How appreciate the Evidence – Sections 498-A, 304-B, 201 and 176 of the Indian Penal Code (for short ‘IPC’) read with Sections 3, 4 and 6 (2) of the Dowry Prohibition Act. – Trial court acquitted the accused – High court convicted the accused – Apex court held that The High Court is correct in its observation that it was not appropriate for the trial court to expect documentary evidence regarding acceptance of dowry as generally such a record would not be kept since it was not a commercial transaction. The High Court also appears to be justified in its observation that non production of the villagers to prove the dowry demand would not be fatal. and further held that Strangely, the High Court has discarded Mahazar drawn by PW-8 by giving a spacious reason viz. it was not an exhibited document before the Court, little realising that this was the document produced by the prosecution itself and even without formal proof thereto by the prosecution, it was always open for the defence to seek reliance on such an evidence to falsify the prosecution version. and further held that it is well established that if two views are possible on the basis of evidence on record and one favourable to the accused has been taken by the trial court, it ought not to be disturbed by the appellate court. We thus, find that there were no solid and weighty reasons to reverse the verdict of acquittal and to convict the appellant under the given circumstances. Accordingly, we allow this appeal and set aside the judgment of the High Court, holding that the appellant is not guilty of the
charges foisted against him. =
No doubt, the initial complaint by
Mariyappa (PW-1) was to the effect that the accused persons murdered Laxmi
and then threw her into the well and also led the evidence of such crime to
disappear by burning the dead body much prior to the approval of maternal
uncle and parents of the deceased.
However, after investigation, the
charge sheet was filed only for offences punishable under Sections 498-A,
304-B, 201 and 176 of the Indian Penal Code (for short ‘IPC’) read with
Sections 3, 4 and 6 (2) of the Dowry Prohibition Act. =
After re-appreciating the entire evidence on record,
Court has come to the conclusion that the appellant was in fact guilty of
offence punishable under Sections 3 & 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act as well as
under Sections 498-A, 304-B, 201 and 176 IPC.
The judgment and order of
acquittal of trial court is, thereby, set aside by the High Court =
The trial court
analysed the testimony of PW-4, PW-5 and PW-6
“(27) After the marriage during the period of 6 months
it was not
mentioned in the complaint that the accused have assaulted Lakshmamma
physically and thrown out of the house nor stated the same before the
Neither the villagers wherein the accused are residing nor their
neighbors have given any evidence before the court about pinpricks meted
out to her.
As against which
D.W.1 Ramakrishnappa, aged 56 years, said
that, from the beginning till the death of Lakshamma the accused persons
looked after here well and not given any pinpricks to her, he further told
that on that day she came to well for washing the cloth and due to slip of
her leg she fell in the well and he came to know about the same.
In his cross-examination no other statement was given on behalf of prosecution.
(28) It is an arranged marriage in the presence of elders, in the event of
giving any pinpricks about dowry harassment, this matter would have been
brought to the notice of elders and convene a panchayath.
But it never
revealed anywhere about conveying the panchayath.
Hence it is hereby seen
that the accused or her husband had not given pinpricks either in the
matter of dowry or in any other matter.
It cannot be said that she has committed for the said reason.
Hence I answer both the questions
The High Court has, however, given a different glance to the entire matter.
According to it, the aforesaid
approach of the trial court was erroneous in law as well as in appreciation
of the evidence on record.
After taking note of the fact that
within six months of her marriage and it was an unnatural death, the High
Court has lamented on the conduct of the appellant and has arrived at the
conclusion that it was the appellant who was responsible for the death of
Laxmi and found him guilty of offence under Section 304-B of IPC.
Court has also accepted the version of the prosecution that Laxmi was
harassed and humiliated on account of non fulfillment of the demand of
dowry made by the appellant and, therefore, presumption under Section 113-B
of the Evidence Act was attracted.
As per the High Court, the appellant
has not been able to lead any satisfactory evidence to dislodge this
The infirmities found in the depositions of PW-1 to PW-5 by
the trial court have been brushed aside and discarded by the High Court as
irrelevant and perverse.
The High Court held that it would be impossible
to expect any party to the marriage talks to keep a record of demand and
payment of dowry as if it was a commercial transaction and, therefore, the
absence of documentary evidence in this regard should not have weighed with
the trial court.
The High Court also observed that there was no admission
made by PW-1 that even without the alleged demand of dowry, he would have
given customary articles like clothes and ornaments and no such customary
practice was indicated.
