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Netai Ghosh and Ors. Vs. State of West Bengal - (High Court of Calcutta) (21 Jun 2021)

Mere demand of dowry is not sufficient to bring home the offence to an accused



The Appellants being aggrieved against the judgment and order of conviction and sentence passed by the learned Additional Sessions Judge has preferred the instant appeal under the provision of Section 374 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC).

The Appellants were convicted for committing offence under Section 498A and 304B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) and they were sentenced simple imprisonment for two years and fine of Rs. 1,000 for offence punishable under Section 498A of the IPC and rigorous imprisonment for seven years for offence punishable under Section 304B of the IPC.

In a case of cruelty and dowry death, direct evidence is hardly available. It is the circumstantial evidence and the conduct of the accused persons which are to be taken into consideration for adjudicating upon the truthfulness or otherwise of the prosecution case. Allegation of cruelty and unnatural death of the deceased was made by the defacto complainant only after the death of the deceased. The defacto complainant did not state in the FIR as well as in course of his evidence that the accused persons demanded dowry as a consequence of marriage.

Under Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, mere demand of dowry is not sufficient to bring home the offence to an accused. Thus, any demand of money, property or valuable security made from the bride or her parents or other relatives by the bridegroom or his parents or other relatives or vice versa would fail within the mischief of "dowry" under the Act where such demand is not properly referable to any legally recognized claim and is relatable only to the consideration of marriage. Dowry as a quid pro quo for marriage is prohibited and not the giving of traditional presents to the bride or the bride groom by friends and relatives. Thus, voluntary presents given at or before or after the marriage to the bride or the bridegroom of a traditional nature, which are given not as a consideration for marriage but out of love, affection on regard, would not fall within the mischief of the expression 'dowry' made punishable under the Act. In instant case, it is ascertained that the de facto complainant as stated in his FIR that voluntarily gave bridal presents according to his capacity.

Prosecution failed to prove the cause of death of the deceased because the report of the autopsy surgeon shows that she was not in a position to give his final opinion as to the cause of death before receiving the chemical examiner's report of the viscera of the deceased. The impugned judgment and order of conviction and sentence passed by Additional Sessions Judge, is liable to be set aside. Appeal allowed.


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