CASE COMMENT

COURT The Supreme Court of India

Criminal Appeals Nos. 1735-36 of 2010

CITATION– 2021 SCC OnLine SC 404

PETITIONER– Satbir Singh and Another

RESPONDENTS– State of Haryana

BENCH– 2 Judges: Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justice Aniruddha Bose


LEGAL PROVISIONS– Application of Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code of 1860, Section 113 of the Evidence Act of 1872, and Sections 313 & 232 of the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973 in the case of dowry death.


  • The deceased was married to Satbir Singh (accused or appellate no. 1) on July 1st, 1994.
  • After about a year, on July 31, 1995, at around 4:00 or 4:30 pm, the deceased’s father (the complainant) got a call from someone informing him that his daughter (the deceased) had been admitted to the hospital and was on the verge of passing away.
  • As soon as the father received this information, he immediately drove to the hospital with his wife and son where they discovered that his daughter had died from burn injuries.
  • The doctor claimed that the deceased’s body had Kerosene residues, and burn injuries caused damage to 85% of the body.
  • The dead committed suicide by setting herself on fire just one year after being married, claim the prosecutors.
  • However, other witnesses and the complainant claim that because of less dowry paid at marriage, she was the target of abuse and harassment. The deceased repeatedly explained to the complainant and his son that her matrimonial home was having issues.
  • In anger over the death of his daughter, the father filed a lawsuit. The accused and his family were charged with violating articles 304-B and 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  • The case was brought before the court, and on December 11, 1997, the trial court found Satbir and his brother guilty under sections 304B and 306 of the Indian Penal Code. They were sentenced to seven years of solitary confinement under section 304b and five years of solitary confinement under section 306 of the IPC.
  • Dissatisfied by this, the appellants petitioned[i] the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, Chandigarh in 1988 to overturn the Trial Court’s ruling of conviction and punishment. After nearly 10 years in 2008, the High Court denied the appellants’ appeal in the impugned judgment of 06.11.2008 while upholding the Trial Court’s ruling.
  • After that, the case was brought before the Supreme Court of India under Article 136 of the Indian Constitution, which is the special leave petition that contested the rulings of both lower courts.[ii]


The issues which were raised by the contesting parties in the court of law are as follows-

  1. Whether the charge brought against the convicted party under section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, is valid?
  2. Whether the conviction under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 was justified?


  • The learned counsel for the appellant who was present stated that the possibility that an accident caused the fire has not been completely ruled out.
  • Second, he argued in his appeal that the respondent counsel was unable to establish that a dowry demand existed in this particular case.
  •  Finally, the respondent’s counsel was unable to prove that the dowry demand was the cause of the death and the link between it and the death.
  • The respondent’s counsel claimed that even the appellants had failed to establish why the supreme court should become involved in this particular instance.
  • The counsel also stressed that one of the requirements in section 304-B that the death takes place within a year of the marriage was met.
  • Last but not least, the defense relied on the witnesses who did establish a direct connection between the death and the dowry demand.


The Supreme Court also developed arguments that they were to consider. The claims were in line with the concerns put up by the opposing side. The analysis of the ensuing two claims will be conducted in a two-fold manner.

  1. The constitutionality of Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, was the first matter to be addressed. The punishment for dowry deaths is outlined in this section, which states that when a woman dies from burns or another physical injury within seven years of marriage and it can be proven that her husband or a relative of her husband treated her poorly or harassed her in the moments before her death because of or in connection with dowry demand, the death is referred to as a “dowry death.” The term “dowry” has the same meaning in this context as it does in Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961.

The Court referenced its 2015 decision in Major Singh v. the State of Punjab[iii], where it was ruled that the following components must be proven in order to get a conviction in a case of dowry death: a lady should have passed away within seven years of her marriage from any bodily harm or burn. Additionally, it must be proven that the husband or any of the husband’s relatives had harassed and treated the deceased cruelly prior to her death because of dowry-related difficulties.

The Indian Penal Code’s definition of “soon before” in Section 304B cannot be read to mean “immediately before,” according to the Supreme Court. According to the bench made up of CJI NV Ramana and Aniruddha Bose, the prosecution must demonstrate that there was a “proximate and live link” between the dowry death and the husband’s or his family members’ abuse or dowry demand harassment. Where the prosecution establishes such connection, the court says. The Evidence Act of 1872, Section 113B, states that the accused is presumed to be at fault “in connection with any demand for dowry.”

The Court referenced the case of Bansi Lal v. the State of Haryana (2011)[iv] and stated that “the presumption under Section 113B shall be mandatorily applicable to the case when the components of Section 304B stand proven. Therefore, the accused must be presumed to be to blame for the dowry death by the court. Such a causality assumption can be contested by the accused.

