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Kuldip Singh and anr. Vs. State of Punjab - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily;Criminal
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Appeal No. 13-SB of 1993
Judge
Reported inII(2004)DMC628
ActsIndian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 - Sections 304B and 498A
AppellantKuldip Singh and anr.
RespondentState of Punjab
Appellant Advocate R.S. Cheema, Sr. Adv. and; Pawan Girdhar, Adv.
Respondent Advocate G.B.S. Dhillon, DAG
DispositionAppeal allowed
Cases ReferredIn Mungeshwar Prasad Chaurasia v. State of Bihar
Excerpt:
.....the evidence of this witness was unreliable, had improvements and could not be accepted. dowry death is the ultimate tragedy and it usually occurs when the parties have simply failed to reconcile their differences and have also failed in sorting each other out in the divorce/criminal courts. 11. from marriage to dowry death there would usually be a well chronicled account of the events touching of the husband-wife relationship or the wife and parents-in-law relationship. the reason why one has to record these observations is that death of a wife, within seven years of marriage, howsoever sad it may be, is not always dowry death. however, if the wife is already a weak and a docile person she may not be able to bear the pressure and may crack up. therefore, such a wife may commit..........the learned judge was seemingly conscious of the various ingredients of the provisions relating to dowry death, therefore, he should have proceeded to examine the evidence of the prosecution with regard to cruelty or harassment meted out to the deceased in connection with demand for dowry. somehow the learned judge did not enter into an inquiry of cruelty in relation to dowry demands but dealt with the matter in a routine way. he first discussed the question of law in lodging the matter to the police and found that there was no undue delay which may afford scope for concocting false version or manipulating evidence. the testimony of naranjan dass was examined but not in the manner in which the evidence should be examined in dowry death cases. the learned judge was convinced of the.....
Judgment:

K.S. Garewal, J.

1. Kuldip Singh and his parents Balwant Singh and Gurmit Kaur of Lachowal were tried by learned Additional Sessions Judge, Hoshiarpur and vide judgment dated January 6, 1993 they were found guilty for offence under Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 10 years. Feeling aggrieved they have come up in appeal.

2. Niranjan Dass (P.W.-2) who was the complainant in the case has fried criminal revision for enhancement of sentence which is Criminal Revision No. 156 of 1993. The appeal as well as revision shall be disposed of by this common judgment

3. Resham Kaur alias Paramjit Kaur died on January 6, 1992. She had been married to Kuldip Singh of Lachowal about three years before her death. Six months before her death she had given birth to a son. About two years before her death the deceased had complained to her father Naranjan Dass that the appellants were maltreating her on account of bringing insufficient dowry. Six months after marriage Kuldip Singh came to Naranjan Dass and demanded Rs. 1,000/- for going abroad but Naranjan Dass gave him only Rs. 800/-. After a further period of six months Kuldip Singh again demanded money from Naranjan Dass and he was paid Rs. 5,000/-.

4. On January 7, 1992 Naranjan Dass came to know that Resham Kaur alias Paramjit Kaur had died. Naranjan Dass went to Lachowal and found his daughter's dead body lying in the Baithak but the appellants were absconding from the house. Naranjan Dass suspected foul play and reported the matter to the police. Case was registered on the basis of his statement recorded by ASI Sucha Singh at 1.00 p.m. The FIR was registered at 3.30 p.m. at Police Station Sadar, Hoshiarpur and investigation was commenced. ASI Sucha Singh (RW.-4) visited the place of the occurrence accompanied by Naranjnn Dass (P.W.-2) and found the dead body lying in the Baithak of the house of the appellant. The Investigating Officer prepared inquest report, recorded the statements of the witnesses and sent the dead body for post-mortem examination. Dr. Gurdev Singh (P.W.-1) conducted the post-mortem on the dead body on January 8, at 10 a.m. The Medical Officer recorded the following findings in his reports:

'The body was moderately built and moderately nourished of a young female wearing greyish jumper and salvar and white banyan, black and green shawl (flowered). Eyes and mouth were closed, rigor mortis was present in the lower limbs and diminishing in the upper limb had started. P.M. staining present on back and dependent parts. Lips and nail of hands cynosis.

