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State Of Karnataka, vs Shri. Raju Ramachandra Khot on 13 July, 2021

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IN THE HIGH COURT OF KARNATAKA
DHARWAD BENCH

DATED THIS THE 13TH DAY OF JULY, 2021

PRESENT

THE HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE R.DEVDAS

AND

THE HON’BLE MS. JUSTICE J.M.KHAZI

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.100145/2017

Between:

State of Karnataka,
Rep. by the Police Inspector,
Chikkodi Police Station,
Dist. Belagavi, Through the Addl.
State Public Prosecutor,
Advocate General Office,
High Court of Karnataka,
Dharwad Bench.
…Appellant
(By Sri.V.M.Banakar, Addl. S.P.P.)

And:

1. Shri. Raju Ramachandra Khot,
Age: 35 years, Occ: Agriculture and Driver,
R/o: Yadravi, Tal: Raibag, Dist: Belagavi.

2. Shri. Ramachandra Shiddappa Khot,
Age: 65 Years, Occ: Agriculture,
R/o: Yadravi, Puthani Thota,
Tal: Raibag, Dist: Belagavi.

3. Shri. Kallappa Ramachandra Khot,
Age: 44 years, Occ: Agriculture,
R/o: Yadravi, Puthani Thota,
Tal: Raibag, Dist: Belagavi.
CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

2

4. Shri. Mallappa Ramachandra Khot,
Age: 38 years, Occ: Agriculture,
R/o: Yadravi, Puthani Thota,
Tal: Raibag, Dist: Belagavi.

5. Shri. Siddappa @ Siddeshwara
S/o Ramachandra Khot,
Age: 44 Years, Occ: Agriculture,
R/o: Yadravi, Puthani Thota,
Tal: Raibag, Dist: Belagavi.

6. Shri. Suresh Ramachandra Khot,
Age: 25 years, Occ: Agriculture,
R/o: Yadravi, Puthani Thota,
Tal: Raibag, Dist: Belagavi.
…Respondents
(By Sri.M.B.Gundawade, Adv. for R2 to R6,
R1 – abated)

This criminal appeal is filed under Sections 378 (1) and

(3) of Cr.P.C., praying to grant leave to appeal and to set aside

the judgment and order of acquittal dated 27.07.2015 passed

by the VI Addl. District and Sessions Judge, Belagavi in Sessions

Case No.173 of 2012 and to convict the respondent / accused

for the offences punishable under Sections 143, 147, 498-A,

304-B read with Section 149 of IPC and under Sections 3 and 4

of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

This criminal appeal having been heard and reserved for
judgment on 02.07.2021, coming on for pronouncement of
judgment this day, J.M.Khazi J., delivered the following:
CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

3

JUDGMENT

This appeal is filed under Sections 378(1) and (3) of

the Code of Criminal Procedure (“Cr.P.C.” for short) by the

State challenging the judgment and order of acquittal

dated 27.07.2015 in S.C. No.173/2012 on the file of the VI

Additional District and Sessions Judge, Belagavi. By the

impugned judgment and order, the learned Sessions Judge

has acquitted the accused Nos.1 to 6 of all the charges

punishable under Sections 143, 147, 498A, 304B read with

Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (“IPC” for

short) and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act,

1961 (“DP Act” for short).

2. For the sake of convenience, the parties are

referred to their rank before the Trial Court.

3. During the pendency of the appeal, the

appellant No.1, who is accused No.1 before the Trial Court

has died and as such, appeal is abated so far accused No.1

is concerned.

CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

4

4. Accused No.1 is the husband, accused No.2 is

the father-in-law and accused Nos.3 to 6 are brothers-in-

law of deceased Geetha (Rajashree). The marriage of the

accused No.1 with Geetha (Rajashree) was performed on

27.02.2005 and she gave birth to three daughters and all

the delivery were through cesarean sections. On the advice

of the Doctors, deceased Geetha (Rajashree) underwent

tubectomy operation, as it was opined that she may not be

able to survive further deliveries. These facts are not in

dispute. The allegations against the accused are that after

the birth of third daughter, accused persons started

harassing the deceased saying that she is not able to give

them a male child and accused No.1 is not able to continue

his lineage. It is further case of the prosecution that, at the

time of the marriage, accused persons demanded and

received dowry in the form of gold ornaments weighing 20

grams, consisting of a gold chain and finger ring for

accused No.1 and after the birth of the third daughter,

accused persons started harassing and ill-treating the

deceased to get further dowry in the form of 4 tolas of

gold, a motorbike and 50% of the property of her father’s
CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

