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CRIMINAL APPEAL No.1167 OF 2011 Hari Om Appellant(s) VERSUS State of Haryana & Another Respondent(s)

REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CRIMINAL APPEAL No.1167 OF 2011
Hari Om Appellant(s)

VERSUS

State of Haryana & Another Respondent(s)

J U D G M E N T

Abhay Manohar Sapre, J.
1. This Criminal Appeal is filed by the accused, Hari Om (A-1),
against the judgment and order dated 14.05.2010 passed by the High
Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh in Criminal Appeal no. 190-
DB of 2004, which in turn, arises out of judgment dated
31.01.2004/04.02.2004 passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Jind in
Session Case no. 57/23.12.2002 and Session Trial No. 5 of 13.02.2003.
2. By impugned judgment, the High Court dismissed the appeal filed
by the appellant (A-1) and upheld his conviction and sentence for the
offences punishable under Sections 304-B and 498-A of the Indian Penal
Code, 1860 (in short “IPC”) and allowed the appeals filed by the co-
accused namely, Subhash, Dharam Pal, Ram Chander and Chander Kala (A-2
to A-5) and set aside their conviction and sentence.
3. So far as this appeal is concerned, we are only concerned with
the conviction and sentence awarded to the appellant – Hari Om (A-1).
4. Facts necessary for the disposal of this appeal need to be
mentioned in brief.
5. As per the prosecution case, Poonam – a young girl having post-
graduate degree to her credit, was married to A-1 on 04.07.2002. At
the relevant time, A-1 was working as sub-inspector in Delhi Police.
In the marriage, Pooam’s parents spent around Rs.6.50 lacs. An amount
of Rs. 3.50 lacs was paid in cash to the appellant (A-1) for
purchasing a car and the remaining amount was spent on gifts and other
expenses.
6. After a week of the marriage, A-1 made a telephone call to the
parents of Poonam and demanded several items – such as furniture etc.,
which, according to A-1, were not given in marriage. On 21.7.2002,
when A-1 visited Poonam’s parents house, collected the demanded items.
During that time, the appellant(A-1) also complained to them that
Sarris given to his relatives in the marriage were of inferior quality
and, therefore, they should pay a sum of Rs.20,000/- in cash in lieu
thereof. Though Poonam’s parents tried their best to convince A-1
that they did their best looking to their financial capacity in the
marriage and now it may not be possible for them to satisfy his
demands but A-1 did not agree and threatened that if they do not
satisfy his demands, he will not keep Poonam with him.
7. After sometime, on 30.7.2002, Poonam’s parents (complainant)
went to the house of A-1 and tried to persuade him and his parents to
give up new demands, which included money for purchasing a flat in
Delhi. However, out of sheer compulsion, Poonam’s parents agreed to
pay the amount as demanded at the earliest. On this assurance, A-1
said that they can take Poonam with them and when money is sent, she
can come to matrimonial home. Then Poonam returned to parental home
with her parents. On 5.8.2002/6.8.2002, A-1 made a telephone call to
Poonam reminding her of payment for purchasing a flat in Delhi and in
lieu of saris. Due to persistent illegal demands by A-1, Poonam
became tense and on 7.8.2002 at about 6.30/7.00 AM, she committed
suicide in her room by consuming poison. She was taken to civil
hospital in an unconscious condition where doctor declared her dead at
7.45 AM.
8. This led to taking up of investigation on the basis of FIR No.
336 dated 07.08.2002 (EX-PN) lodged by the parents of the deceased
against the appellant and her parents for commission of the offence
punishable under Sections 304-B/498-B/34 IPC on the same day at about
12.50 PM at Jind Police Station. During the investigation, the
police recovered one 3-pages hand written letter (Ex.PA) from Poonam’s
bedroom. On 7.8.2002, Dr. Satija (P.W.10) conducted post mortem and
found no injury on the body of the deceased. During examination,
stomach and its contents were sent for chemical examination. A piece
of small intestine, a piece of large intestine, a piece of liver,
spleen and kidney with their contents were also sent for chemical
examination. The report of the chemical examiner (Ex-PT) revealed
that Poonam consumed poison (aluminum phosphide), which caused her
death.
9. This event led to arrest of the appellant (A-1) and her family
members (A-2 to A-5) followed by recovery of dowry articles from the
house of the appellant by the police and then filing of challan
against him and his parents for the offences punishable under Sections
304-B and 498-B of the IPC to which they did not plead guilty and
claimed trial. The prosecution examined 17 witnesses to prove the
charges in relation to the offences against the accused persons
whereas the defence examined 19 witnesses.
10. The Additional Sessions Judge, Jind, by judgment dated
31.01.2004 and sentence dated 04.02.2004, convicted A-1 to A-5 for the
offences punishable under Section 304-B and 498-A IPC and imposed
sentenced on them as under :
|S.No. |Name of |Under |Sentence awarded |
| |convict |Section | |
|1. |Hari Om son |304-B IPC |Life imprisonment and to pay a |
| |of Ram | |fine of Rs.5000/- |
| |Chander | | |
| | |498-A IPC |Two years rigorous imprisonment |
| | | |and to pay a fine of Rs.1000/-. |
|2. |Ram Chander |304-B IPC |Rigorous imprisonment for ten |
| |son of | |years and to pay fine of |
| |Dawarka Dass| |Rs.5000/-. |
| | |498-A |Rigorous imprisonment for two |
| | | |years and to pay fine of |
| | | |Rs.1000/-. |
|3. |Chander |304-B IPC |Rigorous imprisonment for ten |
| |Kalan wife | |years and to pay fine of |
| |of Ram | |Rs.5000/-. |
| |Chander | | |
| | |498-A |Rigorous imprisonment for two |
| | | |years and to pay fine of |
| | | |Rs.1000/-. |
|4. |Subhash son |304-B IPC |Rigorous imprisonment for seven |
| |of Ram | |years and to pay fine of |
| |Chander | |Rs.5000/-. |
| | |498-A |Rigorous imprisonment for two |
