ARVIND KUMAR VS. STATE OF RAJASTHAN

By – Priyanshi Bhatia

IN THE HIGH COURT OF RAJASTHAN

  NAME OF THE CASE  Arvind Kumar vs. the State of Rajasthan  
  CITATION  2001 Cri LJ 4834
  DATE OF THE CASE  26th April 2001
  APPELLANT  Arvind Kumar
  RESPONDENT  State of Rajasthan
  BENCH/JUDGE  Sunil Kumar Garg, J.
  STATUTES/ CONSTITUTION INVOLVED    Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973Indian Penal Code, 1860Indian Evidence Act, 1872
  IMPORTANT SECTIONS/ARTICLES  Section 313, Section 482 of the CrPCSection 113B of the Evidence ActSection 113B, Section 201, Section 304B,498A of the IPC  

Abstract

The present case analysis deals with the case that involved the grotesque homicide of the woman, reasons that lead to such an unfortunate fate. It also covers the Legal Provisions, Factual Matrix and how the court has appreciated the facts by application of the law regarding the dowry death and domestic violence.

                                                                                                                              ~ Priyanshi Bhatia

                                                    INTRODUCTION

It had been once stated by the law enforcement officer that-            

“Very often cases of marital discord and domestic violence spring from dowry-related issues. Though families try to avoid straightforward demands, there will be customary implications and negotiations. In some cases, there will not be any physical violence but women will be emotionally abused and treated as second-rate individuals. But even if there is evident physical violence, 90% of such cases will be settled without any official complaint or record,”

The case of dowry deaths and domestic violence has been prevalent and are also on the surge. The reason for this could be the Patriarchal greed of the Husband and in-laws of the victim. Such case also emanates from the lack of legal awareness, and more often than not the cases go unreported on file.

                                           BACKGROUND OF THE CASE

The Appeal has been preferred against the judgment and order of the Session Judge, dated 24.02.1997, whereby the Accused-Appellants have assailed the decision of the Session Judge, wherein they have been convicted on the charges of S. 302B and 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The Learned Judge has punished all the seven Accused-Appellants for the dowry death of the deceased, who happen to the wife of one of the Deceased, and rest of the Accused-Appellants, are her in-laws. They have been penalized for a term of ten years of rigorous imprisonment on the charge of Section 304B, and on the charge of Section 498A have been convicted for a period of three years of rigorous punishment.     

Allegedly there was also a dying declaration of the deceased which the Trial Court did not believe and rejected, and the same had been contended before the High Court by the Accused-Appellants.

                                                       FACTS OF THE CASE

  1. The facts of the case as has been reported by the Father of the deceased in the report to the police officer on 07.08.1992 at about 09:00 AM, wherein he has stated that her daughter, aged 22 years, has been killed by the Accused-Appellants. That she was married to one of the Accused-Appellant, and before the marriage the Accused had demanded dowry for marrying the daughter of the complainant, upto two tola of the Gold, and same had been fulfilled in order to get her daughter married.
  • He further stated that even after taking the same, the greed of the Accused was not satisfied, and he incessantly used to harass and torture the deceased in connection with the dowry. One of the incident quoted by the complainant is that when her daughter was about to deliver the child, the Accused had demanded the amount of Rupees 50 thousand for the same, which the former person had given. But later, when he asked for the amount, he was denied of the same by being told that to adjust the same towards the dowry. Helpless and unwilling complainant had to give in as he could not have done anything, but the water reached the brim when he was given misconception by the Accused that his daughter had stomach ache and she had been hospitalized, but on reaching the hospital he found the daughter is near to whole burnt condition, and he could foresee that she might not survive.
  • Investigation started on the report by the complainant, and medical examination of the deceased was done by the doctor on 07.08.1992 at around 05:45 Am, according to him, the deceased had 90% superficial burns on her body.
  • Consequently, she did not survive and her corpse was sent for the post mortem. The doctor who conducted the post mortem stated that the victim had died because of the shock that emanated from the superficial burning of her body.  

                                    ISSUE RAISED BEFORE THE COURT

1. Whether the case of Dowry Death as contemplated under Section 304B of the IPC has been made out against the Accused Appellants?