5

family and all the accused persons were harassing and ill-

treating the deceased saying that she should die alongwith

her children and unable to bear the harassment, on

06.12.2011 at 02:15 p.m., deceased alongwith her three

daughters jumped into the open well situated within the

land of the accused persons situated near their farm house

and the neighbours were able to rescue the eldest

daughter, but Geetha (Rajashree) alongwith her two

daughters died due to drowning and thereby accused

persons have committed the above said offences.

5. Accused have pleaded not guilty and they have

set up a defence that the deceased was happily married

and was leading a happy life in the house of the accused

persons. According to them, on the date of the incident,

the second daughter Sapnali accidentally slipped into the

open well and the deceased Geetha (Rajashree), who was

carrying the youngest child Sanketha in a hurry attempted

to rescue Sapnali and she also accidentally slipped and all

the three drowned. The accused persons have denied that

deceased jumped into the well alongwith three daughters

including the eldest daughter Sneha and that she was
CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

6

rescued by the neighbours. The accused persons have

alleged that after the tragic incident, complainant tried to

extract money from the accused persons and has chosen

to file a false complaint.

6. In support of the prosecution case in all 30

witnesses are examined as PWs.1 to 30, Exs.P-1 to 37 and

MOs.1 to 9 are marked.

7. The accused have denied the incriminating

material put to them in their statement under Section 313

Cr.P.C. They have not led any oral or documentary

evidence on their behalf.

8. After hearing arguments of both sides, the

learned Sessions Judge has acquitted the accused persons

holding that the allegations against them are not proved

beyond reasonable doubt.

9. During the course of arguments, the learned

Additional S.P.P. submitted that the judgment and order of

acquittal passed by the Trial Court is contrary to law, facts

of the case and evidence on record and as such, it is not
CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

7

sustainable in law. He further submits that the prosecution

witnesses namely PWs.2, 10 to 13, 21 have consistently

deposed regarding the demand of dowry at the time of

marriage and also additional dowry in the form of gold,

motorcycle and also to get half share in the property of the

parents of the deceased and this aspect of the evidence

has not been properly appreciated by the Trial Court.

10. He further submitted that the Trial Court has

not taken into consideration the seriousness of the case

wherein three persons i.e., the wife and two daughters of

accused No.1 have lost their life because of the ill-

treatment meted out by the accused persons and they are

the main cause for the death of these persons. Non-

consideration of the same would result in miscarriage of

justice.

11. The learned Addl. State Public Prosecutor

further submits that, the Trial Court ought to have taken

into consideration the presumption under Section 113-B of

the Evidence Act, as the death of the deceased Geetha

(Rajashree) has taken place within seven years of the
CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

8

marriage. Failure to consider the provisions of Section

113-B of the Evidence Act and 304B of IPC would result in

miscarriage of justice.

12. He further submits that, the Trial Court has

erred in acquitting the accused persons relying upon the

minor inconsistencies and contradictions found in the

evidence of the prosecution witnesses. This is perverse and

against the settled principles of law. The Trial Court has

erred in relying upon the stray admission of PW.13 with

regard to accidental fall of deceased Geetha (Rajashree) in

the open well by slipping. The reasoning assigned by the

Trial Court is not supported by any legal evidence and

prays to allow the appeal.

13. We have heard the arguments of learned

Additional State Public Prosecutor for the appellant – State

and learned counsel for the respondents – accused.

14. The death of Geetha (Rajashree) and her two

daughters Sapnali aged 3 years and Sanketha aged 9

months by drowning is not in dispute. While the

prosecution case is that, unable to bear the harassment by
CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

9

the accused persons, Geetha (Rajashree) choose to jump

into the open well along with her three daughters and the

eldest daughter Sneha was rescued, but the remaining

three persons drowned. The accused persons have taken

up the defence that, the second daughter Sapnali

accidentally slipped into the open well and in order to

rescue the child, Geetha (Rajashree), who was holding the

nine month old Sanketha, also slipped into the open well

and all the three drowned. The accused persons have

taken up a specific defence that, the deceased never

pushed Sneha into the well and she was not rescued by

anyone. Admittedly there are no eyewitnesses to the

incident and therefore, from the surrounding

circumstances, the plausible explanation for the death of

Geetha (Rajashree) and her two daughters is to be

ascertained to examine whether the prosecution has

proved the charges leveled against the accused persons

beyond reasonable doubt.

