IN THE HIGH COURT OF KERALA AT ERNAKULAM PRESENT: THE HONOURABLE MR.JUSTICE V.K.MOHANAN FRIDAY, THE 24TH DAY OF FEBRUARY 2012/5TH PHALGUNA 1933 CRL.A.No. 87 of 2008 (A) ---------------------------------- [AGAINST THE JUDGMENT DTD. 10/01/2008 IN S.C.NO.110/2006 OF THE ADDITIONAL SESSIONS JUDGE,(ADHOC-1), THODUPUZHA .............. APPELLANT/ACCUSED: ---------------------------------- JAIS M.JOSEPH, S/O.JOSEPH, EANTHUNKAL HOUSE, MULAPPURAM KARA, NEYYASSERI VILLAGE, THODUPUZHA. BY ADV.SRI.MANSOOR.B.H (STATE BRIEF). RESPONDENT/COMPLAINANT: -------------------------------------------- STATE OF KERALA, PUBLIC PROSECUTOR, HIGH COURT OF KERALA, ERNAKULAM. BY PUBLIC PROSECUTOR SMT. LALIZA.T.Y. THIS CRIMINAL APPEAL HAVING BEEN FINALLY HEARD ON 24-02-2012, THE COURT ON THE SAME DAY DELIVERED THE FOLLOWING: Prv. V.K.MOHANAN, J. ---------------------------------------- Crl.A.No. 87 of 2008 - A ---------------------------------------- Dated this the 24th day of February, 2012 J U D G M E N T
The sole accused in S.C.No.110 of 2006 of the court of the Third Additional Sessions Judge (ADHOC-I), Thodupuzha is the appellant as he is aggrieved by the judgment dated 10.1.2008 in the above Sessions Case, by which he is convicted and sentenced for the offence punishable under Section 304Bof I.P.C.
2. The prosecution allegation is that the accused had lawfully married one Reena, daughter of PW1 on 7.2.2000 according to the religious custom prevailing in their community, receiving a dowry of `.75,000/- along with ornaments, but the accused physically and mentally harassed her on 8.12.2000, during the month of June 2004 and on 22.8.2005 and on other occasions, demanding her to bring more dowry and as a result of such cruelty and harassment meted out by her husband in connection with demand for dowry, she consumed carbofuran poison at the toilet attached to her Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-2-:
house bearing No.IV/374 and died at 7 p.m. on 23.8.2005 while undergoing treatment at the Holy Family Hospital, Muthalakodam and thus, the accused has committed the offence of dowry death punishable under Section 304B of I.P.C.
3. In order to prove the above allegation, the prosecution has produced Exts.P1 to P19 documents and examined PWs.1 to 18. A plastic bottle labelled “Ethipone Tacpone” is marked as material object MO1. No evidence either oral or documentary was adduced from the side of the defence. Finally, the trial court has found that the accused caused Reena to suffer the dowry death in her matrimonial home and therefore, the accused is guilty of offence under Section 304B of I.P.C. and accordingly, he is convicted thereunder. On such conviction, the learned Judge of the trial court sentenced the appellant to undergo rigorous imprisonment for seven years under Section 304B of I.P.C. Set off under Section 428 of Cr.P.C. is allowed. It is the above finding, order of conviction and sentence are challenged in this appeal.
Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-3-:
4. Challenging the judgment of the trial court and the conviction and sentence, the accused has preferred the above appeal by engaging an Advocate of his own choice and when the above appeal came up for consideration, another learned Judge of this Court by order dated 14.1.2008 in Crl.M.A.No.354 of 2008 suspended the execution of the sentence incorporating certain conditions including a condition to the effect that he shall deposit Rs.40,000/- as security, though there was no sentence of fine. Though this Court passed such an order, the same was not executed as the appellant is not financially sound and subsequently, the counsel, through whom the appeal was preferred, relinquished the vakalath. As the counsel for the appellant relinquished the vakalath and as there was no representation, a learned Judge of this court on 24.3.2011 issued a bailable warrant against the appellant, which was returned by a report filed by the Sub Inspector of Police, Karimannoor stating that the appellant is admitted in the hospital due to chest pain and therefore, the warrant could not be executed. A medical certificate was also produced along with the said Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-4-:
report of the Police Officer. In the mean while, the Registry of this Court received a letter No.OP2-59/2010 of the Office of the Superintendent, Open Prison, Nettukaltheri forwarding a letter of the appellant whereby it is requested by the appellant that the appeal proceedings may be stopped in the circumstances mentioned therein. On receiving the above letter from the appellant, this Court directed the Registry to appoint an Advocate from the panel of State Brief to prosecute the appeal on behalf of the appellant, especially when the counsel, who filed the appeal, relinquished the vakalath. Accordingly, Advocate Sri.B.H.Mansoor is appointed as State Brief. Thus, I have heard Sri.B.H.Mansoor, the learned counsel for the appellant and Smt.Laliza, the learned Public Prosecutor for the State.
