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Suresh Raghunath Kochare And -vs- The State Of Maharashtra And on 13 March, 1992

Bombay High Court Suresh Raghunath Kochare And -vs- The State Of Maharashtra And on 13 March, 1992
Equivalent citations:1992 (3) BomCR 287, 1992 CriLJ 2455, 1 (1994) DMC 267
Author: Cazi
Bench: A C Kurdukar


Cazi, J.

1. This Criminal Revision Application challenges the legality and propriety of the judgment and order dated 14th Feb. 1991 passed by the learned Sessions Judge, Satara, in Criminal Appeal No. 57 of 1989 by which judgment and order he has confirmed the judgment and order dated 10th May 1989 passed by the learned III Assistant Sessions Judge, Satara in Sessions Case No. 118 of 1988 convicting both the petitioners for offences u/S. 498A and S. 306 read with S. 34 of the Indian Penal Code and, in respect of the offence u/S. 498A of the Indian Penal Code, sentencing each of them for rigorous imprisonment for three years and to pay a fine of Rs. 1,000/- in default rigorous imprisonment for six months, and in respect of the offence u/S. 306 read with S. 34 of the Indian Penal Code, for rigorous imprisonment for seven years and to pay a fine of Rs. 5,000/- in default to suffer further rigorous imprisonment for two years.

2. The victim is Mangal the wife of petitioner No. 1. She died by drowning in a well and her body was recovered on the afternoon of 24th October 1985. Her parental place is Awarda, Taluka Patan, District Satara. The petitioners are residents of Vanwasmachi, Taluka Karad, District Satara. Petitioner No. 2 is the mother of petitioner No. 1. The marriage of Mangal with Petitioner No. 1 took place in May 1984 at Vanvasmachi. The prosecution case shortly was as follows : Soon after the marriage the petitioners started demanding gold and safari suit from Mangal’s parents. They complained that the bormal which was given to Mangal by her parents at the time of marriage was less than one tola in weight and they harassed Mangal to obtain from her parents enough gold to make up one tola. A gold ring was also demanded. Mangal was subjected to harassment and cruel treatment in order to obtain these dowry gifts from her parents. Mangal, during her visits to her parental place spoke about the harassment/cruelty to her and about the demands for dowry. She sent one chit to her uncle Jaysing Yeshwant Chavan (P.W. 6) asking Jaysing to ask her father to come and fetch her from Vanvasmachi immediately as she was subjected to beating on account of demands for bormal and other items. She also sent by post a post card in June 1985 to her father asking him to come to Vanvasmachi as there was plan there to harm her. Ultimately Mangal committed suicide by drowning in a well belonging to one Pawar which is adjacent to the land of petitioner No. 1, her body being discovered in the well on 24th October 1985. According to the charge, Mangal committed suicide sometime between 22nd October 1985 and 24th October 1985.

3. The prosecution led evidence of eight witnesses. Anant Prabhu Mane, P.W. 1, is a panch witness. He proved the panchanama (Exhibit ’11’) which described the situation of the well. That evidence is not material for the purpose of this Criminal Revision Application. Govind Shankar Mane, P.W. 2, is also a panch witness. Apart from the inquest panchanama (Exhibit ‘8’) he was also concerned with Exhibit ’13’, but he was hostile to the prosecution and his evidence does not carry the prosecution any further so far as this Criminal Revision Application is concerned. P.W. 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 are relations of the parties and we will proceed, in the following paragraphs, to give a gist of their evidence. Atmaram Dadaram Jadhav, P.W. 8, is the investigating officer. He deposed that petitioner No. 2 had lodged missing report regarding Mangal on 23rd October 1985. He also deposed that petitioner No. 1 made discovery statement regarding whip and produced the whip from his house but there was no corroboration to this evidence and the Courts below have not relied, rightly, on the evidence regarding discovery of whip.

4. Maruti Krishna Chavan, P.W. 3, is Mangal’s father’s uncle. He deposed that Mangal had told him that on account of ornaments both the petitioners had harassed her and she had requested him to make arrangement for providing bormal to the petitioners. He also referred to the demand for gold ring and dress but as regards these two items he was contradicted by the omission to state about this in his police statement.

5. Sitabai Appa Chavan, P.W. 4, is Mangal’s father’s aunty. She deposed that Mangal, after her marriage, used to come to Awarde and used to cry and become nervous during her visits and she used to tell her that she was subjected to harassment on account of demand by both the petitioners and that petitioner No. 1 used to beat her at the instigation of petitioner No. 2 and the petitioners insisted for one tola of gold because of sub-standard ornaments of bormal presented in the marriage and the petitioners also insisted for one gold ring.

6. Narmadabai Ishwara Kochare, P.W. 5, is the aunt of petitioner No. 1, being the wife of the first petitioner’s uncle Ishwara. She deposed that she resided in the same vada as the petitioners but in separate apartment and that once petitioner No. 1 asked Mangal to prepare jawar bread and on Mangal’s refusal to do so petitioner No. 1 gave 2 to 4 strokes of whip to Mangal.