15. PW.2 Appasab Ramachandra Kethriba is the

father, PW.10 Sheela is the mother (step mother) and

PW.13 Siddappa Ramchandra Kethriba is the paternal
CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

10

uncle of the deceased Geetha (Rajashree). During the

course of his examination-in-chief, PW.2 has not deposed

that, at the time of marriage there was demand of dowry

by accused persons and by way of dowry, 20 grams of gold

was given to accused No.1. However, PW.10 Sheela has

deposed that, at the time of marriage there was demand

for dowry by way of gold ornaments by accused No.1 and

therefore, 20 grams of gold was given to accused No.1.

PW.11 has also deposed that 20 grams of gold was given

to accused No.1 as demanded by the accused persons by

way of dowry.

16. However, during the cross-examination of

some of the prosecution witnesses including these

witnesses, it is elicited by the defence that, at the time of

marriage, by way of custom, the parents of the girl i.e.,

deceased Geetha (Rajashree), gave 20 grams of gold to

accused No.1 and in return, the accused persons have

given 25 grams of gold ornaments to the bride i.e., the

deceased and the marriage expenses were equally divided

between them and the marriage was performed in the

farm house of accused persons. They have also admitted
CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

11

that, in this regard the Yadi i.e., the memorandum was

written between the parties as per Ex.P5. During the

cross-examination, all these three witnesses have

consistently admitted that, after the marriage, for a period

of six years till her death, deceased led a very happy

married life in the house of accused persons. It is elicited

through the cross-examination of these witnesses that, the

complainant i.e., PW.2 is owning only 4 acres of land,

whereas the accused persons are owning 30 to 35 acres of

land, they are growing sugar cane, they are owning two

tractors, three motorbikes and also they have reared

several cattle. These witnesses have also admitted that,

at any particular point of time, around 20 coolies work in

the lands of accused persons and it was the deceased

Geetha (Rajashree) who was managing the entire affairs of

the household and taking care of her family members as

well as supervising the workers in the field. PW.2 and

PW.10 have specifically admitted that, in order to go to the

sugar factory, accused No.1 was passing through their

village and in a year, around 4 to 5 times he used to visit

their house, have food, tea etc. They have also admitted
CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

12

that, in fact PW.2 used to send his sugar cane yield

through accused No.1 to the factory in his tractor. PW.2

has also admitted that, on number of occasions, they have

visited several places with accused persons in their

tractors.

17. The admissions given by PWs.2 and 10 create

a doubt as to the veracity of the prosecution case. These

witnesses have deposed as if for a period of six years there

was no problem and accused persons were treating the

deceased in a very good manner and suddenly after the

expiry of six years they started harassing and troubling the

deceased demanding dowry and also on account of she

being not able to give birth to a male child. The evidence

of PWs.2 and 10 establish the fact that, though PWs.2 and

10 took care of the deceased during the first and second

deliveries, during her third delivery, she was with the

accused persons and it is accused No.1, who bore the

expenses of the third delivery and he was present and with

his consent, the doctor performed the tubectomy operation

on the deceased, as it was dangerous for her to again

conceive.

CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

13

18. The prosecution has set up a case that, after

the accused persons started harassing and ill-treating the

deceased by demanding additional dowry, the mother of

PW.2 i.e., the grand mother of the deceased gave her two

gold ornaments, which are called as Tikki and Bormala, to

the deceased, to satisfy the demand of the accused

persons. PW.10 Sheela and PW.11 Appasab Sadashiv

Walke, have deposed to this effect and stated that, after

the accused persons, more particularly, accused No.1

started quarreling with the deceased demanding additional

dowry, these two ornaments were given by Smt.

Tangewwa, the grand mother of the deceased, who is cited

as CW.15. However, the evidence of PW.2, the father of

the deceased, is contrary on the aspect of the grand

mother giving two gold ornaments to the deceased, after

the accused starting harassing and ill-treating the

deceased for begetting only the girl children i.e.,

daughters. At page 5 para 2 of his evidence, this witness

has specifically stated that, at the time of marriage, a gold

chain and finger ring was given to accused No.1 and after

six months of their marriage, when accused No.1 and
CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

14

deceased Geetha (Rajashree) visited their house, he gave

a gold chain and ring to accused No.1 and his mother gave

a Tikki and Bormala to accused No.1. But the other

witnesses have stated that, these two gold ornaments,

i.e., Tikki and Boramala were given to the deceased.

Admittedly, these two ornaments were worn by a woman

and it appears, by mistake PW.2 has stated that they were

given to accused No.1. Anyhow, the presentation of these

gold ornaments by the grand mother of the deceased is

about six months after the marriage and it belies the

evidence of the other prosecution witnesses that these two

ornaments were given to satisfy the demand of accused

persons for additional dowry.

19. PW.11 Appasab Sadashiv Walke is cited as a

witness to depose that, subsequently the accused persons

demanded dowry and the grand mother of the deceased

gave two gold ornaments to the deceased. He has

deposed as if he was present when the said incident took

place. However, it is not his case of the prosecution that,

when CW.15 Tangewwa gave her two gold ornaments to
CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

15

the deceased, any outsider was present. His evidence to

that effect appears to be hearsay.

20. Now coming to the case of the prosecution

that, unable to bear the harassment meted out by the

accused persons, deceased Geetha (Rajashree) choose to

jump into the open well along with her three daughters

and her eldest daughter was rescued while the remaining

three drowned. According to the prosecution, it is PW.15

Sadashiv, who rescued the eldest daughter from the well

and at that time PW.16 Basappa was also present.

However, both these witnesses have turned hostile and

during their cross-examination, they have denied that,

after deceased along with her daughters jumped into the

well, on hearing the cries, both of them went to the spot

and saw the eldest daughter dangling (eÉÆÃvÁqÀÄ) inside the

well by holding the pipe of the pump set and PW.15

Sadashiv rescued her and on enquiry about her mother

and two sisters, she told that their mother along with them

jumped into the well and the remaining persons drowned.

PW.16 has also denied that, after hearing the cries, when
CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

16

he went to the spot, he found the eldest daughter dangling

holding the pipe of the pump set inside the well and she

was rescued by PW.15 Sadashiv. In spite of their cross-

examination the prosecution was unable to elicit any

admissions through PWs.15 and 16 to support the case of

the prosecution that the deceased Geetha (Rajashree)

jumped into the well along with her three daughters and

her eldest daughter was rescued by these two witnesses.

21. At this stage, it is relevant to refer to the

nature of the well in which Geetha (Rajashree) and her two

daughters drowned. Ex.P8 is the photograph of the open

well. Ex.P9, which is the spot mahazer, also state that

the residential house where the deceased along with her

children and accused persons was living, is situated at a

distance of 200 meters from the well in question. As

evident from the photograph at Ex.P8, this is an open well

and its edges are not covered by any wall to secure it from

the ground level. From Ex.P8 it is evident that this well

consists of three levels i.e., from ground level up to a

distance of about 7 to 10 feet downwards, there is a stone

construction, which are loosely arranged, after which there
CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

17

is a plain surface (platform) about 5-6 feet in width inside

the well and after covering this plain platform, one can

reach the water. From Ex.P8, it is evident that a pipe is

run through the well to fetch water to the lands. The

situation of the well in question is such that, it is not

possible to jump into the water directly from the upper

surface of the well as one would first fall on the plain

surface inside the well(platform) and thereafter again to

jump into the water, which would certainly cause some

sort of injury. Having regard to the fact that, the deceased

did not have any external injuries on her person indicates

that, she might not have jumped from the upper surface of

the well, as she would have landed on the plain surface

(platform) and would have suffered injuries.

22. In this case, the post-mortem examination of

the children were not performed and therefore it is not

clear whether they have suffered any injuries on their

person. It is the case of the prosecution that, deceased

also took her eldest daughter while jumping into the well

and she miraculously survived by holding the pipe. The

medical examination of the said child is not carried out to
CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

18

ascertain whether she suffered any injuries in the process.

It could have lent some support to the case of the

prosecution. It is the definite case of the prosecution that,

while deceased Geetha (Rajashree) jumped into the well

along with her three daughters, the eldest daughter Sneha

catch hold of the pipe of the pump set and she was saved.

This could happen only if deceased had jumped from the

upper surface of the well and in that case, she and her

children would have certainly sustained some sort of

external injury. In the absence of any external injury

sustained by the deceased Geetha as well as her eldest

daughter Sneha, the prosecution is unable to reconcile

with this aspect. On the other hand, it supports the case

of the defence that, the eldest daughter Sneha did not fell

into the well and consequently, there was no occasion for

rescuing her.

23. It is pertinent to note that, before the dead

bodies were removed from the well, a single slipper of the

deceased was found on the upper portion of the well and it

has come in the evidence that the police searched for the

second slipper. However, after the dead body was
CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

19

removed from the well, it was seen that the deceased was

still wearing the other chappal in her leg. The accused

persons have contended that, when the second daughter

accidentally fell into the well, deceased while still carrying

the youngest child, tried to rescue her and in the process,

she slipped and one of her chappal remained outside and

she along with the youngest child fell into the well and

drowned. The fact that the deceased was still wearing the

single chappal and other pair was found on the ground

surface lent support to the defence put forth by the

accused persons.

24. As already discussed, PW.13 Siddappa

Ramachandra Kethriba, is the junior uncle of the deceased,

i.e., the brother of the complainant and during his cross-

examination by the defence, at page 5 of his evidence, he

has admitted that, on the next day, when they along with

the police went to the spot, they came to know that,

deceased Geetha (Rajashree) accidentally fell into the well

in order to save her second daughter. This witness is no

other than the very close relative of the deceased.

Admittedly, he is not having any ill-will against the
CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

20

complainant or his family members to give evidence

supporting the accused persons. With regard to this

important admission given by PW.13, the prosecution has

not cross-examined him by treating him as hostile.

25. It is pertinent to note that, at the time of the

incident, the eldest daughter of the deceased i.e., Sneha

was aged five years. She is cited as CW.12 and she is

examined before the Court as PW.19. At the time of her

evidence, she was aged six years. However the deposition

of this witness makes it evident that, in spite of asking

repeated questions and giving sufficient time, she did not

open her mouth and she did not choose to depose either in

favour of the accused or against them. However, as a last

resort, when a question was asked as to whether the

accused persons used to harass and ill-treat and assault

her mother, she has answered in the negative by shaking

her head. It is true that, at the time of the alleged

incident, she was a small child and it was not clear

whether the prosecution or the investigating officer or the

officials of the Child Development Authorities have made

any efforts to get her psychologically counseled for the
CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

21

tragedy, which has occurred either in her presence or at

least she having undergone the shock of losing her mother

and two sisters at such an young age. It is also not clear

whether before putting her into the witness box, any such

psychological counseling was conducted. Anyhow, the

evidence or at the most, the conduct of this witness is not

helpful to improve the case of the prosecution and on the

other hand, it could be said that her evidence is helpful to

the accused persons.

26. From the above discussion we hold that the

prosecution has failed to establish that, at the time of

marriage, accused persons demanded and received dowry

and immediately prior to the death of Geetha and her two

daughters, there was demand for additional dowry and the

deceased was also harassed and ill-treated for not betting

male children and that unable to bear the harassment, she

choose to commit suicide along her three children and

fortunately the eldest daughter was saved.

27. Taking into consideration the fact that, after

considering the oral and documentary evidence placed on
CRL.A.NO.100145/2017

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record, the trial court has come to a correct conclusion

that the charges leveled against the accused are not

proved beyond reasonable doubt and acquitted all of them,

we find no perversity in the findings given by the trial

Court.

28. Consequently the appeal filed by the state is

liable to be dismissed. As already discussed, during the

pendancy of the appeal, accused No.1 who is none other

than the husband of the deceased Geetha (Rajashree) has

died and as such the appeal against him is abated.

Consequently, we dismiss the appeal against accused

Nos. 2 to 6.

Sd/-

JUDGE

Sd/-

JUDGE
Rsh/gab

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