No Automatic Conviction U/s 306 IPC merely because accused was found guilty under Section 498A IPC

-Padma Sri

BACKGROUND: 

   Gurjit Singh, his parents and wife of Gurjit’s brother has been charged for dowry death and cruelty against the deceased as per Section 304B and 498A of Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 during 2000. The deceased father (PW 10) has stated that the accused persons have tortured the deceased for not giving the dowry as agreed.

The trial court of Punjab and Haryana has convicted the accused no 1, 2 and 3 under cruelty against the deceased by the accused as per Section 498A of IPC, 1860 and not for 304B because the prosecutrix has failed to prove that claim beyond the reasonable doubt. The accused number 4 has been acquitted because the prosecutrix has failed to prove the dowry death and cruelty against the deceased by her. As both the parties to the case are not satisfied with the decision of the trial court, two separate appeals have been filed by them before the High Court during 2000 and in 2001.

The high court has upheld the decision of the trial court regarding the accused number 4 acquittal but the accused number 1 to 3 has been charged under Section 498A along with Section 306 of IPC, 1860 (deals with abetment for suicide) read with section 113A (deals with presumption of dowry death) of Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

CURRENT ISSUE: 

   The appellant has filed a criminal appeal before the Supreme Court of India challenging the judgment of the High Court regarding additional conviction under Section 306 of IPC when there is no charge on an abetment to suicide was dealt in the trial court of Punjab and Haryana (appellate court focuses only on the question of charges and decision made on it by the trial court but not the new chargers). The counsel for the appellant argues that they will not argue on the conviction under the Section 498A of IPC in this appeal but on the conviction made under Section 306 of IPC read with the Section 113A of IEA,1872. The respondent counsel argues that there is a similar meaning between the 113A and the conviction stand as both come under the same subject matter.  

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QUESTION OF LAW:

   The Bench has relied upon the decision of Ramesh Kumar vs. State of Chhattisgarh case, to attract the applicability of Section 113-A of the Indian Evidence Act. There are 3 conditions which have to be satisfied by the counsel who put forth the claim of dowry death:

  1. The woman has committed suicide, 
  2. Such suicide has been committed within seven years from the date of her marriage,  
  3. The husband or his relatives, who are charged had subjected her to cruelty. 

READ ALSO: RECENT INTERPRETATION ON SECTION 498 (A) IPC

The Supreme court noted that merely because accused had been held liable to be punished under Section 498-A of the IPC, it does not follow that on the same evidence he must also and necessarily be held guilty of having abetted the commission of suicide by the woman concerned. The bench has also noted in that case that Section 498­A and Section 306 IPC are independent and constitute different offences. Though, depending on the facts and circumstances of an individual case, subjecting a woman to cruelty may amount to an offence under Section 498­A and may also if a course of conduct amounting to cruelty is established leaving no other option for the woman except to commit suicide, amount to abetment to commit suicide. However, merely because an accused has been held liable to be punished under Section 498­A IPC it does not follow that on the same evidence he must also and necessarily be held guilty of having abetted the commission of suicide by the woman concerned

CONCLUSION: 

Justice Navin Sinha and Justice BR Gavai found that though the prosecution is successful in proving the case under Section 498-A of the IPC, we are of the view that the prosecution has failed to prove that the cruelty was of such a nature which left no choice to the deceased than to commit suicide. The prosecution has not been in a position to place on record any evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that any act or omission of the accused instigated the deceased to commit suicide. There is no material on record to show that immediately before the deceased committing suicide there was cruelty meted out to the deceased by the accused due to which the deceased had no other option than to commit the suicide.

We are of the view, that there is no material placed on record to reach a cause and effect relationship between the cruelty and the suicide to raise the presumption. It could further be seen from the evidence on record that the time gap between the last visit of the deceased to her parents concerning the illegal demand and the date of commission of suicide is about two months. As such, there is nothing on record to show that there was a proximate nexus between the commission of suicide and the illegal demand made by the appellant.

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