7. Jaysing Yeshwant Chavan, P.W. 6, is Mangal’s uncle being brother of Mangal’s father Khashaba. He deposed that when Mangal along with her husband and other members of her husband’s family had visited her parental place on the sixteenth day of her marriage, petitioner No. 1 had said that he wanted a safari suit and a gold ring of one tola or otherwise he would not take Mangal but he (Jaysingh) told him to wait till Diwali when everything would be given but the first petitioner’s angry mood did not change. He further deposed that one day Mangal again visited her parents’ place and at that time she insisted for compliance of the dowry demand and made grievance of her harassment and she also told about the grievances made by both the petitioners about bormal. He further deposed that about 15 days prior to the incident he had met Mangal at Awarde and she had told him that petitioner No. 1 had come to leave her at Awarde for compliance of the dowry gifts and at that time he persuaded petitioner No. 1 to be patient upto Diwali. He also identified the hand-writing of Mangal on the chit which was marked Exhibit ’18’ and on the post-card which was marked Exhibit ’19’.

8. Malan Khashaba Chavan, P.W. 7, is Mangal’s mother. Her deposition is similar to the deposition of the other witnesses on the point of Mangal telling them about the dowry demand and harassment and cruelty by the petitioners on that account. However, she further deposed that Mangal had also stated to her that she had been beaten by whip, by stick and by kick blows by both the petitioners, but this part of her deposition is contradicted by her omission to state about this in her police statement.

9. We will first consider the conviction under S. 498A of the Indian Penal Code. That Section reads as follows :

“Section 498A. Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

Explanation. – For the purposes of this section, “cruelty” means –

(b) any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or

(b) harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.”

It will be seen from the summary of evidence given above that as regards beating or physical cruelty by petitioner No. 1 the only direct evidence is the deposition of Narmadabai. Then there is direct oral evidence of demands made by petitioner No. 1 for gold and safari suit. Finally there is evidence of statements, both oral and in writing, of Mangal that she was treated cruelly by both petitioners for coercing her to meet her in-laws’ unlawful demand for property but the question is of admissibility of Mangal’s statements.

10. As regards Narmadabai’s deposition both the Courts below have declined to place reliance on it and we think, rightly so. Narmadabai admitted in her own deposition that there was disagreement between herself and the elder brother of petitioner No. 1 about house property. She also admitted that petitioner No. 2 raise quarrels with her and according to her this is “without any just cause or reason.” It was suggested to her, which of course she denied, that she was giving false evidence about the incident pertaining to bread and whipping due to strained relation caused by quarrels raised by petitioner No. 2 with her. Both the petitioners in their statements under S. 313 of the criminal Procedure Code stated that Narmadabai deposed against them because of the strained relations with her. As the evidence of Narmada stands uncorroborated by any other evidence it would be unsafe to rely upon her uncorroborated testimony that petitioner No. 1 whipped Mangal.

11. We will now discuss the admissibility of the oral and written statements made by Mangal regarding harassment/cruelty by both the petitioners on account of dowry demands. According to us, these statements are admissible under Clause (1) of S. 32 of the Indian Evidence Act, S. 32 up to end of Clause (1) thereof reads as follows :

“S. 32. Statements, written or verbal, of relevant facts made by a person who is dead, or who cannot be found, or who has become incapable of giving evidence, or whose attendance cannot be procured without an amount of delay or expense which, under the circumstances of the case, appears to the Court unreasonable, are themselves relevant facts in the following cases :-

(1) When the statement is made by a person as to the cause of his death, or as to any of the circumstances of the transaction which resulted in his death, in case in which the cause of that person’s death comes into question.

Such statements are relevant whether the person who made them was or was not, at the time when they were made, under expectation of death, and whatever may be the nature of the proceeding in which the cause of his death comes into question.”

The cause of Mangal’s death is in question in these proceedings. The only question that remains to be answered is as to whether it can be said that the statements are “as to any of the circumstances of the transaction which resulted in” Mangal’s death. This question also arose, in similar circumstances, before the Supreme Court in , Sharad Birdhichand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra, where the above question was answered in the affirmative (by majority judgment) and it is necessary to give particulars of that case.

12. In Sharad Birdhichand Sarda’s case the facts were as follows : The victim in that case was one Manju. The accused there was her husband Sharad Birdhichand Sarda. Manju and Sharad were married on 11-2-1982. During the night of 11-6-1982 and 12-6-1982 Manju died by potassium cyanide poisoning. One the morning of 12-6-1982 she was found dead in her bed. There was no eye-witness to say who administered the poison to Manju. The prosecution case was that Sharad administered the poison to Manju. Sharad’s defence theory was that Manju committed suicide. Letters dated 8-5-1982 (Ex. 30), 8-6-1982 (Ex. 32) and 23-4-1982 (Ex. 33) written by Manju to her sister Anju and to her friend Vahini were tendered in evidence by the prosecution to show that Sharad ill-treated Manju and those were held (by Majority judgment) as admissible in evidence under Clause (1) of S. 32 of the Evidence Act but these letters were construed by the Court as revealing Manju’s psychology from which it was held that she committed suicide. In none of these letters Manju spoke directly of having a mind to commit suicide. The closest she spoke of revealing her mind on this point was in the letter dated 8-4-1982 when she stated : “Now in this letter, when (out of) the things coming to my mind which cannot be written, I do not understand what is to be written. The state of mind now is very much the same. Enough. You understand (me). I am undergoing a very difficult test. I am unable to achieve it. Till I could control (myself), well and good. When it becomes impossible, some other way will have to be evolved. Let

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