It is rather alarming that Trial Courts frequently treat an alleged offender’s statement delivered in accordance with Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code carelessly without particularly asking about the alleged offender’s defense By giving the accused the chance to contest the evidence that appears to be against him, this rule promotes the fundamental concept of natural justice, “Audi alteram partem.” In light of this, they must once the accused has had an opportunity to reply and the evidence has been presented in court.

The defense of the accused must be meticulously planned from the outset of the case, taking into consideration the special rules of Section 304B of the IPC and Section 113B of the Evidence Act.

When the Trial Court determines that the Defendant is not entitled to an acquittal under Section 232 of the Criminal Procedure Code, it must move forward and schedule hearings specifically for “defense evidence,” inviting the Defendant to present his defense in accordance with the procedure outlined in Section 233 of the Criminal Procedure Code, another important right granted to the Defendant. The existence of such a procedural right is supported by the rebuttable presumption set forth in Section 113B of the Evidence Act.

  • The accused’s conviction under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, was the subject of the highest court’s second ruling. This section discusses the crime of helping suicide. It states that anyone found guilty of helping someone commit suicide will face either type of imprisonment for a duration of up to 10 years as well as a fine. According to a literal interpretation of the clause, in order to establish a violation of Section 306 of the IPC, the prosecution must first demonstrate that suicide has been committed. The prosecution must also show that the person accused of encouraging the suicide had a direct hand in the act.

In relation to this last criterion, Section 113A of the Evidence Act creates, under specific conditions, a presumption against the husband and/or his relative with regard to the aiding or suicide of a married woman. Without going into the other factors, a reading of the Article reveals that such a presumption will only be adopted if the prosecution has first established the suicide fact.


A few factors in this particular case were not taken into account when the judgment was rendered. The legislative objective of lowering the social ills of bride burning and dowry demand should be kept in mind when interpreting section 304B of the IPC, to start. In essence, it means that in order to show a Section 304B charge, the prosecution must first establish the existence of the other elements. After these conditions are met, Section 113B provides a rebuttable presumption of causality against the accused. Also, the meaning of soon before has to be widely interpreted by the courts. The fact that Trial Courts regularly accept the statement required by Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code in a fairly casual manner without specifically asking the accused about his defense is quite problematic. It should be stressed that an accused person’s examination cannot be seen as merely a procedural formality because it is founded on the fundamental principle of fairness. Trial Courts are required to consider a number of other important criteria, such as the right to a prompt trial, before making decisions. It is warned against using the aforementioned provisions as a means of delay in this regard.

Undoubtedly, as was already mentioned, the threat of dowry death is growing daily. However, it is also noticed that occasionally the husband’s family members get involved, even though they were not directly involved in the crime and were located elsewhere. The Court must exercise caution while deciding these situations.[v]


Based on the foregoing conclusions, we conclude that the High Court and Trial Court were correct in convicting the appellants under Section 304B of the IPC because they failed to meet their burden of proving their innocence under Section 113B of the Evidence Act. On the other hand, we think that the facts and circumstances do not support the violation under Section 306 of the IPC. Therefore, the judgment and punishment levied in accordance with Section 306 of the IPC were overturned.

The court cited the case of Major Singh v. State of Punjab, in which the major issues were burn injuries and harassment that occurred within seven years of marriage and which explicitly outlined section 304B’s requirements. Its assurance depends on the establishment of a broad and active link between the savagery and the significant demise of the casualty.

The court also cited the case of Bansi Lal v. State of Haryana, in which it was decided that dowry death could be a possibility if cruelty or harassment were indicated just before death. Judges have greater obligations as a result of the obligatory assumption against those who are to blame. This compels the Court to examine those who have been accused fairly and carefully. Taking into mind the unique provisions of Section 304B of the IPC read with Section 113B of the Evidence Act, the accused is also required to provide his defense from the beginning of the preliminary hearing with adequate notice. The court also affirms the significance of Section 232 CrPC, which provides that hearings must be continued and scheduled expressly for witness evidence if the court decides that the accused is not qualified to be vindicated in line with Section 232 CrPC’s provisions.

                        DILNAAZ KAUR RATTOL

                                                                                    ARMY INSTITUTE OF LAW, MOHALI

[i] Criminal appeal no 3SB of 1998 and 16SB of 1998

[ii] Simran Verma, Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana (2011), 22nd July, (

[iii] Major Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 2015 SC 2081

[iv] Bansi Lal v. State of Haryana, (2011) 11 SCC 359

[v] Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana 2011 judgment, (

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