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Cruelty Not Connected to Dowry Cannot Be Basis for Conviction for Same: Supreme Court [Read Judgment]

Author: Astha Srivastava, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi

Supreme Court has noted that conviction under Section 304B of Indian Penal Code, 1860 can be made only if the woman was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or his relatives who must be for or in connection with any demand for dowry soon before her death.

In the case of Girish Singh vs. State of Uttarakhand, the accused were charged under Sections 306 read with Section 34 and Section 304B read with Section 34 of Indian Penal Code.

In this case of prosecution, the first accused used to treat his wife with cruelty on account of dowry demand. The same allegation was made against his father-second accused. It is also alleged that his father wanted to fulfil his lust with his daughter-in-law. She did not agree. The accused tortured and beat her. The Daughter-in-law committed suicide by burning herself. The appellants were convicted under Section 304B read with Section 34 of IPC. It was, however, found that offence under Section 306 read with Section 34 of the IPC was not made out against the appellants. The appellants were sentenced to seven years of rigorous imprisonment.

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Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code reads as follows:

304B, Dowry Death-(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 after 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”

“The High Court, in this case, was in clear error and taking into consideration the evidence relating to harassment by the second accused on the basis that he, in the state intoxication, asked her to sleep with him and on that basis, she was subjected to mental cruelty. The said evidence was totally irrelevant and foreign to the scope of a trial for the offence under section 304B of the IPC. It did not relate, at all to the demand of dowry”, said the Supreme Court.

The Bench, while setting aside the concurrent conviction, observed that the appellant’s court was duty-bound in the case of an appeal by the accused to the reappraise the evidence.

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“Right of appeal” is the creature of statute. Unless appellants power is expressly limited by additional conditionalities, the appellants court has power or rather is duty-bound in the case of an appeal against acquittal, the evidence though subject to the limitation that interference would be in a case where the Trial Court’s verdict is against the weight of evidence which is the same thing as a perverse verdict. We need not catalogue the circumstances which are well-settled”.

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The Supreme Court further added that the appeals are only to be allowed and we allow the appeals and set aside the judgment of the high court to the extent it convicts the appellants for the offence under section 304B read with section 34 of the IPC and the judgment of the trial court restored. Since, during the course of the appeals, the appellants have been released on bail; the appellants need not surrender and there bail bonds stand discharged”.

To Read Judgment: Click Here!

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