| | | |years and to pay fine of |
| | | |Rs.1000/-. |
|5. |Dharam Pal |304-B IPC |Rigorous imprisonment for seven |
| |son of | |years and to pay fine of |
| |Dawarka Dass| |Rs.5000/-. |
| | |498-A |Rigorous imprisonment for two |
| | | |years and to pay fine of |
| | | |Rs.1000/-. |
11. Feeling aggrieved, all five accused (A-1 to A-5) filed criminal
appeals before the High Court out of which this appeal arises. The
High Court, by impugned judgment, dismissed the appeal in respect of
the appellant (A-1) and upheld the conviction and sentences awarded to
A-1 and allowed the appeal in respect of A-2 to A-5, namely, Subhash,
Dharam Pal, Ram Chander and Chander Kalan and acquitted them of the
charges framed against them. 12. Feeling aggrieved by the order of
the High Court, A- 1 has filed this appeal by way of SLP against the
impugned judgment.
13. Mr. Shekhar Nahapde, learned senior counsel appearing for the
appellant (A-1) confined his submission only to one ground. He
expressly gave up his challenge to concurrent finding of the courts
below so far as the conviction of the appellant under Section 304-B
read with Section 498-A is concerned. In other words, learned senior
counsel accepted the finding of conviction on merits, apparently,
finding no merit therein and challenged the quantum of punishment
(life imprisonment) awarded to the appellant.
14. According to learned senior counsel, having regard to all
circumstances, which resulted in appellant’s conviction and further
keeping in view the fact that the appellant has already undergone 9
years of imprisonment till date and still continues to remain in jail,
this Court should alter the award of life sentence to that of the one
already undergone by the appellant. Learned senior counsel urged that
though Section 304-B(2) prescribes award of imprisonment for a term,
which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend for
life, yet according to him, this is not a case where the courts should
have awarded life sentence to the appellant. Learned counsel urged
that any term more than seven years would meet the ends of justice and
since in this case, 9 years of imprisonment has already been undergone
by the appellant, this Court should allow the appeal to this extent
and by modifying the impugned judgment in so far as the quantum of
sentence is concerned, reduce the same from life imprisonment to that
of 9 years.
15. Learned counsel for the State and the complainant while
countering the submission made by the learned senior counsel for the
appellant, submitted that having regard to the totality of
circumstances emerging from the evidence and the fact that young girl
ended her life in dramatic condition within few days of her marriage,
the award of sentence of life imprisonment to the appellant is fully
justified and hence, this Court should not interfere in quantum of
sentence.
16. Having heard learned counsel for the parties and on perusal of
entire record of the case, we are inclined to allow the appeal in part
finding some force in the submission urged by learned senior counsel
for the appellant.
17. Though the appellant did not make any attempt to assail the
finding of his conviction on merits, yet with a view to satisfy
ourselves as to whether the concurrent findings of the courts below on
conviction are legally sustainable or not, we perused the record and
specially the evidence. Having so perused, we are satisfied that no
case is made out to interfere in concurrent findings of the courts
below on merits for the following reasons.
18. Firstly, Poonam committed suicide and died within one month of
her marriage. This event attracted rigor of Section 304-B read with
Section 498-A IPC and Section 113-B of the Evidence Act, 1872.
Secondly, her death was due to persistent illegal demands of dowry
made by the appellant one after the other to Poonam and to her
parents. Thirdly, the death of Poonam had a direct nexus with demand
of dowry duly proved by evidence and Poonam’s suicide note (EX-PA)
mentioning therein the reasons, which compelled her to end her life.
Fourthly, the suicide note was duly proved to be in the handwriting of
the deceased; fifthly, defence witnesses were not able to demolish or
weaken the prosecution case on any of these material issues and
lastly, in the light of these established facts, a clear case under
Section 304-B read with Section 498-B of IPC and Section 113-B of the
Evidence Act for drawing presumption as to dowry death under Section
304-B was made out against the appellant.
19. We, therefore, on our part uphold the finding of conviction and
hold that the courts below were justified in holding the appellant(A-
1) to be guilty of committing offences punishable under Section 304-B
read with Section 498-B IPC, which caused death of Poonam.
20. Now, the question arises as to whether we should reduce the
appellant’s sentence and if so, to what extent, as urged by the
learned senior counsel for the appellant.
21. This issue has been the subject matter of debate before this
Court in several cases, which arose out of Section 304-B read with
Section 498-B and wherein this Court while interpreting the expression
“may” occurring in Section 304-B IPC held that it is not mandatory for
the Court in every case to award life imprisonment to the accused once
he is found guilty of offence under Section 304-B. It was held that
the Court could award sentence in exercise of its discretion between
seven years to life imprisonment depending upon the facts of each
case. It was held that in no case it could be less than seven years
and that extreme punishment of life term should be awarded in “rare
cases” but not in every case.
22. In the case of Hem Chand Vs. State of Haryana, (1994) 6 SCC 727,
the courts below had awarded life term to the accused under Section
304-B read with Section 498-A but this Court reduced it to 10 years .
This was also a case where the accused was a police officer who had
suffered life imprisonment. This Court held as under:

