eminently unsuitable person as a husband for Madhu had so bewitched her that she refused to see reason and allowed herself to be persuaded into marrying Rakesh. To sound effective, Rakesh is said to have once taken an over-dose of sleeping tablets which brought him to the verge of death. Therefore, she i.e. Sheela relented and gave her consent to the daughter marrying Rakesh. On one occasion, the couple were admitted to the Nanavati Hospital as both had consumed some tablets. Questioned on the subject, Madhu is said to have told her mother that the tablets had been given to her by Rakesh preparatory to some sort of a suicide pact. From Sheela we learn that Madhu was totally uniformed of Rakesh being a divorce. Before marrying Madhu, Rakesh had produced a paper purporting to be a copy of a decree of divorce between him and Neelam. Sheela, differing from her husband, says that Madhu insisted upon she had her husband residing separately from his parents, because to quote Sheela “the family of Rakesh was not good”. The flat in Lavkush Apartment was said to have been purchased by Madhu with cash made available by Keshavchandra. The cash is said to have been deposited in the account of Madhu with the Bank. Whatever deposits may have been made by Keshavchandra in the account of Madhu, the money for the purchase of the flat in the Lavkush Apartment came from Rakesh and his father, as is clear from the testimony of Chandrasama and Lalwani. She speaks of having been the first one to pick up the phone call made on the night of 12.9.1986. The words uttered by the caller were that Madhu was not feeling well and was exclaiming that Rakesh should not be allowed to touch her body. This is not what the caller has to say, as I shall show from her statement, to which I will some later, Sheela speaks of people assembled at Lavkush Apartment giving the information of Madhu’s removal to Sion Hospital and her telling them that Rakesh was not to be allowed to touch her body. Madhu on her visits to Sheela informed her mother of Rakesh wanting her to dispose of the flat so that her could utilise the proceeds for his newly started business. Her in-laws also were supposed to have suggested that she act in conformity with the demand made by Rakesh. Assuming all this to be true, can it be said that a case of cruelty Under Section 498-A IPC is made out ? For the purposes of that Section the expression cruelty has a special meaning. First it means, any wilful conduct which is 5f such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health of the woman. Secondly, it lies in the 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. It cannot be said that the first type is attracted to the facts of this case; for what we get from the statement of Madhu’s refusal to fall in with the suggestion of Rakesh and his parents that the flat be disposed of so as to enable Rakesh to utilise the proceeds for his business purposes. From the evidence of the Bank Manager and the builder it is clear that the flat was an acquisition of Rakesh and his father, though in the name of Madhu. As ordinarily understood, Madhu should not have resented the demand made for its disposal by persons who where the true owners thereof. It was argued that whatever be the source for the acquisition of the flat, it stood in Madhu’s name and she had a right to refuse to agree to any proposal to alienate the same. But when assessing the nature of conduct which is likely to drive a woman to commit suicide or cause grave injury or danger to her life, limb or health, we must go by the normal woman’s reactions placed in such a pesition. Now, a normal woman would see nothing objectionable in the demand of her husband or in-laws for the disposal of the flat which was an acquisition of theirs for the purpose of meeting the needs of the husband to get on in the world. Next, can it be said that the doings or omissions of Rakesh and his parents constituted harassment? But the harassment has to be linked coercion so as to compel the woman to accede to an unlawful demand for any property. Here, the demand made by Rakesh and/or his parents for the sale of the flat could not be said to be an unlawful demand. The property had been acquired with their funds and Rakesh wanted the proceeds which the disposal was to fetch for his legitimate purposes. The demand for the disposal of the flat would therefore not be unlawful within the contemplation of Clause (b) of Section 498-A. There remains the allegation of the parents of Madhu about Rakesh doing this or that and disappearing with a view to compel Madhu to carry out his dictates. These are bare assertions not supported by the statements of the neighbours and moreover are a mix-up of what allegedly took place before as also after the marriage.
5. The neighbours positively differ from the parents of Madhu as to what she is said to have stated on 12.9.1986. Smt. Sahani from whose residence Keshavchandra was telephoned speaks of Madhu coming to her flat in distraught condition and telling her that she had consumed Baygon. When asked why she had so done, Madhu gave no reply. On behalf of Madhu she gave a message to Keshavchandra. Smt. Sahani does not say that she had spoken to Sheela Khosla, whether on the first occasion or at any other time. Madhu had rushed back to her flat and had shut the door thereof. When the residents assembled by Smt. Sahani forced the door open, Madhu was found lying unconscious and she was shifted to the Sion Hospital. Smt. Sahani says that she had not noticed any quarrel between the spouses taking place. This was because the couple kept themselves to themselves and were unfamiliar with the Sahanis. When questioned specifically as to what could have led Madhu to commit suicide, witness came out with a blank ‘I cannot say’. “Witness Batra was one of those who forced his way into Madhu’s flat. When Batra asked Madhu as to what had happened, she told him that she had consumed Baygon by mistake which consumption had given rise to vomiting. Witness does not know about the relations, between the husband and wife. The last neighbour is Dr. Sinkar. He came on the scene a little after the other neighbours, when Madhu exclaimed that she be shifted to the Hospital. Nearly 3/4th of the Baygon can of half a litre was empty. In other words, Madhu had taken a fatal dose. She was taken to the Sion Hospital and treatment given to her. However, there was no reprieve and at about 2.15 a.m. Madhu passed away. . Now from all this what we learn is that Keshavchandra and Sheela have grossly exagerated the true position. Madhu, far from making any statement that Rakesh was not to touch her body after her death, said nothing on the subject. In fact she made it clear that she had consumed Baygon by mistake. This plea was of course not true for no one can consume near about 3/4th of a half litre can of Baygon by mistake. Madhu seems to have done so out of design. Nonetheless, it was not the doing of Rakesh or his mother which had led Madhu to consume Baygon on 12.9.1986. A possible explanation for the consumption of a sure-killer by Madhu was her displeasure at the suspected meetings which Rakesh was having with his daughter by the first marriage. Rakesh may have been meeting the daughter and may have been doing so despite the knowledge that these meetings were not to the liking of his newly- married wife Madhu. But meeting a daughter by the first marriage against the wishes of the second wife can hardly fall within the definition of ‘cruelty’ contemplated by the Clause 2 of Section 498-A of the IPC. Apparently, Madhu was attempting gentle intimation upon Rakesh but in the process took an overdose thereby killing herself. Be that as it may, neither her husband nor the husband’s parents are in anyway responsible for her putting an end to her life. The issue process order is hereby quashed and the bail bonds furnished by and on behalf of the petitioners Rakesh and Raj stand cancelled. Rule in these terms made absolute.