2. Whether the Trial Court was right in rejecting the Dying Declaration of the Deceased?

3. Whether the deceased was subjected to cruelty by her husband and her in-laws prior to her death (sic ‘soon before her death)? If yes, then whether the cruelty was in connection with or for the demand of dowry?

                                    ARGUMENTS FROM THE APPELLANT SIDE

 The counsel for the Appellant had put forth the following submissions:

  • That the trial court erred in not believing the dying declaration of the Deceased, which rather should not have been believed in as no case of either suicide or homicide would have been made out on the basis of the same and it is just a case of accidental death. Thus, the whole findings are wrong, and the conviction so awarded by the Trial Court is liable to be quashed. 
  • That the story of the prosecution suffers from the conjectures and surmises, reliance was placed on fact that it does not concur with the statement of the local witness, and thus trial court was wrong in holding that it is a case of dowry death.
  • That there is no case that against the some of the Accused-Appellants, and they have been unnecessarily roped in, also there is no evidence against them.
  • All the findings that the Trial Court arrived at are sans any legal backing, hence liable to be set aside.

                                    ARGUMENTS FROM RESPONDENT SIDE

The arguments that have been advanced by the counsel for the complainant and the State Public Prosecutor are as follows:

  • That the judgment and order of the Learned Trial court is good in law based on correct legal provisions, principles and the evidences. That they bolster the decision of the Trial Court.

                                                RELATED PROVISIONS

1.  Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

“(1) Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or har­assment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, such death shall be called “dowry death”, and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death. Explanation.—For the purpose of this sub-section, “dowry” shall have the same meaning as in section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (28 of 1961).

(2) Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprison­ment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.”[1]

2. Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

“113B. Presumption as to dowry death.—When the question is whether a person has committed the dowry death of a woman and it is shown that soon before her death such woman has been subjected by such person to cruelty or harassment for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, the Court shall presume that such person had caused the dowry death. Explanation.—For the purposes of this section, “dowry death” shall have the same meaning as in section 304B, of the Indian Penal Code, (45 of 1860.”[2]

3. Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

“482. Saving of inherent powers of High Court. Nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code, or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.”[3]

4. Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

“498A. Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.—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 purpose of this section, “cruelty” means—

(a) 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.”[4]

5. Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

“313. Power to examine the accused.

(1) In every inquiry or trial, for the purpose of enabling the accused personally to explain any circumstances appearing in the evidence against him, the Court-

(a) may at any stage, without previously warning the accused, put such questions to him as the Court considers necessary;

(b) shall, after the witnesses for the prosecution have been examined and before he is called on for his defence, question him generally on the case: Provided that in a summons- case, where the Court has dispensed with the personal attendance of the accused, it may also dispense with his examination under clause (b).”[5]

                                                       JUDGEMENT

I.  Whether the Trial Court was right in rejecting the Dying Declaration of the Deceased?

As regards the question of credibility of the dying declaration the Hon’ble Court has placed reliance on the judgment of Apex Court in the case of Smt. Shanti and Another Vs. The state of Haryana, in which it has been held by Court speaking through the Lord Jayachandra Reddy that-

            “A careful analysis of Section 304B, IPC shows that this section has the following essentials :-

            1. That death of a woman should be caused by burns or bodily injury or otherwise than under normal circumstances.

            2. Such death should have occurred within seven years of her marriage.

            3. She must have been subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband.

            4. Such cruelty or harassment should be for or in connection with demand for dowry.”[6]     

The court held that when the case is of dowry death, then whether it is homicidal or suicidal, it is irrelevant. The court further held that in the cases of dowry death the case revolves around the circumstantial evidence, and inferences are drawn from that only. For such principle, the court had placed reliance on the Gurbachan Singh Judgment.[7]

“And, that in the cases of murder motive may or may not be there but is certainly inherent in the dowry death cases. And hence, what is required of the Court to examine is as to who translated it into action as a motive for it is not individual, but of family.”[8]

Thus, by placing reliance on the above legal authorities the court held that the two facts are proved that the death occurred within seven years and the victim died an unnatural death.