5. Now let us examine the evidence on record. PW1 is the father of the deceased Reena. When he was examined, he had deposed in terms of the prosecution allegation. According to him, the marriage was an arranged one and in accordance with the religious custom and connected with the marriage, `.75,000/- was given and Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-5-:
ornaments valuing `.75,000/- was also given to the accused. According to him, on the 8th day of marriage, a sum of `.25,000/- was also given to the accused. According to him, after the marriage and when his daughter started to reside with the accused, after four or five months from the date of the marriage, the accused took up quarrel with the deceased and after expending all the amounts given to him, he had demanded to bring more dowry. The deceased Reena was subjected to harassment and she was hospitalised and a case was also registered against the accused. According to PW1, due to the quarrel, the deceased stayed in her house and the house of the accused now and then. EXt.P1 F.I.statement was launched by PW1 and when he was examined, the same was marked through him. PW2 is a resident adjacent to the house of the accused and he is an attestor to Ext.P2 inquest report on the body of Reena, who died on 23.8.2005.
6. PW3 is the elder brother of the deceased Reena and when he was examined, he had deposed in tune with the deposition of PW1, especially regarding the marriage, dowry arrangement etc. According Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-6-:
to PW3, when the deceased and the accused visited his house after four days of the marriage, the accused demanded some money and he replied that money would be provided and advised the accused not to sell the gold. PW3 claimed that she was told by Reena that the accused used to harass her. It is also the version of PW3 that Reena telephoned him saying that she wants money because the accused is harassing her. According to PW3, he telephoned to the house of the wife of the brother of the accused and then, he informed that the aforesaid Reena consumed poison and was being taken to the hospital. According to PW3, the accused has persistently demanded for money to repay the loan, to purchase motor, to plant rubber etc. and thus, money was paid to him by himself and his father.
7. PWs.4 to 11 are the neighbors of the accused. According to PW4, on the date of the incident, he came to the house of the deceased and he heard child in the cradle crying incessantly and when he enquired about the mother Reena, the accused went behind the house to search her and the accused called PW4 to the place where he Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-7-:
found Reena lying with half portion of her body in bathroom and the other portion on the veranda. He had stated that the accused himself took her to the hospital and PW4 stated that he had heard the accused telling that ‘ . ‘ PW5 is a neighbour of the accused. According to him, when he was returning after selling milk and hearing about the incident, he rushed to the house of the accused where he found Reena vomiting blood and Reena was taken to the hospital in an autorickshaw by the accused and at that time, the accused has no affection towards the deceased. According to PW5, he heard once Reena asking the accused as ‘ ‘ He had also deposed that the deceased took shelter in the neighbouring house after physical harassment of the accused and the accused is a drunkard. However, the witness has no good relationship with the accused. PW6, who is the wife of PW5, has deposed that on the date of the occurrence, there was quarrel in the house of Reena connected with a demand to bring a Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-8-:
chain. She had also deposed that the accused is seen drunken and Reena told her that the accused sold the entire gold ornaments and one day when herself and her husband happened to be gone to the house of Reena, they saw Reena sitting in the court yard, weeping and the accused had drunken. According to PW6, Reena was not a moody woman and only occasionally, she was found going to church and she was worried for her being deprived of her gold ornaments. PW7 another neighbour also stated that in the house of the accused, there used to be constant quarrels alleging that money brought by Reena is not enough and the accused was always drinking and becoming quarrelsome. PW8 is a Priest through whom the prosecution proved Ext.P3 kychit for the return of marriage register recovered by the investigating officer and the extract of which is marked as Ext.P4, signed by PW8. PW9 another resident also deposed that the accused was used to be drunken and was picking up quarrels in the name of money as told by Reena. He had also stated that when Reena was taken to the hospital, the accused was under the influence of drink. Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-9-:
PW9 had deposed that on a day when he came to the house of accused hearing Reena crying, he was told by Reena that accused beat her with a spade handle and Reena took her child and went into the teakwood coup and that incident was in June, 2004. PW10 has also stated that there was constant quarrel between the accused and Reena. According to PW10, once Reena went into the teakwood coup with child and was found sitting at a place damp with raining wearing a torn nighty. According to PW10, Reena was shivering, telling that ‘ . ‘. PW10 says that she took the deceased to her house and offered her porridge and stayed there over night and she was also given a nighty, and that was in June 2004. PW11 similarly deposed that there were frequent quarrels in the name of money in the house of the accused and women were heard weeping.