“7.……. the accused-appellant was a police employee and instead
of checking the crime, he himself indulged therein and
precipitated in it and that bride-killing cases are on the
increase and therefore a serious view has to be taken. As
mentioned above, Section 304-B IPC only raises presumption and
lays down that minimum sentence should be seven years but it may
extend to imprisonment for life. Therefore awarding extreme
punishment of imprisonment for life should be in rare cases and
not in every case.
8. Hence, we are of the view that a sentence of 10 years’ RI
would meet the ends of justice. We, accordingly while confirming
the conviction of the appellant under Section 304-B IPC, reduce
the sentence of imprisonment for life to 10 years’ RI. ….”
23. Similarly this Court in State of Karnataka Vs. M.V.
Manjunathegowda and Anr., (2003) 2 SCC 188, while convicting the
accused under Section 304-B awarded 10 years imprisonment in somewhat
similar facts.
24. Recently in G.V. Siddaramesh Vs. State of Karnataka, (2010) 3
SCC 152, this Court while allowing the appeal filed by the accused
only on the question of sentence altered the sentence from life term
to 10 years on more or less similar facts. Hon’ble H. L. Dattu, J. (as
His Lordship then was) speaking for the Bench held as under:
“31. In conclusion, we are satisfied that in the facts and
circumstances of the case, the appellant was rightly convicted
under Section 304-B IPC. However, his sentence of life
imprisonment imposed by the courts below appears to us to be
excessive. The appellant is a young man and has already
undergone 6 years of imprisonment after being convicted by the
Additional Sessions Judge and the High Court. We are of the
view, in the facts and circumstances of the case, that a
sentence of 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment would meet the ends
of justice. We, accordingly while confirming the conviction of
the appellant under Section 304-B IPC, reduce the sentence of
imprisonment for life to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment. The
other conviction and sentence passed against the appellant are
confirmed.”

25. Applying the principle of law laid down in the aforementioned
cases and having regard to the totality of facts and circumstances of
this case, we are of the considered opinion that the ends of justice
would meet, if we reduce the sentence of the appellant from life
imprisonment to that of 10 years. In our view, this case does not
fall in the category of a “rare case” as envisaged by this Court so as
to award to the appellant the life imprisonment. That apart, we also
notice that while awarding life imprisonment, the courts below did not
assign any reasons.

26. Learned counsel for the State and the complainant were not able
to cite any authority in support of their submission except to oppose
the prayer made by the appellant. Therefore, we are not impressed by
their submission.
27. In the light of foregoing discussion, the appeal succeeds and is
allowed in part. The conviction of the appellant-Hari Om (A-1) under
Sections 304-B read with Section 498-A IPC is upheld. However, the
sentence (life imprisonment) awarded to the appellant is altered and
accordingly, is reduced to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment. To this
extent, the impugned judgment stands modified.
……………………………………………………J.
[FAKKIR MOHAMED IBRAHIM KALIFULLA]
.….…………………………….J.
[ABHAY MANOHAR SAPRE]

New Delhi;
October 31, 2014

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