Pleaurae congested--both lungs congested. Pericardium congested. Stomach congested as such with its contents sent to the Chemical Examiner. Small and large intestines congested and a piece of each with contents sent to the Chemical Examiner. Bladder was empty. All other organs were healthy and as described in post-mortem report.'

5. After the Medical Officer received the report of the Chemical Examiner he found that the cause of death was aluminium phosphide poisoning.

6. The appellants were arrested and after completion of the investigation they were sent up for trial. At the trial charge was framed against the appellants under Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code to which they pleaded not guilty and claimed to be tried. Prosecution examined Dr. Gurdev Singh (P.W.-1), Naranjan Dass (PW.-2), Gurdial Singh (P.W.-3), ASI Sucha Singh (P.W.-4) and Draftsman Paramjit Singh (P.W.-5). The accused were examined without oath under Section 313, Cr.P.C. Kuldip Singh appellant admitted the factum of marriage, birth of son but denied all other items of prosecution evidence. He pleaded innocence and made the following statement in defence:

'I had returned from abroad about a month prior to my marriage and thereafter remained in India and had never approached my father-in-law for getting any money to go abroad nor any amount was ever paid to me. We were having cordial relations with the deceased and she was never harassed or maltreated on account of dowry. My wife was under depression and for that reason may have ended her life by taking some poison. I was living with my wife at Hoshiarpur as I am serving at 'Lachhman Kohlu Ghar'. My elder brother is living at Nangal. My parents live in village Lachowal and I and my wife only occasionally used to go to Lachowal. We were to celebrate the Lohri on 13.1.1992 and had sent a message to my father-in-law. My brother-in-law Kulwinder Singh had sent greetings card Ex. DA to us at the eve of new year. I had informed my father-in-law about the death of my wife and my father-in-law and his brother Shangara Singh had come with me to Lachowal. I had also advised my father-in-law to report the incident to the police, and had accompanied him, when the police met us. My father-in-law, lodged a wrong report at the instigation of others. We are innocent.'

7. The other appellants also gave similar statements. The accused were called upon to enter defence and examined Sarpanch Surjit Singh (D.W.-1), Vinod Kumar (D.W.-2) of Hoshiarpur.

8. The learned trial Judge commenced the consideration of the facts of the case by recounting the provisions of Section 304-B, I.P.C., Section 113B of the Evidence Act and Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code. The learned Judge concluded that the deceased had died of aluminium phosphide poisoning within three years of her marriage and, therefore, two ingredients of Section 304-B stood fully established. The learned Judge was seemingly conscious of the various ingredients of the provisions relating to dowry death, therefore, he should have proceeded to examine the evidence of the prosecution with regard to cruelty or harassment meted out to the deceased in connection with demand for dowry. Somehow the learned Judge did not enter into an inquiry of cruelty in relation to dowry demands but dealt with the matter in a routine way. He first discussed the question of law in lodging the matter to the police and found that there was no undue delay which may afford scope for concocting false version or manipulating evidence. The testimony of Naranjan Dass was examined but not in the manner in which the evidence should be examined in dowry death cases. The learned Judge was convinced of the truthfulness of the testimony of the single witness and conviction under Section 304-B was recorded.

9. Learned Counsel for the appellants has argued that the learned Trial Court has overlooked the surrounding circumstances and probabilities of the cae. Kuldip Singh had returned after spending some years abroad, therefore, the prosecution case that he had demanded Rs. 1,000/- for going abroad and then demanded Rs. 5,000/-, could not be accepted. It was also submited that the Court seemed to have assumed that the charge stood proved because Resham Kaur alias Paramjit Kaur had died an untimely death. The absence or lack of evidence against Balwant Singh and Gurmeet Kaur was completely overlooked. Only one witness had been produced with regard to the maltreatment/harassment, the evidence of this witness was unreliable, had improvements and could not be accepted. All the instances of so called dowry demands and maltreatment were at least 2 years old, therefore, it could not be said that the deceased had been subjected to cruelty or harassment soon before her death.