The finding of the trial court that the case of
the prosecution regarding demand and payment of dowry was not proved in the
absence of anyone from the village of the accused is also brushed aside by
observing that such a demand and payment would not be made public inasmuch
as such talks would be within closed doors and would be within the
knowledge of the parties to the marriage and kith and kin of the bride and
Further, apart from PW-1 to PW-3, PW-4, who is the neighbour
of PW-1 and PW-2, supported the version of the demand of dowry and the
harassment of Laxmi at the hands of the appellant and his family members.
observation that it was not appropriate for the trial court to expect
documentary evidence regarding acceptance of dowry as generally such a
record would not be kept since it was not a commercial transaction.
High Court also appears to be justified in its observation that non
production of the villagers to prove the dowry demand would not be fatal.
We have eschewed and discarded these reasons assigned by the trial court.
whether the evidence of
these witnesses (PW-1 to PW-3) is worthy of credence, on this aspect.
According to them, deceased was cremated before they reached
the village of the appellant. To falsify this position taken by the
prosecution through these witnesses, the learned counsel for the appellant
had taken us to the evidence of PW-8 who had drawn Mahazar near the well.
This Mahazar coupled with the statement of PW-8 is a very significant piece
of evidence which has considerable effect in denting the creditworthiness
of the testimony of these witnesses. As per PW-8 himself, when he had
reached the spot, it was the mother of the deceased who pointed out the
place where the dead body was lying. This assertion amply demonstrates
that mother of the deceased had known where the body was kept and she along
with PW-1 and PW-2 had reached the place of occurrence before the dead body
was cremated. Relying upon this evidence, the trial court has disbelieved
the story of the prosecution that Laxmi was cremated even before these
persons had reached the village of the appellant. Strangely, the High
Court has discarded Mahazar drawn by PW-8 by giving a spacious reason viz.
it was not an exhibited document before the Court, little realising that
this was the document produced by the prosecution itself and even without
formal proof thereto by the prosecution, it was always open for the defence
to seek reliance on such an evidence to falsify the prosecution version.
Moreover, PW-8 has specifically referred to this document in his evidence.
It is also a matter of record that a specific suggestion was made to PW-3
(mother of the deceased) in the cross-examination to the effect that it is
she who had pointed out the place of the dead body lying near the well to
the Police personnel. The version of PW-1 to PW-3 that they reached the
village of the appellant after Laxmi had already been cremated, does not
inspire confidence and appears to be mendacious.
If the body was cremated thereafter, and not
buried, it can clearly be inferred that same was done with consent, express
or implied, of the complainant namely maternal uncle and the mother of the
deceased. It can also be inferred that parties had decided at that time
that matter be not reported to the Police and body be cremated. To say it
otherwise, by accepting the version of the prosecution, would lead to some
absurdities. It would mean that when maternal uncle or aunt as well as
mother of Laxmi were present and had seen the dead body lying at the spot,
they objected to the body being cremated. They also wanted Police to be
informed. If it was so, why they did not put up any resistance? We have to
keep in mind that these family members of Laxmi have come out with the
allegation that Laxmi was harassed as well as mentally and physically
tortured because of non fulfillment of dowry demand. In such a scenario,
they would not have remained silent and mute spectators to the events that
followed even when they were not to their liking. Not only this conduct
belies their version, another weighty factor is that the complainant
remained silent about these happenings for a period of 4 days and lodged
the report with the Police only on 26.05.1993 when they came out with the
allegations of demand of dowry and harassment.
in Chandrappa and Ors. v. State of Karnataka, (2007) 4
31. In Chandrappa (supra), which was followed in the aforesaid case, the
Court had observed:
“44. In our view, if in the light of above circumstances, the trial court
felt that the accused could get benefit of doubt, the said view cannot be
held to be illegal, improper or contrary to law. Hence, even though we are
of the opinion that in an appeal against acquittal, powers of the appellate
court are as wide as that of the trial court and it can review,
reappreciate and reconsider the entire evidence brought on record by the
parties and can come to its own conclusion on fact as well as on law, in
the present case, the view taken by the trial court for acquitting the
accused was possible and plausible. On the basis of evidence, therefore,
at the most, it can be said that the other view was equally possible. But
it is well established that if two views are possible on the basis of
evidence on record and one favourable to the accused has been taken by the
trial court, it ought not to be disturbed by the appellate court. In this
case, a possible view on the evidence of prosecution had been taken by the
trial court which ought not to have been disturbed by the appellate court.
The decision of the appellate court (the High Court), therefore, is liable
to be set aside.”
32. We thus, find that there were no solid and weighty reasons to reverse
the verdict of acquittal and to convict the appellant under the given
circumstances. Accordingly, we allow this appeal and set aside the
judgment of the High Court, holding that the appellant is not guilty of the
charges foisted against him.
33. During the pendency of this appeal, the appellant was enlarged on
bail vide order dated 31.03.2014. The bail bonds and sureties given by the
appellant are hereby discharged.
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