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CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.2267 OF 2014 (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No.1453 of 2013) Kuldeep Kaur …Appellant (s) versus State of Uttarakhand …Respondent(s)

REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.2267 OF 2014
(Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No.1453 of 2013)
Kuldeep Kaur …Appellant (s)
versus
State of Uttarakhand …Respondent(s)

JUDGMENT
M.Y. Eqbal, J.:
Leave granted.
2. This appeal by special leave arises out of judgment and order dated
3.1.2013 of the High Court of Uttarakhand in Criminal Appeal No.213 of
2006, whereby Division Bench of the High Court dismissed the appeal
preferred by the appellant and affirmed the decision of the trial court
convicting her under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code to undergo three
years rigorous imprisonment with fine of Rs.5000/-. The High Court also
dismissed the appeal preferred by the State against the judgment of
acquittal passed by trial court.

3. The prosecution case in a nutshell is that on 6.6.2001 the
complainant of the case viz. Captain Jagtar Singh (PW1) lodged a report
Ex.A-1 at P.S. Sitarganj, wherein it has been stated that marriage of his
daughter Jagpreet Kaur was solemnized with Upkar Singh son of Harpal Singh
on 1.3.2001. The complainant gave the articles in the marriage according
to his capacity, but in-laws of his daughter used to demand car etc. and
used to taunt and harass his daughter. It was further complained that
Jagpreet Kaur told the informant that her in-laws harassed her on account
of non-fulfillment of demand of dowry and in the intervening night of
5th/6th of June, 2001, she was compelled to commit suicide. On the basis
of this complaint, case was registered against the accused persons under
Section 304-B, IPC and the police took into custody a small bottle, cover
of which was slightly torned, on which “Cypermethrin High Emulsifable
Concentrate (Vet) Elitomin 100 E.C.” was written. Diary Ex.A-2 written by
the deceased was also seized. Dead body was sent for post-mortem, where no
apparent injury except ligature mark on the neck was found. According to
the concerned Doctor, cause of death of the deceased was due to asphyxia as
a result of ante mortem hanging.

4. Upon investigation, charge-sheet for the offence punishable under
Section 304-B, IPC was submitted in the Court of Magistrate, who committed
the case to the Court of Sessions for trial. The trial court charged
accused persons viz. mother-in-law Smt. Kuldeep Kaur and brothers-in-law
Gurlal Singh & Rakesh Grover under Section 498A/304-B, IPC and Section 3/4
of Dowry Prohibition Act, to which the accused persons pleaded not guilty
and sought trial.

5. It is worth to mention here that as accused Harpal (father-in-law)
had died, case was abated against him, and since deceased’s husband Upkar
Singh and sisters-in-law Rupender Kaur and Satender Kaur were absent at the
time of filing of chargesheet, their records were taken apart and separate
chargesheet was filed against them at later stage. In that case, trial
court has acquitted these accused persons by giving them benefit of doubt
with respect to allegations alleged against them.

6. To prove its case against Smt. Kuldeep Kaur and Gurlal Singh & Rakesh
Grover, prosecution examined eight witnesses, namely, PW1 Captain Jagtar
Singh (deceased’s father), PW2 Smt. Gurmeet Kaur (deceased’s cousin
sister), PW3 Pyara Singh (deceased’s relative), PW4 Dr. R.A. Kediya (who
conducted post-mortem), PW5 Harak Singh Rawat (Tehsildar), PW6 Balwant
Singh, PW7 S.I. Sohan Pal Singh and PW8 Dalip Singh (Investigation
Officer). In defence, three witnesses were examined. Incriminating
evidence was put to the accused persons under Section 313 of the Code of
Criminal Procedure, in which they submitted that they were falsely
implicated in the case.

7. On appreciation of evidence and material placed on record, the trial
court held that the deceased did not commit suicide due to cruelty caused
to her in connection with demand of dowry and acquitted the appellant and
other co-accused of the offence punishable under Sections 498A/304B, IPC
and Sections 3 & 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. However, the appellant
was held guilty under Section 306, IPC and was sentenced to undergo
imprisonment for three years and fine of Rs.5000/-.

8. Aggrieved by the decision of the trial court, respondent-State
preferred appeal before the High Court against the judgment of acquittal
passed by the trial court. Accused-appellant also preferred appeal
challenging her conviction under Section 306, IPC. After hearing learned
counsel appearing for the parties and appreciating the evidence and papers
placed before it, the Division Bench of the High Court dismissed the
appeals affirming judgment of the trial court.

9. Hence this appeal by the mother-in-law of the deceased.

10. Mr. Huzefa Ahmadi learned senior counsel appearing for the appellant
at the very outset submitted that the trial court has acquitted all the
accused persons except the appellant, who has already undergone about six
months of custody as under trial and she is an old lady aged about 86
years. It is further submitted that the appellant has undergone heart
surgery and is also suffering from various old age ailments and practically
confined to bed.