The court opined that the only question that needs to be considered now is the credibility of the dying declaration.  The dying declaration had not been adduced and relied upon the prosecution that is why the defence had adduced it.

The court held that one of the tests to adjudge the credibility of the dying declaration that the recorder of such should be satisfied that the Despondent is in a fit state of mind to give the statement. Only then the court could place the implicit reliance, lest if the respondent is not in the capacity to make, then such statements ought to be rejected. They further held that the dying declaration should be voluntary and not be prompted.

That referring to the facts of the case the court held that the certification has been taken from the doctor that the despondent is in a fit state but the same has not been placed on the file. Another impairing factor is that the same is not recorded by the Magistrate but his reader. And, post that was given to the SHO without there being any seal cover, thus veracity according to the court could not be free from the doubt.

Another factor that the court stated was that although it has been contended that the deceased mother was there but did not sign, the court opined that there must have been something wrong which is why she must not have signed.

Thus, by holding the above the court held that it has been rightly rejected by the trial court and no reliance could be placed upon it, as it suffers from the infirmities.

II. Whether the deceased was subjected to cruelty by her husband and her in-laws prior to her death (sic ‘soon before her death)? If yes, then whether the cruelty was in connection with or for the demand of dowry?

The Court on this point has held that there is sufficient evidence on the fact that the amount of fifty thousand had been given by the complainant to the Accused-Appellant at the time when the deceased was about to deliver the child. The court held that such fact is convincing, as it is also corroborated by the statements of the other witnesses, viz. mother and the Mama of the deceased. Also, in with of the statement of the complainant court observed that fact is true the amount had not been returned by the Accused-Appellants and as a corollary of which dispute had arisen amongst them.

Also, as per the testimony of the two independent witnesses of the locality, that there arose a dispute between the Accused Appellants and the complainant two months prior to the incident over some money transaction which is unknown to the respondent, the court held that there was some dispute over the money between the parties. The court further held that such could not be extended to the demand of the dowry.

It had been opined by the court that though there is no mention of complainant going to Appellant house, and same is mentioned in police proceedings, and when he went to the house deceased stated that she is being harassed and tortured on dowry. The court opined that this statement is established in light of the testimony of the complainant and another witness who accompanied him. Thus, it had been held by the court that the Accused-Appellants have taken the money, and then there had been quarrel and altercation over the same, and it had been stated by the Appellants that amounted should be adjusted towards the dowry.                          

For the other Accused- Appellant, who was not there, or in other words, who have not asked about the money, the court opined that when the amount had been taken by the two Accused, the question for convicting the other does not arise. The Complainant would naturally have asked from the people, who had taken from him. Also, the court stated that there need to be some overt acts attributed to the relatives of the Accused to be proved beyond reasonable doubt by the Prosecution. The court further stated that people unnecessary rope in the relatives of the Husband, although did provide for it, there need to be some over act attributed to them in order to bring home their conviction. On mere conjectures and surmises, the court cannot convict a person.    

Thus, by holding such, the court acquitted the other Accused-Appellant; and upheld the conviction of the Husband and the person who went with him (brother in law of the deceased) to take the money from the complainant.

                                                              CONCLUSION

Thus, it can be concluded in the end we more often than not, have heard about the cases of husbands and in-laws harassing and torturing the wife just because their demands of the dowry had not been met by her family. It could be further said herein that the post-marital status of the woman depends on the dowry, and at times might set the path of eternal distress or self-destruction for her, which unfortunately culminates in the report of the suicide or either homicide.   

That the practice of dowry deaths is still prevalent and continues, despite there been ardent outrage and hue-cry over it. There is a dire need for timely intervention and the commission that deals with such cases related to gender-based abuse and domestic violence, must strive more to prevent such types of menaces.

It could also be concluded herein that, like in the present by contending on the aspect of the law, the Accused are able to find the loopholes, thereby protracting and delaying the trial. Therefore, stringent anti-dowry laws and a separate enactment covering dowry deaths and domestic violence need to be enacted, in light of the High Acquittal rate in such cases.  Hence, we need some radical change like the Abolition of Sati.