Author: Himanshu Sharma, 1st year student at Amity university, Rajasthan.
Citation: 2001 (4) SCR 247
Date of Decision: 17th October 2001
Bench: DR. A.S. Anand, R.C Lahoti & K.G. Balakrishnan
Original Copy: View
Statutes Involved: Indian Penal Code
Background of the Case:
- In this case “Ramesh Kumar” is a petitioner and “State of Chhattisgarh” is respondent.
- Seema Devi, daughter of Sohan Lal Sharma (PW.16) and Smt. Prabhawati Devi (PW.19) was married to the accused-appellant on 23.6.1985. On 17.6.1986, within one year of marriage, Seema died of suicide. Before committing suicide Seema wrote a suicide note and a letter to her husband.
- Sohan Lal Sharma is a resident of Raipur, Madhya Pradesh. Seema’s elder sister Shalini (PW.5) married DR. Ramadhar Sharma (PW.6) is also residing in Raipur.
- According to Sohan Lal, marriage of Seema with the accused was performed in a cordial manner. Dowry, as the parents wished, was given to Seema. Seema and Ramesh were quite often coming to meet with them. However Sohan Lal made a general statement that at the point of time when he had gone to see his daughter Seema in the house of the accused, Seema had told him that the accused was complaining that the items given in dowry were of inferior quality.
- Prabhawati Devi admits that the behaviour of the accused towards her was good and he always treated her with respect. She very clearly stated that the accused had never asked her anything about dowry.
- Atul Kumar (PW.4) is the younger brother of late Seema. According to him, he was told by his parents that the accused was teasing Seema. He visited Seema and her in-laws about 15-20 times but Seema never told him anything.
- Seema had good terms with her in-laws and brother-in-law. The testimony spells out that Seema’s movements were not restricted by the accused, she was liberally allowed to see her parents and relations.
- Desh Bandhu Sathe (PW.9) was working as a technical officer in State Bank of India, Regional office while Sohan Lal was working in the branch office of the same bank and therefore they knew each other. Desh Bandhu Sathe stated that at about 3 to 4 months before the death of Seema, his wife gave the letter, Exbt. (PW.13) to him stating that the letter was given to her by Seema with a request to have it delivered to her father.
- The letter reproduced under:
“Respected Babu Ji,
Babuji, I am writing this letter in very helplessness (constraint) and this should not be known to any one that I have written this letter. If my Bangles (chudi) and Mangalsutra-payal etc. ornaments all have been repaired or get them repaired in any way and you yourself come bringing them immediately today or tomorrow by remembrance. Do not send Atul and Sudhir and nobody should come to meet me. You understand this much only that Seema is not existing. Yesterday Shalini had come then we people were not in the house. Why I do not remember that thing, saying so I was pushed and turned out from the house. I alone had come out to come to Brahmanpara. He himself came behind me and we both had gone upto house. Then he conciliated (persuaded) and bring me to home back and after coming in the house he started marpit (beating) with me from 9 O’clock in the night which continued till 21/2 O’clock in the night. Then he again started marpit (beating) in the morning and his mind is still bad. You send the ornaments immediately and now you yourself come and do not tell the thing of letter and marpit. Tell Atul and Sudhir not to come at all. I will not come in Holi. But you come to take me and take sofa and give another. Enough, Seema.”