10. Dowry death cases are a phenomenon peculiar to our country. The man-woman, husband-wife relationship has been subject to many psychological, sociological and philosophical debates and studies. If the relationship is an unhappy one and beyond repair then the parties acting sensibly separate from each other. If the parties are married they try to reconcile the differences either through mediators, relations or friends. They even attempt conciliation through concealing and iron out their differences. When the differences are deep and there has been much acrimony, one of the parties to the marriage approaches the divorce Court and the other party either contests divorce or submits to divorce by mutual consent. Often the wife presents a complaint alleging that her husband had subjected her to cruelty or has misappropriated her property. This gives rise to cases under Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code and/or Section 406, I.P.C. Dowry death is the ultimate tragedy and it usually occurs when the parties have simply failed to reconcile their differences and have also failed in sorting each other out in the divorce/criminal Courts.

11. From marriage to dowry death there would usually be a well chronicled account of the events touching of the husband-wife relationship or the wife and parents-in-law relationship. It is the duty of the investigator to explore as accurately as possible what had gone wrong with the marriage before claiming down a dowry death case under Section 304-B, I.P.C. based on a few instances of dowry demands. It is the duty of the investigator to be fair not only to the prosecution but also to the defence. The Investigator must act impartially and not as a biased or a sided inquirer. The reason why one has to record these observations is that death of a wife, within seven years of marriage, howsoever sad it may be, is not always dowry death. Modern life puts all kinds of pressures on the husband-wife relationship and often it is the upbringing and background of the parties which plays a prominent part. Some husbands may have been spoiled sons of dotting parents. Their wives may have been insecure daughters of uncaring parents who had been longing for sons but had a daughter instead. Such a couple would be quite unable to cope with pressures of daily life and if the husband shows weakness then the wife has to bear added pressure. However, if the wife is already a weak and a docile person she may not be able to bear the pressure and may crack up. Therefore, such a wife may commit suicide finding it an honourable way to leave the world and escape a miserable life. Such a case would not amount to dowry death at all. However, if the investigator introduced a few demands of dowry, a few instances of cruelty and harassment, then a suicide simpliciter would assume the shape of dowry death. Since the dowry death is a special offence, its investigation must also be done carefully and with great sensitivity.

12. In the present case the main witness of the three ingredients of the offence (cruelty or harassment for or in connection with any demand for dowry) is Naranjan Dass, father of the deceased. Therefore, his statement should be examined with great care to particularly see if the third ingredient is really present. Naranjan Dass runs a confectionery shop/tea stall at Ravi Dass Nagar near D.A.V. College, Hoshiarpur. In his statement he states that two years prior to her death his daughter had told him that the accused/appellants were maltreating her on account of insufficient dowry and that all the accused were harassing her. Resham Kaur died on January 6, 1992. She was married three years prior to her death which means that she was married in the winter of 1988-89 and the above complaint was lodged with Niranjan Dass in the winter of 1989-90. Naranjan Dass further went on to state that, after six months of marriage. Kuldip Singh demanded money for going abroad and asked for Rs. 1,000/-. Naranjan Dass paid him Rs. 800/-. This must have occurred sometimes in summer of 1989. After another six months Kuldip Singh demanded Rs. 5,000/-. It was also paid. This demand probably coincided with the complaint which the deceased had lodged with her father in the winter of 1989-90.

13. Thereafter for two years there was total peace between Kuldip Singh and Resham Kaur alias Paramjit Kaur deceased. There was also harmony between the deceased and her parents-in-law. In Kans Raj v. State of Punjab, AIR 2000 SC 2324, the Supreme Court made the following observations:

'In cases where such accusation made, the overt acts attributed to persons other than husband are required to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. By mere conjectures and implications such relations cannot be held guilty for the offence relating to dowry death. A tendency has, however, developed for roping in all relations of the in-laws of the deceased wives in the matters of dowry deaths which, if not discouraged, is likely to affect the case of the prosecution even against the real culprits. In their over-enthusiasm and anxiety to seek conviction for maximum people, the parents of the deceased have been found to be making efforts for involving other relations which ultimately weakens the case of the prosecution even against the real accused as appears to have happened in the instant case.'

