17 June 2024


Judgments

Supreme Court

Baijnath and Ors. v. State of Madhya Pradesh

MANU/SC/1501/2016

18.11.2016

Criminal

Proof of cruelty or harassment by husband or her relative or person charged is sine qua non to inspirit statutory presumption

Appellants, in-laws of deceased, being aggrieved by conversion of their acquittal into conviction by High Court under Sections 498A and 304B of Indian Penal Code, 1860 seek defeasance of this verdict in present appeal. Trial Court on an exhaustive assessment of evidence adduced, acquitted accused persons of charges against which Respondent/State preferred appeal before High Court. Impugned decision has been rendered thereby upturning the acquittal.

Cruelty or harassment of lady by her husband or his relative for or in connection with any demand for any property or valuable security as a demand for dowry or in connection therewith is common constituent of both the offences. Presumption as to dowry death thus would get activated only upon proof of fact that, deceased lady had been subjected to cruelty or harassment for or in connection with any demand for dowry by accused and that too in reasonable contiguity of death. Such a proof is thus legislatively mandated prerequisite to invoke otherwise statutorily ordained presumption of commission of the offence of dowry death by person charged therewith.

Provisions predicate burden of prosecution to unassailably substantiate ingredients of two offences by direct and convincing evidence so as to avail presumption engrafted in Section 113B of Evidence Act against accused. Proof of cruelty or harassment by husband or her relative or person charged is thus sine qua non to inspirit statutory presumption, to draw person charged within coils thereof. If prosecution fails to demonstrate by cogent coherent and persuasive evidence to prove such fact, person accused of either of above referred offences cannot be held guilty by taking refuge only of presumption to cover up shortfall in proof.

Prosecution has failed to prove this indispensable component of two offences beyond reasonable doubt. Factum of unnatural death in matrimonial home and that too within seven years of marriage therefore is thus ipso facto not sufficient to bring home charge under Sections 304B and 498A of Code against them. Predicament of prosecution is compounded further by its failure to prove, precise cause of death of deceased. It is not clear as to whether death has been suicidal or homicidal. It is also not proved beyond doubt, origin and cause of external injuries. Though the obscurity of causative factors is due to the putrefaction of body, benefit of deficiency in proof, logically would be available to the persons charged. Prosecution has failed to prove crucial ingredient of cruelty and harassment by direct and cogent evidence thereby disentitling itself to benefit of statutory presumption available under Section 113B of the Act. Appellants were entitled to the benefit of doubt.

Relevant

Section 113B of Evidence Act, Sections 498A and 304B of Indian Penal Code, 1860

Tags : Dowry death Conviction Proof

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