- The letter nowhere indicates any demand of dowry having been made by the accused or the deceased having been pressurized by the accused for bringing more dowry. The first thing the letter states is a request to her father to return some of her ornaments. Sohan Lal (PW16) has himself admitted that his daughter had given some of her ornaments to him for the purpose of being repaired. There is nothing wrong, unusual or abnormal in Seema reminding her father to bring back the ornaments “if they have been repaired” or “to get them repaired” if not already done. The second thing which the letter suggests is of her having been beaten by her husband and her having been pushed out of the house by the accused and when she wanted to go away from the house then she had been persuaded by her husband to return to the house. The accused had also tried to conciliate. Further on Seema’s return the accused gave her a beating. Why this happened is slightly indicated in the letter and narrated by Shalini (PW5) and her husband (PW6). Seema had invited her sister and sister’s husband for taking food with them in her house but after extending the invitation she forgot about it and went out of the house with her husband. Her sister and sister’s husband came to her house but there was no one and therefore they went back. This enraged the accused and he chastised his wife Seema for her forgetfulness which in his opinion was an act devoid of etiquettes and courtesy – extending an invitation to relatives and then forgetting about it and being not available to receive and entertain them. Yet another fact disclosed by Shalini and Ramadhar is that Seema had told them that the accused was suspicious of Seema having had undue intimacy with co-cds while studying in college and her continuing undue intimacy with old-time friends, which was not to the liking of the accused. These were the real causes for the difference between Seema and the accused. If appears that on Seema having committed suicide there was an attempt to give it a twist of dowry death and for that purpose some plea as to demand for dowry was introduced. The finding as to demand for dowry by accused has been arrived at by the Trial Court and the High Court by placing reliance on stray general allegations occurring here or there in evidence and by ignoring such facts as were brought on record through cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses which demolished the theory of there being any demand for dowry by the accused-appellant. The reading of the entire evidence shows that the present one is a case of marital mal-adjustment between the deceased and the accused. The accused is a Professor. The deceased did not come up to the expectations of the accused. She was forgetful and the manner in which she dealt with the visitors, guests and relations was not to the liking of the accused-appellant. This is also borne out from a few writings such as Exbts. D/4 and D/5 which are in the form of essays written by the deceased which are full of appreciation of the respondent acknowledging the love and affection which the accused-appellant had for her but which also go to state that there was ’some deficiency’ in her, she did not have a compromising temperament and therefore accused used to get annoyed and get angry on minor mistakes committed by the deceased. In such writings, written at different times, she has recalled the sweet memories of her marriage with the appellant, several ceremonies and functions related with the marriage which made her feel joyous and how well she was received by the accused-appellant and his relations in the matrimonial home after the marriage.
Issue in Question:
- The one and only issue is that whether the accused-appellant abetted the suicide by instigating her to do so.
- From an independent evaluation of evidence and having gone through oral evidence adduced and the several documents available on record, mostly the writings of the deceased we are satisfied that the present one is not a case of dowry death or the deceased having been instigated into committing suicide for her failure to satisfy the dowry demands of the accused-appellant. However, teasing by the accused-appellant of the deceased, ill-treating her for her mis-takes which could have been pardonable and turning her out of the house, also once beating her inside the house at the odd hours of night did amount to cruelty within the meaning of Section 498-A of IPC and therefore we agree with the Trial Court as also with the High Court though to some extent at variance with the cause for cruel treatment that the accused-appellant subjected deceased Seema to cruelty and therefore conviction of the accused-appellant under Section 498-A deserves to be maintained.
- The appeal by special leave is directed against conviction of Ramesh Kumar, the accused-appellant, on charges under Sections 306 and 498-A IPC. He was sentenced to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment under Section 306 IPC and to two years’ rigorous imprisonment under Section 498-A IPC, both the sentences having been directed to run concurrently. The conviction along with sentences has been maintained by the High Court. His father Shiv Kumar, mother Gargi Devi and brother Mahesh were also tried for offences under Sections 306 and 498-A IPC. The Trial Court found them “not guilty” and “innocent” and hence acquitted the three of them of both the charges. That acquittal has achieved a finality as not challenged by any one.
- So far as the offence under Section 306 of IPC is concerned, in my opinion, the Trial Court and the High Court have committed gross error of law in holding the accused-appellant guilty and therefore conviction under Section 306 IPC deserves to be quashed and set aside.
- The present case is not one which may fall under clauses, secondly and thirdly of Section 107 of Indian Penal Code. The case has to be decided by reference to the first clause, that is the whether the accused-appellant abetted the suicide by instigating her to do so.