Supreme Court of India S.Govindaraju vs State Of Karnataka on 19 August, 2013Author: . B Chauhan Bench: B.S. Chauhan, S.A. Bobde
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.2280 of 2009
State of Karnataka
J U D G M E N T
Dr. B.S. CHAUHAN, J.
1. This appeal has been preferred against the judgment and order dated 6.6.2007, passed by the High Court of Karnataka at Bangalore in Criminal Appeal No.1146 of 2000, preferred by the State against the judgment and order of the Sessions Judge, Bangalore city dated 8.6.2000, passed in Sessions Case No.550 of 1995, by which and whereunder, the appellant stood acquitted of all the charges under Sections 498A and 304B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter referred to as â€˜IPC) and Sections 3, 4 and 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act (hereinafter called the â€˜DP Actâ€™). The High Court on appeal convicted the appellant under Section 304B IPC and awarded a sentence of 7 years; under Section 498A IPC awarded the sentence for a period of 3 years and also a fine of Rs.5,000/- was imposed, and in default, to undergo further sentence of 6 months. The appellant was also convicted under Section 3 of DP Act and imprisonment for a period of 5 years was awarded alongwith a fine of Rs.10,000/-, and in default to undergo imprisonment for one year; under Section 4 of DP Act, imprisonment for a period of 6 months was awarded and a fine of Rs.10,000/- was imposed, in default, to undergo imprisonment for 3 months. However, all the sentences were directed to run concurrently.
2. Facts and circumstances giving rise to this appeal are that:
A. The appellant got married to one Shanthi on 16.9.1994. The marriage was negotiated by their parents at the house of one Jayasingh. The parents of Shanthi gave 7 to 8 gold ornaments including a neck chain and a ring to the appellant in the marriage. After the marriage, the appellant and Shanthi were residing at the appellantâ€™s house bearing no.93, 2nd Cross, Basaveshwara Nagar, Magadi Road, Bangalore. It was only at a distance of one kilometre from her parentsâ€™ house. It is alleged that Shanthi was ill-treated by the appellant and also physically and mentally tortured, demanding more dowry.
B. On 14.12.1994, the appellant quarrelled with Shanthi on the ground that she had taken Rs.50/- from his shirt pocket without his consent. Shanthi committed suicide by pouring kerosene and setting herself ablaze. She was taken to Victoria Hospital, Bangalore, however, she died at about 7 p.m. on the same day. As it was a case of unnatural death, the post-mortem was conducted on the dead body of Shanthi on 15.12.1994 and in the opinion of Dr. B.R.S. Kashyap (PW.17), the cause of death was shock as a result of burns sustained. About 95% ante-mortem burns were noticed.
C. Sundaresh (PW.1), father of deceased Shanthi lodged a complaint on 16.12.1994 alleging that the appellant was responsible for the death of his daughter Shanthi and in view thereof, the Police registered an FIR in case No.773 of 1994 under Sections 498A and 304B IPC. The appellant was arrested on 17.12.1994. The investigation commenced and charge-sheet was filed under Sections 498A, 304B IPC and 3, 4 and 6 of DP Act and the matter was committed to Sessions.
D. During the trial, 17 witnesses were examined by the prosecution. The star witnesses were Sundaresh (PW.1), father of deceased Shanthi, Manimaran (PW.2), brother of deceased Shanthi, and Sakkubai (PW.6), mother of deceased. In addition thereto, the other witnesses were Smt. M. Sarala Somaiah, (PW.15), I.O., Dr. B.R.S. Kashyap (PW.17) who conducted the post-mortem examination. The appellant was examined at the verge of conclusion of trial under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter referred to as â€˜Cr.P.C.â€™) and vide judgment and order dated 8.6.2000, the appellant was acquitted of all the charges.
E. Aggrieved, the State preferred an appeal before the High Court which has been allowed vide impugned judgment and order dated 6.6.2007.
Hence, this appeal.
3. Mr. Rohat Bansal, learned counsel appearing for the appellant has submitted that the High Court failed to appreciate the judgment of the Trial Court in the correct perspective and interfered with the judgment and order of acquittal passed by the Trial Court in contravention of the parameters laid down by this Court. There had been material contradictions in the statements of PWs.1, 2, 6 and 7. Therefore, the Trial Court had rightly passed the order of acquittal. The FIR itself was lodged on 16.12.1994 though Shanthi died on 14.12.1994. The question of dowry demand would not arise. The statement made by Sarasa, sister of deceased before her family members was accepted by the High Court without realising that Sarasa was not examined by the prosecution. The High Court failed to appreciate that when two views are possible, the view beneficial to the accused must be accepted. Therefore, the appeal deserves to be allowed.
4. Per contra, Ms. Anitha Shenoy, learned counsel for the State has vehemently opposed the appeal contending that Shanthi, a 20 year old girl died within 3 months of her marriage in the house of the appellant. Therefore, the incident was within the special knowledge of the appellant and he failed to explain how Shanthi had died. The appellant doubted the fidelity of Shanthi alleging that she had developed illicit relations with Raju, a friend of her brother Manimaran (PW.2) and got pregnant before their marriage and that is why she had committed suicide. Though the medical report specifically revealed that Shanthi was not pregnant, the doubt harboured in the mind of the appellant would itself a ground for torturing Shanthi, which had driven her to commit suicide. Law is well settled that in case the findings recorded by the Trial Court are perverse, the order of acquittal can be interfered by the Appellate Court. Thus, in view of the above, no interference is called for. The appeal lacks merit and is accordingly dismissed.
5. We have considered the rival submissions made by learned counsel for the parties and perused the record.
6. The case of the prosecution had been that Shanthi was treated in a hostile and cruel manner by the appellant who asked her to bring additional gold articles which drove her to commit suicide. She had also been assaulted by the accused/appellant on 14.2.1994 suspecting that she had taken Rs.50/- from his pocket without his consent. The undisputed facts remain that Shanthi was residing at 1 Km. distance from her parentsâ€™ house and she had been visiting the said family quite often and died within a period of three months of her marriage as she suffered from 95% burn injuries.
7. Sundaresh (PW.1), father of the deceased deposed that about one month earlier to her marriage, the marriage talks were held at the house of Jayasingh, a relative of the appellant-accused and his parents had demanded 10 sovereign gold ornaments as dowry. He could give only some lesser gold ornaments then what had been demanded. That after one month of marriage, when Shanthi, deceased, had come to his house and told him that she was beaten by her husband and asked to bring the balance 4 sovereign gold ornaments from her parents.
8. Manimaran (PW.2), brother of the deceased, deposed that about 6 months prior to the marriage, talks were held at the house of Jayasingh and his parents had demanded 10 sovereign gold ornaments. Gold necklace, jumuki, gold ring and silver leg chain were given in the marriage alongwith other articles like wrist watch, clothes and almirah etc. About 15-20 days prior to the death of Shanthi, some neighbours had informed his family that there were always quarrels and galata between the appellant and his sister Shanthi in their house. His other sister Sarasa, who had visited the house of Shanthi- deceased, told him that her husband was often quarrelling with her saying that the dowry gold articles given at the time of marriage were not sufficient and the same were of less quantity.
9. Sakkubai (PW.6), mother of the deceased, deposed that talks for marriage took place six months prior to the marriage at the house of Jayasingh and appellantâ€™s parents and uncles had demanded 10 sovereign gold ornaments but they expressed their ability to give only 7-8 sovereign gold ornaments. She corroborated the version of other witnesses about the quarrels and galata between the appellant and Shanthi, deceased. That after her marriage Shanthi did not have a