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Parvati Devi vs. The State of Bihar and Ors. - (Supreme Court) (17 Dec 2021)

There must be existence of a proximate and live link between the effect of cruelty based on dowry demand and the death concerned

MANU/SC/1280/2021

Criminal

The Appellant are aggrieved by the common judgment passed by the High Court upholding the judgment of conviction under Sections 304B and 201 read with Section 34 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) passed by the 5th Additional Sessions Judge.

There must be existence of a proximate and live link between the effect of cruelty based on dowry demand and the death concerned. If the alleged incident of cruelty is remote in time and has become stale enough not to disturb the mental equilibrium of the women concerned, it would be of no consequence.

Section 304B of IPC read in conjunction with Section 113B of the Evidence Act leaves no manner of doubt that, once the prosecution has been able to demonstrate that a woman has been subjected to cruelty or harassment for or in connection with any demand for dowry, soon before her death, the Court shall proceed on a presumption that the persons who have subjected her to cruelty or harassment in connection with the demand for dowry, have caused a dowry death within the meaning of Section 304B of IPC. The said presumption is, however, rebuttable and can be dispelled on the accused being able to demonstrate through cogent evidence that all the ingredients of Section 304B of IPC have not been satisfied.

In the instant case, despite the shoddy investigation conducted by the prosecution, present Court is of the view that the circumstances set out in Section 304B of the IPC have been established in the light of the fact that the deceased, had gone missing from her matrimonial home within a few months of her marriage and immediately after demands of dowry were made on her and that her death had occurred under abnormal circumstances, such a death would have to be charactarized as a “dowry death”.

There is sufficient evidence brought on record to inculpate A-1 (husband of the deceased). The circumstances put together, unerringly point to his guilt in extinguishing the life of his wife within a few months of the marriage on her failing to satisfy the demands of dowry. The impugned judgment and order of sentence imposed on A-1 does not deserve interference and is maintained. Criminal Appeal filed by A-1 is accordingly dismissed. The said appellant who is presently on bail, is directed to surrender before the Trial Court/Superintendent of Jail within four weeks to undergo the remaining period of his sentence.

As for A-3 (Mother-in-law), from the evidence on record only certain omnibus allegations have been made against her with respect to dowry demands. The Respondent-State has not been able to indicate any specific allegations, nor point to any specific evidence or testimony against her. In fact, in the only direct evidence before the Court, PW-3 (informant and father of the victim) mentions that A-2 threatened to harm the deceased. In view of the above, it is necessary to interfere with the findings of the Courts below convicting A-3 for the offence under Sections 304B and 201 read with Section 34 of IPC. The said appeal filed by A-3 is accordingly allowed.

Tags : CONVICTION   EVIDENCE   CREDIBILITY  

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