Ramesh Kumar vs State Of Chhattisgarh on 17 October, 2001Equivalent citations: 2001 IXAD SC 133, AIR 2001 SC 3837 Author: R Lahoti Bench: A Anand, R Lahoti, K Balakrishnan
R.C. Lahoti, J.
1. This appeal by special leave is directed against conviction of Ramesh Kumar, the accused-appellant, on charges under Section 306 and 498A IPC. he was sentenced to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment under Section 306 IPC and to two years’ rigorous imprisonment under Section 498A IPC, both the sentences having been directed to run concurrently. The conviction along with sentences has been maintained by the High Court. His father Shiv Kumar, mother Gargi Devi and brother Mahesh were also tried for offences under Sections 306 and 498A IPC. The trial Court found them “not guilty” and “innocent” and hence acquitted the three of them of both the charges. That acquittal has achieved a finality as not challenged by any one.
2. Seema Devi, daughter of Sohan Lal Sharma (PW16) and Smt. Prabahawati Devi (PW19) was married with accused-appellant on 23.6.1985. On 17.6.1986, within one year of marriage, Seema died of suicide. On 16.6.1986, she poured kerosene on herself and set herself to fire. Before committing suicide she wrote a suicide note and a letter to her husband in a diary (Article ‘A’) on pages 11 and 12 thereof. Her dying-declaration (Exbt. P/10) was recorded on 16.6.1986 by PW13, Parmeshwar Dayal, Tehsildar and Executive Magistrate. Sohan Lal Sharma is a resident of Raipur, Madhya Pradesh. The accused-appellant was residing in Shantinagar locality of Raipur. Seems’ elder sister Shalini (PW5) married with Dr. Ramadhar Sharma (PW6) is also residing in Raipur. Thus, the three families. i.e., the family of father of Seema, the family of her elder sister Shalini and the family of the accused-appellant are all residents of Raipur though residing in different localities at reasonable distances from each other. Nevertheless the three families were on visiting terms as admitted by almost all the witnesses. The finding of guilt as recorded by the Trial Court and the High Court rests on the testimony of five witnesses, namely, Atul Kumar (PW4), brother of the deceased, Shalini and Dr. Ramadhar Sharma (PW5 and PW6), respectively the sister and sister’s husband of the deceased, Sohan Lal Sharma and Prabhawati Devi (PW16 and PW19), parents of the deceased. In addition, there is a very pertinent evidence – a document, Exbt. P/13 which is an undated letter written by the deceased and managed by her to be sent to her father. We will briefly discuss this evidence.
3. According to Sohan Lal (PW16) marriage of Seema with the accused-appellant was performed in a cordial manner. Dowry, as the parents wished, was given to Seema. Seema and Ramesh ere quite often coming to meet with them. However, Sohan Lal did make a general statement that at one point of time when he had gone to see his daughter Seema in the house of the accused-appellant, Seema had told him that the accused was complaining that the items given in dowry were of inferior quality. However, this statement is belied and cannot be accepted for two reasons. Firstly, such a material fact though in his knowledge was not disclosed by him to the police; on the contrary his statement to the police was that Seema never told him of anything about her in-laws’ house. Prabhawati Devi admits that the behaviors of the accused-appellant towards her was good and he always treated her with respect and reciprocal affection. She also admitted that her husband, i.e., Sohan Lal, PW16 never complained about the behavior of the accused-appellant towards him. She very clearly stated that the accused-appellant had never asked her anything about dowry. If only Seema’s father would have been told by Seema that the accused-appellant had ever demanded dowry from her or was harassing her for dowry then such fact in ordinary course of things would have been told by him to his wife, i.e., the mother of Seema and would also have been disclosed by him to the police.
4. Atul Kumar, PW4 is younger brother of late Seema. According to him, he was told by his parents that the accused was teasing Seema. He visited Seema and her in-laws about 15 to 20 times but Seema never told him anything. However, according to Atul Kumar, ‘her face was tense and terrorized and she had asked me to go back’. Immediately we may observe that Atul Kumar’s testimony suffers from exaggeration because both his parents, examined in the Court, do not depose that the accused had started teasing Seema soon after the marriage. If Atul Kumar had seen Seema tense and terrorized, he must have told this fact in the ordinary course of things to his parents. But the parents do not say so. During cross examination, Atul Kumar admitted that between him and accused Ramesh there were ‘good relations’. He never asked Ramesh whether and why the accused was teasing or harassing his sister. he could not give any explanation why such a natural query he did not put across to Ramesh in spite of there being good relations between the two. He further admitted that accused Ramesh and Seema often used to visit him and his parents specially on the festival days. During less than a year of marriage, Seema twice stayed with her parents for about four days each. when Shalini gave birth to a child, Seema stayed at her parents house for two days and afterwards also kept on coming to her parents and visiting hospital where Shalini was admitted. Atul Kumar specifically stated – “Seema had good terms with her in-laws and brothers-in-law”. The testimony of Atul Kumar spells out that Seema’s movements were not restricted by the accused; she was liberally allowed to see her parents and other relations and she never complained of any dowry demands or any serious problem being faced by her from the accused or her in-law. Atul Kumar felt that Seema was ‘tense and terrorised’ is his own impression and certainly no cause is discernible for such an impression from his testimony.
