26 May 2020


Judgments

High Court of Patna

Ashok Prasad Sah and Ors. Vs. The State of Bihar

MANU/BH/1271/2018

20.06.2018

Criminal

Proof of cruelty or harassment by husband or her relative or person charged is sine qua non to inspirit statutory presumption, to draw person charged within coils thereof

Instant criminal appeals have been preferred against the judgment and order of conviction and order of sentence passed by Additional Sessions Judge-V, whereby the learned trial Court acquitted the accused giving them benefit of doubt from the offence punishable under Sections 304(B) and 201 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) while convicted Appellant -Accused for the offence punishable under Sections 304(B) and 201 of the IPC and sentenced them to undergo R.I. for life under Section 304(B) of IPC, and further sentenced them to undergo R.I for three years and also slapped them with a fine of Rs. 5,000 each and in default of payment of fine, further sentenced them to undergo S.I. for six months under Section 201 of IPC. However, all the sentences were directed to run concurrently. The point for consideration in the case is, as to whether the prosecution has been able to bring home the charge levelled against the Appellants beyond all reasonable doubts or not.

In the facts and circumstances of the case, it is held that, the prosecution has utterly and miserably failed to substantiate demand of dowry by the accused persons subjecting the daughter of the informant to torture and cruelty over the said demand, excruciating her over the said demand soon before her death by adducing consistent, trustworthy and convincing evidence and the death of the deceased also does not stand established by the prosecution. So, it cannot be presumed that, the Appellants committed alleged dowry death of the deceased under Section 113-B of the Evidence Act.

Hon'ble Apex Court in Major Singh &Another v. State of Punjab has ruled that, when there is no evidence as to demand of dowry or cruelty and that deceased was subjected to dowry harassment "soon before her death" by the Appellant-accused parents-in-law conduct of father and brother of deceased, not natural, the conviction of the appellant under Section 304-B of IPC cannot be sustained and is liable to be set aside. To attract conviction under Section 304-B of IPC, prosecution should adduce evidence to show that "soon before her death", the victim was subjected to cruelty or harassment. There must always be a proximate and live link between effects of cruelty based on dowry demand and death concerned.

Hon'ble Apex Court in Baijnath & Ors. v. State of Madhya Pradesh has ruled that, mere factum of unnatural death in matrimonial home within seven years of marriage not sufficient to convict accused under Sections 304-B and 498-A of IPC. Only when prosecution proves beyond doubt that deceased was subjected to cruelty/harassment in connection with dowry demand soon before her death, presumption under Section 113-B can be invoked. Section 113-B of the Act, enjoins a statutory presumption as to dowry death. Noticeably, this presumption as well is founded on the proof of cruelty or harassment of the woman dead for or in connection with any demand for dowry by the person charged with the offence. The presumption as to dowry death thus would get activated only upon the proof of the fact that the deceased lady had been subjected to cruelty or harassment for or in connection with any demand for dowry by the accused and that too in the reasonable contiguity of death. A conjoint reading of these three provisions, thus predicates the burden of the prosecution to unassailably substantiate the ingredients of the two offences by direct and convincing evidence so as to avail the presumption engrafted in Section 113-B of the Act against the accused. Proof of cruelty or harassment by the husband or her relative or the person charged is thus the sine qua non to inspirit the statutory presumption, to draw the person charged within the coils thereof. If the prosecution fails to demonstrate by cogent, coherent and persuasive evidence to prove such fact, the person accused of either of the abovereferred offences cannot be held guilty by taking refuge only of the presumption to cover up the shortfall in proof.

The prosecution has failed to bring home the charges levelled against the Appellants beyond all reasonable doubts by adducing convincing, cogent, consistent and worth credence ocular and documentary evidence. Hence, the impugned judgment and order of conviction and sentence passed by learned trial Court is set aside and the Appellants are acquitted of the charges levelled against them. Accordingly, these two criminal appeals are allowed.

Relevant

Baijnath & Ors. v. State of Madhya Pradesh MANU/SC/1501/2016
: (2017) 1 Supreme Court Case 101, Major Singh &Another v. State of Punjab reported in MANU/SC/0407/2015
: (2015) 5

Tags : Dowry death Conviction Validity

Share :