8. PW12 is the Tahsildar, who conducted the inquest and the prosecution has marked Ext.P2 inquest report through PW12 and similarly, Ext.P5 site plan was marked through PW13, the Village Officer. PW14 is the Senior Lecturer and Assistant Police Surgeon, Medical Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-10-:
College, Kottayam, who conducted the postmortem on the body of Reena and issued Ext.P6 postmortem certificate. Ext.P7 is the final report stating the opinion that the death was due to carbofurane poison and five antemortem injuries are noted. PW15 is the then S.I.of Police, Karimannoor Police Station, who recorded Ext.P1 F.I.statement of PW1 based upon which Ext.P1(a) FIR was registered in Crime No.136 of 2005 of the Karimannoor Police Station.
9. The investigation was undertaken by PW16 the Dy.S.P., Thodupuzha and he prepared Ext.P8 scene mahazar. He had questioned the witnesses and arrested the accused at 5.30 p.m on 25.8.2005. Ext.P9 is the mahazar for recovery of the marriage register which was returned as per Ext.P3 kychit. Ext.P10 is the marriage certificate. Ext.P11, a copy of the final report in crime No.230 of 2000 under Section 498A of I.P.C. in Karimannoor Police Station in which the accused was involved and the same is also marked through PW16. Ext.P12 is the certified copy of the F.I.statement and Ext.P13 is the copy of the F.I.R. in the said crime. After completing the investigation, PW16 laid the charge sheet. Ext.P14 is the address report of the accused. Ext.P15 is the property list connected with Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-11-:
MO1 and Exts.P16,P17 and P18 are the arrest intimation, arrest memo and inspection memo respectively proved through PW16.
10. PW17 is the then S.I. Of Police and through PW17, Ext.P12 statement of the deceased Reena recorded by HCU 670 Sabu Kurian is marked and he prepared Ext.P13 F.I.R. Ext.P11 is the certified copy of the charge sheet in the above case. PW18 is a Physician of Holy Family Hospital, Muthalakodam who examined Reena on 13.8.2005 at 3.40 p.m. Ext.P19 is the copy of case sheet. According to PW18, the patient was drowsy and gasping and was admitted due to consumption of poison of ethephan as disclosed by the husband. According to him, at 7.10 p.m., the patient clinically expired. These are the evidence and materials referred to by the learned Judge in support of his finding and convicting the appellant.