11. It has been contended on behalf of the appellant that PW1 father of
the deceased made only general allegation of demand of dowry against all
the family members and there are no specific allegations against the
present appellant. The trial court while convicting the appellant has
relied upon the contents of the diary of the deceased. However, trial
court found contradiction in the statements of the witnesses PW1, PW2 and
PW3 in respect of demand of dowry by the accused persons and the deceased
not writing anything about demand of dowry in her diary in respect of these
accused persons including the appellant and therefore, no presumption was
taken by the trial court in respect of dowry death under Section 113B, IPC.
12. Learned senior counsel drew our attention to the following findings
and observations of the trial court in its decision in separate trial
pertaining to deceased’s husband:
“…It appears from the perusal of diary that deceased was not happy from the
behavior meted out to her by the accused persons and the members of the
family and she was in depression. Her sensitivity towards things also
appears to be more. PW-1 has stated in his cross-examination as to mental
condition and temperament of the deceased that his daughter was an
illiterate one and used to like cities much. Her temperament right from
childhood was such that she used to get perturbed on any issue, whereas,
there was nothing in scarce in her matrimonial house or in her paternal
house. It was her nature to get depressed; she was a patient of
depression. She was treated for depression much earlier also, but her
thinking and tendency remained unchanged. PW-6, who is the brother of the
deceased, has also stated in his evidence that his sister Priti was in
depression. PW-7, the Investigation Officer has stated in his examination-
in-chief that one sealed bottle was recovered from the site, whose cover
was torn. Its report was also prepared by him…. In cross-examination this
witness has stated that Actomin 100E/C was written on the bottle recovered
from the site. He has not got any chemical examination done with respect
to medicine the above bottle contained. He has not conducted any
investigation in this regard that medicine kept in the bottle is used for
which purpose. This medicine can also be used in the disease of
depression. In this way, the statements mentioned in the diary available
on the record alleged to be written by the deceased in context of evidences
given by PW-1, PW-6 and PW-7 makes it clear that deceased was extremely
sensitive and she could easily fall prey of depression even under normal
circumstances. In this situation, special care of the deceased and
sympathetic ambience was necessary for the deceased, but inability of her
husband and other members of her family to understand her mental condition
or their inability to help the deceased properly could be an important
mistake on the part of the husband of the deceased and her other family
members, but they cannot be held liable for any offence for it.
xxxxx
In the instant case, it is quite clear from the findings of the prosecution
evidence that deceased was found hanging inside a room locked from inside,
from where she was taken out after breaking glass and opening the door.”

13. Mr. Ahmadi contended that the finding of the trial court holding the
petitioner guilty under Section 306, IPC is on the basis of surmises and
conjectures. The trial court in its judgment pertaining to the appellant
has reproduced a line from the diary of the deceased, which reads as “Still
she wants me to work till late.” It is contended that the trial court
erred in presuming that when the deceased writes the above line in her
diary she is referring to the appellant. It is further contended that
conviction of the appellant deserves to be set aside as both the courts
below failed to appreciate that the prosecution did not led any evidence on
record to show that there was direct reasonable nexus between suicide and
alleged cruelty. As both the courts below gave findings that there was no
demand of dowry or any cruelty committed with the deceased in connection
with demand of dowry and acquitted the appellant from charge under Sections
304B, 498A IPC and under sections 3 & 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, the
courts below could not have come to a contradictory view that the deceased
committed suicide due to cruelty committed by the appellant. Even in the
diary, deceased has not written even a single word against the appellant.
Perusal of the diary only shows, as also observed by the trial court in its
decision in the trial of other accused persons including deceased’s
husband, that the deceased was depressed and has left no interest in life.
14. Learned counsel appearing for the State has not disputed that
although against the judgment of acquittal passed by the trial court
acquitting the husband, father-in-law, brother-in-law and two sisters-in-
law, the State preferred appeal but the same was dismissed by the High
Court. However, no further appeal has been filed by the State before this
Court. Learned counsel submitted that the conviction of the appellant under
Section 306 IPC is fully justified.

15. We have perused the judgment passed by the trial court as also by the
High Court. We have also gone through the judgments by which the husband,
father-in-law, brother-in-law and two sisters-in-law have been acquitted by
the trial court and affirmed by the High Court. So far this appellant is
concerned, she has also been acquitted against the charges of dowry
harassment but she has been convicted under Section 306 IPC.
16. A perusal of trial court judgment pertaining to deceased’s husband
would show that PW1, father of the deceased, in his cross examination
stated that no dowry was demanded by the accused persons from the day of
alliance till solemnization of marriage. Whatever stridhan was given was
as per the custom and as per his will in the form of gift to his daughter.
He further stated that his daughter had not told him that in the absence of
Upkar Singh she remained dejected in her matrimonial house because of her
mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law and husband and elder brother-
in-law on the issue of dowry. Witness himself stated that only God knows
why her daughter committed suicide without any reason. This witness has
stated that it is true to say that neither the accused persons abetted his
daughter to commit suicide nor they harassed her.

17. We have given our anxious consideration in the matter and analysed
the evidence of the prosecution witnesses. In our considered opinion, the
evidence adduced as against the appellant does not establish the case under
Section 306 of the Code. On the basis of evidence of the prosecution
witnesses, conviction of the appellant only cannot be sustained. Having
regard to the fact of the case and the evidence of the prosecution
witnesses, the trial court acquitted all the accused persons except the
present appellant and the said judgment was affirmed by the High Court. We
do not find any strong reason to agree with the judgment of conviction
passed by the trial court and affirmed by the High Court as against the
appellant.

18. For the reasons aforesaid, this appeal is allowed and the judgment of
conviction of the appellant under Section 306 IPC is set aside.
….…………………………….J.
[ M.Y. Eqbal ]
…………………………….J.
[Pinaki Chandra Ghose]
New Delhi
October 17, 2014

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