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When Conviction by Lower Court Was Not Granted, High Court Cannot Convict Accused

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

Supreme Court has noted that when the trial Court conviction under Section 498A of Indian Penal Code, 1860 was not for the demand of dowry, the High Court cannot convict the accused under the same allegation without a detailed discussion and reasoning on the evidence on record.

“One of the cardinal principles of natural justice is that no man should be condemned without being heard (Audi Alteram Partem). But the law reports are replete with instances of courts hesitating to approve the contention that failure of justice had occasioned merely because a person was not heard on a particular aspect. However, if the aspect is of such a nature that non-explanation] of it has contributed to penalising an individual, the court should say that since he was not given the opportunity to explain that aspect there was failure of justice on account of non-compliance with the principle of natural justice.”

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In the case of Wasim vs. State NCT of Delhi, Conviction of appellant was made under Section 498A and 306 IPC. Sentence of three years’ simple imprisonment for the offence under Section 498A IPC and four years’ simple imprisonment for the offence under Section 306 IPC was imposed on the Appellant. The appeal filed by the Appellant was partly allowed by the High Court. The Appellant was acquitted for the offence under Section 498A IPC was upheld by the High Court. Hence, a further appeal was made.

Conviction under Section 498A IPC is for subjecting a woman to cruelty. Cruelty is explained as any wilful conduct which is likely to drive a woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health.

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Section 306 IPC provides for punishment with imprisonment that may extend to ten years. It strictly requires that there should be clear mens rea to commit the offence for conviction.

The Trial Court, in the case, after examining the evidence on record, held that demand of dowry was not proved. However, appellant’s extra-marital relations were proved and hence, he was convicted under Section 498A IPC. Though no charge was framed under Section 306 IPC, the Trial Court was of the opinion that the conviction under Section 306 IPC was permissible. The Trial Court found that the offence under Section 306 IPC was made out against the Appellant and convicted him.

The Conviction of the Appellant by the Trial Court under Section 498A was not for the demand of dowry. The Conviction under Section 498 A was on account of mental cruelty by the Appellant in having an extramarital relation and the threats held out by him to the deceased that he would leave her and marry the other girl.

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The Appellant in its appeal contended that the charge that was framed against him was under Section 304B IPC and he could not have been convicted under Section 306 IPC. The High Court did not find any convincing evidence to hold that the Appellant abetted the commission of suicide by the deceased.

In the view of the fact that though not soon before death but soon after the marriage there was demand for dowry and money was taken. The High Court acquitted the Appellant under Section 306 IPC by reaching to a conclusion on the basis of evidence that the charge of abetment of suicide on the part of Appellant was not proved. It was however held, that the offence under Section 498A was made out.

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