11. Learned counsel for the appellant vehemently submitted that the prosecution has miserably failed to prove as to whether the death is suicide or homicide. According to the learned counsel, the evidence available on record contains the contradictions and infirmities and the same are not sufficient to prove that the accused has committed the offence as alleged against him. It is the specific submission of the learned counsel that except Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-12-:
the fact that the accused is a drunkard, absolutely there is no evidence to prove that the accused has demanded dowry or harassed the deceased demanding dowry. It is also pointed out by the learned counsel that none of the witnesses have any direct knowledge with respect to any of the incident and as such, their evidence is liable to be discarded as hearsay. It is also the submission of the learned counsel that the evidence of the prosecution witnesses itself shows that it was the accused who took the wife to the hospital and the said fact itself would be sufficient to hold that the accused is affectionate to his wife It is the submission of the learned counsel that the prosecution has miserably failed to prove the essential ingredients of Section 304B of I.P.C. To substantiate the above submission, the learned counsel invited my attention to the decision reported in Kaliyaperumal v. State of Tamil Nadu [AIR 2003 SC 3828] , Appasaheb v. State of Maharashtra [2007(4) KLT 463 (SC)] and the unreported judgment of the Apex Court in Crl.A.No.828 of 2009 dated 24th April,2009.
12. On the other hand, the learned Public Prosecutor submitted that the evidence of PWs.1,3 and 4 to 11 and particularly, the depositions of Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-13-:
PWs.1 and 3 positively prove the harassment meted out by the accused against the deceased as a result of which the deceased committed suicide. Thus, according to the learned Public Prosecutor, the finding of the court below is fully supported by the evidence and materials on record. It is also the submission of the learned Public Prosecutor that because of the ill- treatment and harassment, the deceased herself was constrained to file a case against the accused, as evidenced by the prosecution documents and therefore, to prove the harassment and cruelty meted out against the deceased, no other evidence is required. It is also the submission of the learned Public Prosecutor that in the light of the decision of the Apex Court reported in Bachni Devi and another v. State of Haryana [(2011)(4) SCC 427], Section 304B is very much attracted in the present case and though one of the incidents has taken place during the month of June 2004, the said incident has proximity and link with the occurrence, which persuaded the deceased to commit suicide. Therefore, according to the learned Public Prosecutor, no interference is warranted.
Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-14-:
13. I have carefully considered the arguments advanced by the learned counsel for the appellant and the learned Public Prosecutor. I have perused the judgment of the trial court and scrutinised the evidence and the materials on record.
14. In the light of the rival contentions advanced by the counsel for the appellant and the learned Public prosecutor, the only point to be considered is whether the trial court is justified in its finding under point No.1 that the death of the deceased is a dowry death and the accused is guilty of the offence punishable under Section 304B of I.P.C. Admittedly, the marriage between the accused and the deceased has taken place on 7.2.2000 in accordance with the religious customs and the wife of the accused Reena died on 23.8.2005 within seven years from the date of the marriage and the death of Reena was otherwise than under normal circumstances. Of course, the above three essential ingredients of Section 304B of I.P.C.- Dowry death are established by the prosecution evidence. Still then, the question is whether the prosecution has succeeded in showing that soon before Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-15-:
the death of Reena, whether she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband, the accused herein in connection with any demand for dowry. I have already referred to evidence particularly the deposition of prosecution witnesses. It is true that all the prosecution witnesses particularly Pws.1,3 and 4 to 11 have deposed before the court below that there were frequent quarrels between the deceased and the accused and the accused is a drunkard. But, except PWs.3,6 and 10, no other witnesses have stated any particular incident other than the vague or general statement. Now let us examine the evidence of PW3. It is relevant to note that PW1 is the father of the deceased and PW3 is her brother. But, when those witnesses were examined, they have no case that the accused demanded a particular amount or thing towards the marriage or a particular dowry was fixed on the basis of the demand made by the accused. It is true that when they were examined, they have deposed that the payment of Rs.75,000/- in cash and ornaments for the value of RS.75,000/-. But, they have no definite case that the same were paid in pursuance of the demand of Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-16-:
the accused and any balance amount was to be paid to the accused towards the dowry. In the decision reported in Appasaheb v. State of Maharashtra [2007(4) KLT 463 (SC)], the Apex Court has held that the demand for money on account of financial stringency or for meeting some urgent domestic expenses will not come under the dowry defined in Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. According to the above decision, the giving or taking of property or valuable security must have some connection with the marriage of the parties and the correlation between the giving or taking of property or valuable security with the marriage of the parties is essential. But, in the present case, as I indicated earlier, the witnesses PWs.1 and 3, who are competent to state about the dowry, has not deposed before the court that any dowry was demanded by the accused connected with the marriage and whatever given to the deceased, was as per the settlement of dowry on demand of the accused. There is also no evidence to the effect that any amount towards the balance of the dowry is yet to be paid by them. Though PW3 has stated about the Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-17-:
harassment, the same is not specific and supported by any datas. What PW3 has stated in the chief examination is that . He had also deposed that 1 = .
