WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 576 OF 2013
DATE OF JUDGEMENT: 20/01/2014
RESPONDENT: THE STATE
BENCH: JUSTICE V.K. JAIN
FACTS OF THE CASE:
On November 6th, 2009, Priyanka, the deceased, who was married to Ramesh Kumar and related to Sahib Singh, Raj Rani, Manju, Ravinder, and Sunil, was taken to Saroj Hospital & Heart Institute, Rohini by Ramesh due to suspected poisoning. A Duty Constable informed Alipur Police Station through report DD No.21A. Unfortunately, Priyanka passed away shortly after arriving at the hospital. Dr. Ravi Gupta of the hospital conveyed this information to Alipur Police Station around 8:30 pm via report DD No.14A. Following Priyanka’s death, her father, Shri Sukhbir Singh, provided a statement to the Special Executive Magistrate. In his statement, he mentioned Priyanka’s troubled marriage, alleging mistreatment by her in-laws, including physical harm resulting in a hospital operation. He claimed that dowry demands were made from the beginning, and Priyanka had once reported beatings and harassment to him over the phone. Moments later, Ramesh called him stating Priyanka had consumed poison and was being taken to Jagjivan Ram Hospital. Shri Sukhbir Singh suspected foul play related to dowry and accused all six individuals involved in his complaint to the Special Executive Magistrate. Acting on Shri Sukhbir Singh’s statement, the Special Executive Magistrate ordered a case to be registered, leading to an FIR under Sections 498A/304B of IPC and ASI Hari Om being assigned the investigation. A postmortem at Babu Jagjivan Ram Samarak Hospital revealed four injuries caused by blunt force on Priyanka’s body. Injuries 1 and 2 were recent, while injuries 3 and 4 were estimated to be four to five days old.
The appellants faced charges under Sections 498A and 304B of the Indian Penal Code along with Section 34. Despite pleading not guilty, the prosecution examined 17 witnesses while one witness provided a defence statement.
According to the complainant, the appellants made various demands over time:
(a) Sahib Singh demanded a ring for himself and his father, a chain and ring for Ramesh, ear-tops for his wife and daughter, and a car during marriage discussions.
(b) A demand and payment of Rs 70,000 for honeymoon upon Priyanka’s arrival at their house on April 15, 2007, the day after marriage.
(c) Demand for Rs 10,000 in cash, 10 expensive suits, and clothes for the whole family during Priyanka’s childbirth. The demand was allegedly fulfilled.
(d) Demand and payment of Rs 15,000 for the child’s operation.
(e) A demand of Rs 3,00,000 for Priyanka’s nursing training, with Rs 1,00,000 allegedly borrowed from the complainant’s younger son.
(f) Ramesh called the complainant on January 6th, 2009, alleging beatings and demanding Rs 5,00,000 for purchasing land and an AC car.
Witnesses PW-3 Shakuntala Devi (Priyanka’s mother), PW-8 Sandeep Kumar, and PW-9 Karambir (Priyanka’s brothers) supported various aspects of the complainant’s testimony regarding the appellants’ demands. They confirmed certain demands for jewelry, money, and clothes, along with incidents of beatings and apologies. However, they did not corroborate specific details about the demand for Rs 5,00,000 for land purchase on November 6th, 2009.
Sandeep Kumar also supported claims of beatings and demands made over the phone by various family members, adding incidents of quarrels, beatings, and subsequent apologies by the accused.
- Is the husband and his family liable for dowry death under Sec 498 A of IPC?
- Was the victim beaten by the entire family or just the husband to abet suicide?
Regarding the allegations of demands made by appellant Shri Sahib Singh before Priyanka’s marriage, Shri Sukhbir Singh, the deceased’s father, did not mention any such demands in his statement to the SDM on November 7, 2009. The absence of any claims of jewelry or car demands before Priyanka’s marriage with Ramesh indicates that these assertions emerged only in the statement given to the Investigating Officer under Section 161 Cr.P.C. on November 26, 2009. This aspect of the family members’ statements lacks credibility and seems to be an afterthought. Moreover, there is no accusation that any of the appellants mistreated or subjected the deceased to cruelty regarding these alleged demands made during the marriage discussions. Regarding the purported demand of Rs. 70,000 for the honeymoon when Priyanka visited her parents’ house on July 15, 2007, this demand was not mentioned in the FIR based on Shri Sukhbir Singh’s statement. Furthermore, there is no indication of harassment or mistreatment of Priyanka connected to this alleged demand by her parents. Concerning the alleged demand of Rs. 10,000 in cash, ten expensive suits, and clothes for the entire family during Priyanka’s childbirth, these claims did not surface in Shri Sukhbir Singh’s statement to the SDM. These assertions emerged for the first time in Shri Sukhbir Singh’s statement under Section 161 of Cr.P.C. on November 27, 2009. When Priyanka’s parents testified, they did not assert any mistreatment of Priyanka related to this demand. Regarding the demand of Rs. 15,000 for the child’s treatment, there is no mention of this demand in Shri Sukhbir Singh’s statement to the SDM. This demand was alleged for the first time in the statement given to the Investigating Officer on November 27, 2009. Additionally, the responsibility for arranging money for the child’s treatment rested solely with Ramesh, not any other appellant. The suggestions presented to witnesses indicated a connection between Priyanka and a person named Vicky, leading to conflicts between Priyanka and appellant Ramesh. It was implied that Ramesh suspected Priyanka’s fondness for Vicky, resulting in discord within their marriage. Allegations arose that Vicky’s presence caused disputes, as Ramesh allegedly disliked him and complained about Priyanka’s conduct regarding Vicky. This scenario was emphasized during arguments by the appellants’ counsel, claiming an affair between Priyanka and Vicky as the reason for her dislike of Ramesh. Vicky appeared in a photograph sitting between Priyanka and Ramesh, suggesting his presence during their wedding. Witnesses were suggested that Vicky’s interference led to quarrels between Priyanka and Ramesh, and Ramesh barred Vicky from entering their home.