5. A very material piece of evidence is an undated letter, Exbt. P/13 which from the evidence adduced appears to have been written by the deceased Seema at about 3 or 4 months before her death. Desh Bandhu Sathe (PW9) was working as a Technical Officer in State Bank of India, Regional Office while Sohan Lal was working in Branch Office of the same bank and therefore they knew each other. Desh Bandhu Sathe (PW9) stated that at about 3 to 4 months before the death of Seema, his wife gave the letter, Exbt. P/13 to him stating that the letter was given to her by seema with a request to have it delivered to her father. Although the authenticity of his letter was vehemently disputed by the defence alleging it to be fabricated, however, the Trial Court and the High Court have on an evaluation of evidence believed the same. The finding that the letter was written by deceased Seema is based on the testimony of handwriting expert. There is no reason to disbelieve the statement of Desh Bandhu Sathe that the letter was in existence about 3 to 4 months before Seems’s death. What is material are the contents of the letter. The letter (English translation, as filed) is reproduced as under:-
“Respected Babu Ji,
Babuji, I am writing this letter in very helpless (constraint) and this should not be known to any one that I have written this letter. It my Bangles (chudi) and Mangalsutra-payal etc. ornaments all have been repaired or get them repaired in any way and you yourself come bringing them immediately today or tomorrow by remembrance. Do not sent Atul and Sudhir and no body should come to meet me. You understand this much only that Seema is not existing. Yesterday Shalini had come then we people were not in the house. Why I do not remember that thing, saying so I was pushed and turned out from the house. I alone had come out to come to Brahmanpara. He himself came behind me and we both had gone upto house. Then he conciliated (persuaded) and bring me to home back and after coming in the house he started marpit (beating) with me from 9 O’clock in the night which continued till 2-1/2 O’clock in the night. Then he again started marpit (beating) in the morning and his mind is still bad. You send the ornaments immediately and now you yourself come and do not tell the thing of letter and marpit. Tell Atul and Sudhir not to come at all. I will not come in Holi. But you come to take me and take sofa and give another. Enough.
6. The author of the abovesaid letter is not alive. There is no one else in whose presence the letter was written. We cannot therefore read anything in the letter which it is not there. The letter has to be read as it is and inferences have to be drawn therefrom based on the expressions employed therein and in the light of other evidence adduced in the case.
7. The letter nowhere indicates any demand of dowry having been made by the accused or the deceased having been pressurized by the accused for bringing more dowry. The first thing the letter states is a request to her father to return some of her ornaments. Sohan Lal (PW16) has himself admitted that his daughter had given some of her ornaments to him for the purpose of being repaired. There is nothing wrong, unusual or abnormal in Seema reminding her father to bring back the ornaments “if they have been repaired” or “to get them repaired” if not already done. The second thing which the letter suggests is of her having been beaten by her husband and her having been pushed out of the house by the accused and when she wanted to go away from the house then she having been persuaded by her husband to return to house. The accused had also tried to conciliate. Further on Seema’s return the accused gave her a beating. Why this happened is slightly indicated in the letter and narrated by Shalini (PW5) and her husband (PW6). Seema had invited her sister and sister’s husband for taking food with them in her house but after extending invitation she forgot about it and went to of the house with her husband. Her sister and sister’s husband came to her house but there was no one and therefore they went back. This enraged the accused and he chastised his wife Seema for her forgetfulness which in his opinion was an act devoid of etiquettes and courtesy- extending an invitation to relatives and then forgetting about it and being not available to receive and entertain them. Yet another fact disclosed by Shalini and Ramadhar is that Seema had told them that the accused was suspicious of Seema having had undue intimacy with co-eds while studying in college and her continuing undue intimacy with old-time friends, which was not to the liking of the accused. These were the real causes for difference between Seema and the accused. It appears that on Seema having committed suicide there was an attempt to give it a twist of dowry death and for that purpose some plea as to demand for dowry was introduced. The finding as to demand for dowry by accused has been arrived at by the Trial Court and the High Court by placing reliance on stray general allegations occurring here or there in evidence and by ignoring such facts as were brought on record through cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses which demolished the theory of there being any demand for dowry by the accused-appellant. The reading of the entire evidence shows that the present one is a case of marital mal-adjustment between the deceased and the accused. The accused is a Professor. The deceased did not come up to the expectations of the accused She was forgetful and the manner in which she dealt with the visitors, guests and relations was not to liking of the accused-appellant. This is also borne out from a few writing such as Exbts. D/4 and D/5 which are in the form of essays written by the deceased which are full of appreciation of the respondent acknowledging the love and affection which the accused-appellant had for her but which also go to state that there was ‘some deficiency’ in her; she did not have a compromising temperament and therefore accused used to get annoyed and get angry on minor mistakes committed by the deceased. In such writings, written (SIC) sweet memories of her marriage with the appellant, several ceremonies and functions (SIC) and how well she was (SIC) accused-appellant an his relations in the matrimonial home after the marriage.
8. From an independent evaluation of evidence and having gone through oral evidence adduced and the several documents available on record, mostly the writings of the deceased we are satisfied that the present one is not a case of dowry death or the deceased having been (SIC) her failure to satisfy the dowry demands of the accused-appellant. However teasing by the accused-appellant of the deceased ill-treating her for her mistakes which could have been pardonable and turning her out of the house, also once beating her inside the house at the (SIC) hours of night did amount to cruelty within the meaning of Section 498A of IPC and therefore we agree with the (SIC) the High Court though to some extent at variance with the cause for cruel treatment that the accused-appellant subjected deceased Seema to cruelty and therefore conviction of the accused-appellant under Section 498A deserves to be maintained.
9. So far as the offence under Section 306 of IPC is concerned, in our opinion, the Trial Court and the High Court have committed gross error of law in holding the accused-appellant guilty and therefore conviction under Section 306 IPC deserves to be quashed and set aside.
10. Section 306 IPC provides that if any person commits suicide whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be liable to be punished. The ingredients of abetment are set out in Section 107 of IPC which reads as under:
“107. Abetment of thing.-A person abets the doing of a thing, who-
First.- Instigate any person to do that thing; or
Secondly.- Engages with one or more other person or persons in any