. PW3 has further deposed that CI – .
. The deposition of PW3 that the deceased was chased by the accused for the purpose of killing her is not corroborated by any evidence particularly the evidence of PW1, the father of the Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-18-:
deceased. When PW1 was examined, he did not mention any such incident. It is further clear that even though the prosecution witnesses have stated about the harassment, before the death, the deceased gave birth to three children which fact itself are sufficient to hold that the deceased had condoned the so-called harassment mentioned by PW3 and other witnesses and the death was in pursuance of any such harassment. It is true, PW3 has further deposed that ‘ phone .’ But, those statements are also not supported by any datas including the time at which PW3 was called by the deceased and what was the nature of the harassment and the date of the harassment etc, are not mentioned. It is further relevant to note that PW3 has deposed that . motor .
. The above admission of PW3 would show that the said demand is not connected with dowry as held in the Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-19-:
decision reported in Appa Saheb’s case [2007(4) KLT 463 SC] wherein the Apex Court has held that demand for money on account of financial stringency or for meeting urgent domestic expenses cannot be termed as demand for dowry. The learned Public Prosecutor submitted that in the light of the decision of the Supreme Court reported in Bachni Devi and another v. State of Haryana [(2011)(4) SCC 427], the demand for money even under the guise of purchasing manure, motor pump etc. will come under the definition of dowry. I am unable to sustain the above contention. In the above decision in para 21, the Apex Court has held as follows:-
“21. The High Court has also examined the matter thoroughly and reached the finding that A-1 and A-2 had raised a demand for purchase of motorcycle from PW8; this demand was made within two months of the marriage and was a demand towards “dowry” and when this demand was not met, Kanta was maltreated and harassed continuously which led her to take extreme step of finishing her life……………..”
(emphasis supplied) The facts and circumstances involved in the present case are entirely different from the facts involved in the above reported decision. As I Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-20-:
have already indicated earlier, there was no demand of dowry and the prosecution witnesses have no case that any balance amount of dowry is pending. So in the light of the admission of PW3 even if it is considered that the accused has demanded money, it is only for the agricultural purpose which demand will not come under the definition of dowry as held by the Supreme Court in the decision reported in Appa Saheb’s case [2007(4) KLT 463(SC)]. So the evidence of PW3 is not helpful for the prosecution to prove that the accused demanded any dowry and in pursuance of such demand, the accused has subjected the deceased to cruelty or harassment.
15. PW6 is another witness who was the neighbour of the accused. According to her, 23-8-05-
. .PW6 has further deposed that . According to PW6, he never witnessed the
incident and with regard to the reason for the quarrel, she has only Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-21-:
hearsay. So, the evidence of PW6 as well is not helpful for the prosecution to prove the incident. The other evidence is that of PW10. According to PW10, she knew the reason for the death and it is her deposition that always there was quarrel between the accused and the deceased Reena. She has further deposed coup-
. nighty- . . . According to PW10, Reena
was taken to the house of PW10 and she informed PW1 and other brothers of the deceased and they came and took Reena to their house. It is true, PW10 has also stated that .
. . But, it is pertinent to note that during the cross-examination, it is clarified that during the month of June, 2004, PW10 took Reena to her house. So, whatever may be the reason for the quarrel, that was one year back to Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-22-:
the date of the incident. PW10 has no case that she had witnessed any incident immediately before the death of the deceased. It is also a fact that after the alleged incident during the month of June, 2004, Reena, the wife of the accused joined with him and resided along with him in his house. Thus, the evidence of PW10, according to me, is also not sufficient to prove that the accused has made any dowry demand and connected with the same, she was subjected to cruelty which led to the death of Reena.