14. In Pawan Kumar v. State of Haryana, II (1998) SLT 525=1 (1998) DMC 165 (SC)=I (1998) CCR 365 (SC)=AIR 1998 SC 958 the Supreme Court cautioned as under :

'This places an arduous duty on the Court to separate such individuals from the offenders. Hence the Courts have to deal such cases with circumvention, sift through the evidence with caution, scrutinise the circumstances with utmost care. The present matter is one such where similar questions have been raised including questions of interpretation of the stringent law.'

It was held that:

'There is direct evidence, as stated by the aforesaid witnesses P.Ws. 5 and 7 that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty by the husband. However, we find insofar as appellant Nos. 2 and 3, father-in-law and mother-in-law, are concerned, the evidence is of general nature. No convincing evidence has been led that the deceased was subjected to cruelty by appellant Nos. 2 and 3. Before holding that appellant Nos. 2 and 3 committed the offence, it had to be found that they are responsible for subjecting her to cruelty or harassment, soon before her death. We find in this case evidence is only confined to the husband and not against appellant Nos. 2 and 3. Hence on the evidence on record, so far as appellant Nos. 2 and 3 are concerned, we extend to them the benefit of doubt and acquit them.'

15. In Salamat Ali v. State of Bihar, AIR 1995 SC 1863, the following observations were made :

'Thus, the allegations against the appellants are general in nature attributed to the husband's family. They have been identified because they are members of his family. It is not clear on the record as besides them who else were members of the family. It thus appears to us that in the absence of clear and pointed evidence it would be unsafe to maintain the conviction of the parents on vague allegations that the demand of dowry was made by the husband's family members.'

16. Supreme Court in Satbir Singh v. State of Punjab, II (2001) DMC 734=VI (2001) SLT 803-IV (2001) CCR 75 (SC)=AIR 2001 SC 2828 laid down as under;

'It is not enough that harassment or cruelty was caused to the woman with a demand for dowry at some time, if Section 304B is to be invoked. But it should have happened soon before her death. The said phrase, no doubt is an elastic expression and can refer to a period either immediately before her death or within a few days or even a few weeks before it. But the proximity to her death is the pivot indicated by the expression. The legislative object in providing such a radius of time by employing the words 'soon before her death' is to emphasise the idea that her death should, in all probabilities, have been the aftermath or such cruelty or harassment. In other words, there should be a perceptible nexus between her death and the dowry related harassment or cruelty inflicted on her. If the interval elapsed between the infliction of such harassment or cruelty and her death is wide the Court would be in a position to gauge that in all probabilities the death would not have been the immediate cause of her death. It is hence for the Court to decide, on the facts and circumstances of each case, whether the said interval in that particular case was sufficient to snull its cord from the concept 'soon before her death'.

17. In Mungeshwar Prasad Chaurasia v. State of Bihar, I (2002) DMC 480 (SC)=II (2002) SLT 81=I (2002) CCR 176 (SC)=2002(1) RCR (Criminal) 621 (SC) the following observations were made:

'All of them said in one accord that husband of Sudama Devi demanded dowry a few months prior to her death. Even if the said period can be treated as falling within the proximity range of 'soon before death', the said acts can be attributed only to Ram Pukar--the husband of the deceased Sudama Devi. None of the witnesses said either directly or indirectly that the present appellants did anything during the said period as against Sudama Devi. Of course, some of the witnesses said that soon after marriage, these appellants asked for more dowry. But that demand was made at a time which was beyond the range of 'soon before death' of the deceased.'

18. The present case is not at all a case of dowry death. This case illustrates how a suicide simpliciter got converted into a case of dowry death by introducing a few irrelevant demands of money from his father-in-law. Thereafter for two years there had been no demand of dowry or a demand for anything resembling dowry. There is also no evidence that the appellant had driven her to suicide by making a dowry demand of the type mentioned in Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code. It is true that harassment and cruelty are inflicted and dowry demands are made within the confines of unhappy homes but to record conviction there has to be harassment and cruelty in connection with a demand for dowry made soon before the death of the deceased under unnatural circumstances. Unless all ingredients are present and unless the harassment and cruelty was soon before the death, the offence of dowry death punishable under Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code would not be made out.

In view of the above discussion, this appeal is accepted and the appellants are hereby acquitted.

Criminal Revision No. 156 of 1993 is also dismissed.


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