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Sakhi Mandalani vs State Of Bihar And Ors. on 29 April, 1999

Sakhi Mandalani vs State Of Bihar And Ors. on 29 April, 1999Equivalent citations: 2000 (1) ALD Cri 73, JT 1999 (8) SC 351
Author: S S Ahmad
Bench: S Ahmed, S R Babu

ORDER

S. Saghir Ahmad, J.

1. Leave granted.

2. The appellant, who was the sister-in-law of the deceased Manju Mandalani, was convicted under Sections 304B/34, 498-A I.P.C. and under Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. She was sentenced to 10 years rigorous imprisonment under Section 304-B I.P.C.; 3 years RI under Section 498-A I.P.C.; and 6 months RI under Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, read with Section 34 I.P.C., by IVth Additional Sessions Judge, Dhanbad. On appeal, the High Court acquitted her of the charges under Sections 304-B/34 I.P.C. giving her the benefit of doubt. However, her conviction under Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act was maintained.

3. It is contended by learned Counsel on behalf of the appellant that the judgment passed by the High Court is wholly inconsistent inasmuch as having recorded her acquittal from the charges under Section 304-B I.P.C., it was not possible to maintain the convictions under Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. Section 304-B I.P.C. reads &s under:

304-B. Dowry death.-(1) Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative or her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, such death shall be called ‘dowry death’, and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.

Explanation.-For the purposes of this sub-section, ‘dowry’ shall have the same meaning as in Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (28 of 1961).

(2) Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.

4. The above section indicates that demand for dowry and harassment for that reason are the essential ingredients of the offence under Section 304-B.

5. Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Act, as amended in Bihar, provide as under:

3. Penalty forgiving or taking dowry.-(1) If any person, after the commencement of this Act, gives or takes or abets the giving or taking of dowry, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years, and with fine which shall not be less than fifteen thousand rupees or the amount of the value of such dowry, whichever is more:

Provided that the court may, for adequate and special reasons to be recorded in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than five years.

(2) Nothing in Sub-section (1) shall apply to, or in relation to, –

(a) presents which are given at the time of a marriage to the bride (without any demand having been made in that behalf):

Provided that such presents are entered in a list maintained in accordance with the rules made under this Act;

(b) presents which are given at the time of marriage to the bridegroom (without any demand having been made in that behalf):

Provided that such presents are entered in a list maintained in accordance with the rules made under this Act:

Provided further that where such presents are made by or on behalf of the bride or any person related to the bride, such presents are of a customary nature and the value thereof is not excessive having regard to the financial status of the person by whom, or on whose behalf, such presents are given.

4. Penalty for demanding dowry.-If any person demands, directly or indirectly, from the parents or other relatives or guardian of a bride or bridegroom, as the case may be, any dowry, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months, but which may extend to two years and with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees:

Provided that the court may, for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than six months.

6. These sections make out independent offences, but in the instant case it was the demand for dowry coupled with harassment which constitutes the basis of the prosecution case. Once the main part of the charge under Section 304-B was not found established, it was not possible to record conviction under Section 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

7. Consequently, the appeal is allowed. The judgment of the High Court, so far as the appellant is concerned, is set aside and she is acquitted of the charges under Section 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

8. It is stated by the counsel for the appellant that the appellant will be completing six months in jail by tomorrow. If that be so intimation to the authorities shall be communicated by telegram.

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