16. Thus, on a scanning of the entire evidence of the prosecution, I am of the definite view that the prosecution has miserably failed to prove and establish that the accused had demanded dowry connected with the marriage between himself and the deceased Reena or a particular amount was fixed as dowry upon the demand of the accused or any amount was outstanding to be paid to the accused. It is also clear that there was no sufficient and convincing evidence to hold that the deceased was subjected to cruelty or harassment on demand of dowry so as to attract Section 304B of I.P.C. Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-23-:
17. It is true that the witnesses have stated that there was quarrel between the accused and the deceased and the accused is a drunkard etc. But, none of the witnesses miserably failed to point out any particular incident under which the accused had demanded dowry and the deceased was subjected to cruelty and harassment connected with such demand of dowry prior to the occurrence in the present case. It is also clear from the evidence of the prosecution witnesses especially, in the light of the evidence of Pws.1 and 3 that the deceased has though made allegation or complaint against the accused, she had condoned the same on several occasions and though came to the parental house, she had gone back to the matrimonial home and resided there along with the accused. Exts.P11 and P12 show that though a complaint was launched before the Police, subsequently, the same was settled and accordingly, the accused was acquitted in that case. The said fact itself would be sufficient to hold that the deceased had condoned the cruelty if any meted out by the accused against her. Therefore, the stray incident taken place in the family of the accused Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-24-:
and the deceased cannot be taken to hold that the deceased was subjected to cruelty by the accused demanding dowry. Thus, the prosecution has miserably failed to prove convincingly supported by sufficient evidence that the accused was subjected to cruelty or harassment connected with the demand for dowry.
18. Even if it is admitted for the argument’s sake that the deceased was subjected to cruelty or harassment, according to me, still then, the offence under Section 304B of I.P.C. is not attracted against the accused. Section 304B of I.P.C. 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 before 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.”
Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-25-:
On a reading of Section 304 B of I.P.C., in order to attract the above section among other ingredients, the prosecution has to show with adequate and concrete evidence that soon before the death of the deceased in this case, she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by the accused/her husband in connection with any demand for dowry.
19. Similarly, in order to avail the presumption under Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act, the prosecution has also to be established the fact that soon before the death of the deceased in this case, she has been subjected to cruelty or harassment in connection with any demand for dowry. Section 113B of the Evidence Act reads as follows:-
“113B. Presumption as to dowry death.– When the question is whether a person has committed the dowry death of a woman and it is shown that soon before her death such woman has been subjected by such person to cruelty or harassment for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, the Court shall presume that such person had caused the dowry death.
Explanation.–For the purposes of this section, “dowry death” shall have the same meaning as in section 304B of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).”
The expression “soon before” was considered by the Apex Court in Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-26-:
several occasions and thus the legal position is now well settled and the term ‘soon before’ is a relative term and it would depend upon the circumstances of each case and no strait-jacket formula can be laid down as to what would constitute a period of soon before the occurrence. In an unreported judgment dated 24th April,2009 of the Honourable Apex Court in Crl.A.No.828 of 2009 arising out of S.L.P. (Crl) No.7146 of 2008, the Apex Court has held as follows:-
“…………. It would be hazardous to indicate any fixed period, and that brings in the importance of a proximity test both for the proof of an offence of dowry death as well as for raising a presumption under Section 113-B of the Evidence Act. The expression “soon before her death” used in the substantive section 304-B I.P.C. and Section 113-B of the Evidence Act is present with the idea of proximity test. ……….”
The Honourable Apex Court in the decision reported in Satya Narayan Tiwari @ Jolly and another v. State of Uttar Pradesh [(2010) 13 SCC 689] has held after referring to the decision of the Apex Court in Balwant v. State of Punjab [2004 SCC (Cri)2057] Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-27-:
that the term ‘soon before’ is a relative term and it would depend upon the circumstances of each case and no strait-jacket formula can be laid down as to what would constitute a period of soon before the occurrence.
