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Sukdeb Halder-vs-State Of West Bengal on 19 June, 2002

Calcutta High Court Sukdeb Halder-vs-State Of West Bengal on 19 June, 2002
Equivalent citations:2003 (2) CHN 421
Author: G De
Bench: S B Roy, G De

JUDGMENT

G.C. De, J.

1. This appeal is directed against the judgment and order dated 29.7.1988 passed by the learned Sessions Judge, 1st Court at Nadia in Sessions Trial No. 3 of June, 1988 arising out of Sessions case No. 9(3)85 and G.R. Case No. 145 of 1984. By the said judgment the learned Sessions Judge found the accused Sukdeb guilty under Section 498A and Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced him to suffer r. i. for ten years and also to pay a fine of Rs. 1,000/- in default to suffer further r. i. for two months under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code. No separate sentence was passed in respect of the offence under Section 498A of the IPC. G.R. Case No. 145 of 1984 was started on 8.5.1984 at 13.00 hours on the basis of a written complaint by one Nagendra Chandra Halder in which it was alleged that his daughter Lovely, was married with the accused Sukdeb Halder on 31st Ashar, 1390 B.S. was subjected to cruelty and harassment with a view to extract money from her father as a result of which she committed suicide by taking poison. In the said complaint, it was also indicated that the accused had a love affair with a lady named Mita and the in-laws had an intention to give Sukdeb marriage with that lady. On the basis of the said FIR police investigated the case and ultimately submitted a charge-sheet against be accused Sukdeb and the case was committed to the court of sessions where altogether ten witnesses were examined.

2. After framing of the charge under Section 498A and Section 306 of the IPC it be mentioned here that the accused Sukdeb pleaded not guilty to the charge.

3. The learned Sessions Judge after analysing the evidence of the witnesses produced by the prosecution and also keeping in view the medical report came to a conclusion that the victim Lovely was subjected to harassment by the husband Sukdeb, who used to coercive her for bringing money from her parents. Accordingly, he found the accused guilty after coming to a conclusion that the charges were proved and thereafter convicted the accused in the manner hereinabove indicated.

4. In course of the hearing of this appeal, the learned Counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant challenged the finding of the learned Sessions Judge mainly on the ground that the learned Sessions Judge failed to consider that alleged cruelty upon the victim Lovely within the meeting of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code has not been proved. The second dimension of his argument is that the delay in lodging the FIR was also not correct, dealt with by the court below. And lastly it is argued that there is nothing on the record to show or indicate that the accused ever subjected the victim Lovely to cruelty and, accordingly, the presumption of Section 113A of the Evidence Act is not applicable in this case. So, it is argued that the accused-appellant is to be found not guilty to the charges and is required to be set free.

5. On the other hand, the learned Public Prosecutor scanning the evidence, on record made a forceful argument that the harassment within the meaning of Explanations (a) and (b) of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code having been proved and it is also a case of suicide committed within seven years of the marriage, there is a presumption on the Section 113A of the Evidence Act as to abatement of suicide. Accordingly, it is argued that there is no reason to interfere with the judgment of conviction and sentence passed by the learned Sessions Judge.

6. After hearing the learned Counsels appearing for both sides and on perusal of the materials on record, it appears that P. Ws. 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 were neighbours of the appellant and they were declared hostile by the prosecution. In course of the trial the only evidence that came out from these hostile witnesses is that the relationship between the victim Lovely with the accused Sukdeb Halder was good. Of course, the I.O. of this case (P. W. 10) pointed out that these witnesses initially made a statement before him as regards ill-treatment on the victim. So, it is sufficiently clear that the neighbours of the accused Sukdeb might have suppressed the truth. But for such suppression it cannot be concluded that the victim was subjected to cruelty at the hands of the accused or other members of his family.

7. P.W. 1 was the father of the victim and it has already been stated above that he lodged the written complaint to the police only on 8-5-1984, that is after lapse of about 35 days of the alleged incident. P.W.1 virtually reiterated the allegations made in the FIR. So, his evidence is that the victim was subjected to torture by the accused Sukdeb, mother-in-law and sister-in-law. It is also stated by P.W. 1 that during her casual visit to her father’s place the victim complained that Sukdeb had illicit relation with another lady and on being protested she was subjected to torture. It is also stated that victim went to her father’s place for the last time on 20.3.1984 and she returned to her matrimonial house on 1.4.1984. The evidence is also there that the victim took poison in the night between 2nd and 3rd April, 1984. There is nothing on record to show or indicate actually what prompted the victim to take poison after returning from her father’s place. In his cross-examination under Section 313 of the Cr. P. C. the accused Sukdeb also could not explain as to why the victim died. Of course, he denied all the allegation of torture inflicted on the victim.

8. The evidence of P. W.1 practically remains uncorroborated.

P.W.2 the only witness produced to corroborate the evidence of P.W.1 simply made a casual statement that the victim was subjected to torture by Sukdeb which he gathered from the victim during her visit to her father’s place. But the details of the torture is not indicated though P.W.2 further stated that the victim Lovely lived happily in her matrimonial house for four months after the marriage. So, P.W. 2 has not been able to prove, the alleged harassment or torture so as to bring the offence within the purview of Section 498A of the IPC. In fact, accepting the evidence of P.W. 1 there is no other evidence to show or indicate that the victim was treated with cruelty within the meaning of Explanations (a) and (b) of Section 498A of the IPC.

9. P.W. 1 also did not disclose the details of the torture. It is also not clarified actually what amount of money was claimed from the victim and threat was given for its non-payment. In fact, there is nothing in the evidence of P.W.1 by which it can be presumed that the victim was subjected to cruelty for such nonpayment. It is true that P.W. 1 claimed that unless some more money was paid, the victim was threatened to be killed. But at the risk of repeatation it is to be stated that what is meant by more money has not been specifically explained and, as such, it would be highly risky to a conclusion that this claim of some amount tantamounts to pressure for further dowry.

10. In this connection it is also to be noted that the FIR was lodged after a lapse of 35 days of the alleged incident and the only explanation given is that due to illness FIR could not be lodged earlier. Of course, P.W.1 in his cross-examination tried to point out that on 7.4.1984 he lodged a complaint in Nabadwip P.S. but without any action, for which another copy of the complaint was sent to the D.M. In course of cross-examination, P.W. 1 brought out an unsigned typed paper alleging that it was the FIR and the same was placed before Nabadwip P.S. and subsequently sent to D.M. But a plain reading of Ext. ‘A’ is sufficient to indicate that it was written long after 8.5.1984. So, it is sufficiently clear that P. W.1 distorted the reason of delay in lodging the FIR. But the fact remains that the FIR was lodged after 35 days and this delay remains unexplained completely and we are of the view that this delay gave a chance of embellishment.

11. In this connection, it would not be out of place to indicate that if actually there was any threat of killing upon the victim for non-payment of the money before 20.3.1984, P. W. 1 could not have remained idle for 35 days knowing fully well that his daughter committed suicide. This silence on the part of the father of the victim also affects the prosecution case. It is also to be pointed out that the unnatural death case and its connected papers are also not produced in this case though it is claimed by the police Officer drawing the inquest report that there was no other allegation against anybody. So, at the initial point of death there was no story of cruelty or harassment for money and this story came up after 35 days and the witnesses examined thereafter practically tried to narrate, the incident in the manner indicated in the FIR. Of course, all these witnesses turned hostile and, as such, no reliance is placed on this statements made before the Police Officer.

12. So, after a careful scrutiny of the evidence on record and the circumstances, we come to a conclusion that the alleged cruelty has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt and, as such, it cannot be said that the charge framed against the accused has been proved beyond any reasonable doubt.

13. In the result, we set aside the impugned judgment and sentence passed by the learned Sessions Judge. The accused/appellant Sukdeb is found not guilty under Section 498A and Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code and he is acquitted. He be discharged from the bail bond.

Sujit Barman Roy, J.

14. I agree.

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