Furthermore, it was suggested during cross-examination of witnesses that Priyanka’s disputes with Ramesh were over Vicky, and Ramesh objected to Vicky’s visits to their residence. Priyanka’s statement to DW1 HC Ram Niwas also pointed to Ramesh’s suspicion of her behaviour. These circumstances portrayed Ramesh’s suspicion regarding Priyanka’s feelings for Vicky and their consequent clashes. The circumstances strongly indicate the strained relationship between Ramesh and Priyanka, marked by frequent conflicts. Priyanka’s statement to DW1 HC Ram Niwas highlighted instances where Ramesh physically assaulted her during quarrels, causing her distress. Witnesses attested that on November 2, 2009, Ramesh physically assaulted Priyanka during a quarrel. Additionally, in August 2009, Ramesh caused injuries to Priyanka’s nose, leading to treatment at a Prashant Vihar hospital. These incidents were documented in the complaint filed by Shri Sukhbir Singh with the SDM on November 7, 2009, soon after Priyanka’s demise. The certificate issued by Dr. Mahesh Anand from Anand E&T Hospital referenced Priyanka’s treatment on August 29, 2009, due to assault by her in-laws resulting in nasal bleeding and a nasal bone deformity. Although the doctor didn’t involve the police as Priyanka didn’t wish to pursue legal action, this aligns with her consistent avoidance of legal intervention despite disputes with Ramesh. Despite the absence of X-rays, the doctor’s testimony supported the accounts of PW3, PW8, and PW9 about the injuries inflicted by Ramesh on Priyanka’s nose.
The prosecution’s evidence fell short in establishing any cruelty or harassment towards Priyanka regarding dowry demands before her death on November 6, 2009. Consequently, there is no substantiation for an offense under Section 304B of IPC against any of the appellants. Apart from Ramesh, no other appellant demonstrated sufficient proof beyond reasonable doubt of mistreating or harassing Priyanka. Therefore, the charge under Section 498A of IPC lacks support against any appellant except Ramesh.
When a husband harbours suspicion of his wife having an extramarital relationship, and due to this suspicion, engages in frequent physical abuse during quarrels, it can drive a woman of average temperament to extreme measures. While she might endure such suspicion initially, hoping it will diminish over time, enduring constant suspicion coupled with frequent physical abuse becomes unbearable. This situation can compel a woman to resort to drastic steps, such as suicide, to escape ongoing distress caused by enduring both character defamation and physical violence from her husband. A woman may endure physical abuse from her husband, but enduring continuous character defamation alongside physical violence becomes intolerable. Persistent suspicion from the husband, leading to physical violence, creates a situation where the wife feels compelled to end her mental and physical torment, often resulting in tragic consequences. In such circumstances, the husband would indeed be found guilty of inflicting physical cruelty as defined under Section 498 of IPC.
DEFECTS OF LAW:
Invoking the legal presumption under Section 113A of the Evidence Act, the Court is within reasonable bounds to conclude that appellant Ramesh’s defamation of his wife’s character and repeated physical abuse of her stem from misgivings about her behaviour contributed to her suicide. Even though there was a rebuttable assumption, the appellant was unable to disprove this burden. Priyanka committed herself as a result of the emotional and physical abuse she endured from her husband, as the evidence presented during the trial clearly shows. Considering that the appellant Ramesh was charged under Sections 498A and 304B of the IPC, it is not necessary to prosecute him separately under Section 306 of the IPC even though he was not officially accused under that section. A pertinent provision was added to the Evidence Act on December 25, 1983, with the passage of Section 113A. According to the list, the court may assume, after considering all relevant factors, that a woman’s husband encouraged her suicide if it can be demonstrated that she killed herself within seven years of marriage as a result of abuse from her spouse. Based on the case’s facts, cruelty is defined in accordance with Section 498A of the IPC.
This case was a turning point on various family and marital relation frontals as a conflict between the petitioner and respondent.
India Kanoon, Sunil .v. The State (NCT of Delhi), 2014
RIZVI LAW COLLEGE, BANDRA.