20. Now let us examine that whether the prosecution in the present case has succeeded in proving the above essential ingredients of Section 304B of I.P.C. and Section 113B of the Evidence Act that the deceased was subjected to cruelty or harassment soon before her death. I have already referred to the evidence on record and none of the witnesses have stated any incident immediately before the death of the deceased of which they have got direct knowledge about inflicting injuries on the deceased or subjected the deceased to cruelties or harassment. All what stated by the witnesses are only hearsay and the same cannot be treated as substantial evidence. Even such a hearsay evidence is taken into consideration, the same is also not sufficient to hold that the deceased was subjected to cruelty or harassment immediately before the death by the accused and because of that Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-28-:
cruelty or harassment, the deceased was driven out to commit suicide. The most important circumstances or the incident which pressed into service by the prosecution is the incident covered by Ext.P11 a certified copy of the final report in crime No. 230 of 2000 of the Karimannoor Police Station, Ext.P12 certified copy of F.I.statement in the above crime and Ext.P13 certified copy of the F.I.R. in the above crime. In Ext.P12 F.I.Statement, after stating about the marriage and the amount given to the accused and certain incident that had taken place while he was residing along with the accused, the deceased stated as follows:-
“…………………… 7 ………………… ………………………. …………………..
Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-29-:
. 6= .’ The incident described in Ext.P12 F.I.statement of Reena in Crime No.230 of 2000 does not dispel any demand from the part of the accused towards the dowry. In that statement, the deceased has no case that the accused demanded money towards dowry or the amount being the balance towards the dowry fixed. It is also discernible from Ext.P12 that even though she had made some allegation and complaint against the accused, with respect to certain incidents, she had condoned all the incidents and she had been residing along with the accused and while she was giving Ext.P12, she was pregnant. It is pertinent to note that Ext.P12 F.I.statement is dated 9.1.2000 and thereafter, from the evidence of PW7 in the present case, it appears that case, the accused was acquitted as found by the leaned Judge of the trial court in paragraph 22 of its judgment. Going by the documents like ExtsP11,P12 and P13, it can be seen that whatever incidents covered by those documents had taken place much earlier to Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-30-:
the date of Ext.P12 F.I.statement and the incident, which is the subject matter of Ext.P12 statement and Ext.P13 F.I.R., there was no demand for dowry. Even if the same is taken as a case connected with the dowry remand, thereafter the said Reena resided along with the accused till her death on 23.8.2005 and there is a long gap between the date of the incident covered by Exts.P11 and P12 documents and the date of the death of the deceased in this case. Thus, on a close scrutiny of the evidence and materials on record and the incident under which Exts.P11 and P12 launched and the long gap between the date of death of the deceased in the present case, from the date of Exts.P11 and P12, it cannot be said that there was any proximity between the incident covered by Exts.P11 and P12 and the death of the deceased. Thus, there is no evidence to show that the deceased was subjected to cruelty or harassment connected with the demand for dowry, soon before her death. Thus, the only inevitable conclusion that can be arrived is that the prosecution has miserably failed to prove and establish the most essential ingredients of Section 304 B Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-31-:
that soon before the death of the deceased Reena, she was subjected to cruelty and harassment connected with the demand for dowry. For the same reason, the prosecution is not entitled to get the statutory presumption in favour of them under Section 113B of the Evidence Act as well.
21. In the light of the above facts and circumstances and the discussion and the evidence and materials on record, I am of the firm view that the learned Judge of the trial court is wrong in his finding that the death of deceased Reena is a dowry death and the accused is guilty of the offence under Section 304Bof I.P.C. and according to me, the prosecution has miserably failed to prove its allegation that the accused has committed the offence punishable under Section 304B of I.P.C. Accordingly, the conviction recorded by the trial court as per the impugned judgment is set aside.
In the result, this appeal is allowed setting aside the judgment dated 10.1.2008 in S.C.No.110 of 2006 of the court of the Third Additional Sessions Judge (ADHOC-I), Thodupuzha and the Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-32-:
accused is acquitted of all the charges levelled against him and he is set at liberty.
As the appellant is acquitted of all the charges after allowing this appeal, he is entitled to get release from the jail forthwith if he is not required in any other case. Therefore, there will be a direction to the Registry to forward a gist of this judgment to the Superintendent, Open Prison, Nettukaltheri, Thiruvananthapuram for further action.
V.K.MOHANAN, Judge MBS/ Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-33-:
CRL.A.No. 434 OF 2003 JUDGMENT Crl.A.No.87 of 2008 :-34-: