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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sections 304B, 498A or 306, IPC.= mere 'demand of dowry' without proof of 'cruelty' or 'harassment' caused to the deceased by the appellants cannot make the appellants liable for the offences under Sections 304B, 498A or 306, IPC. 7. To establish the offence of dowry death under Section 304B, IPC the prosecution has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the husband or his relative has subjected the deceased to cruelty or harassment in connection with demand of dowry soon before her death. Similarly, to establish the offence under Section 498A, IPC the prosecution has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the husband or his relative has subjected the victim to cruelty as defined in Clauses (a) and (b) of the Explanation to Section 498A, IPC. In the present case, the prosecution has not been able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the appellants have subjected the deceased to any cruelty or harassment. Further, we have noticed from Ext. 31 written by PW 3 to the deceased on 25-04-2004 that after talking to the deceased on telephone, he was satisfied that she was living happily and was not being misbehaved with. No other material having come in evidence to establish that the appellants instigated the deceased to commit suicide, it is difficult for the Court to hold that the appellants had in any way abetted the suicide by the deceased on 18-05-2004. 8. For the aforesaid reasons, we set aside the impugned judgment of the High Court as well as the judgment of the Trial Court and allow the appeal. The appellants are on bail and their bail bonds are discharged.


Page 1
CRIMINAL APPEAL 613 OF 2007 1
REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 613 OF 2007
INDRAJIT SURESHPRASAD BIND & ORS. Appellant (s)
VERSUS
STATE OF GUJARAT Respondent(s)
JUDGMENT
A.K. PATNAIK, J.
This is an appeal against the judgment dated 04-
12-2006 of the Gujarat High Court in Criminal Appeal
No. 1822 of 2006.
2. The facts very briefly are that Anitha @
Rinkudevi got married to the appellant No. 1 in the
year 2002. Appellant Nos. 2 and 3 are the father and
mother respectively of appellant No. 1. On 18-05-2004,
Rinkudevi poured kerosene over her body and died out of
burns. Her brother Munnakumar lodged a complaint on 21-
05-2004 before the Assistant Police Commissioner, 'J'
Division, Ahmedabad City in which he alleged that
Page 2
CRIMINAL APPEAL 613 OF 2007 2
Rinkudevi had written to him that the appellants were
harassing her since two years after the marriage for
not bringing dowry such as table, chair, sofa set, bed,
scooter, colour T.V. and along with the complaint he
produced xerox copy of a letter dated 16-02-2004 said
to have been written by Rinkudevi. In the complaint,
Munnakumar further alleged that the appellants were
using slangs against Rinkudevi and used to beat her and
were giving physical and mental harassment to her for
not bringing dowry and instigated her to commit suicide
by sprinkling kerosene on her body. The complaint was
registered as FIR and after investigation, a charge
sheet was filed against the appellants under Sections
304B, 498A and 306 read with Section 114, IPC.
3. At the trial, amongst other witnesses,
Munnakumar was examined as PW3 and he proved not only
his complaint (Ext. 25) but also the letter dated 16-
02-2004 (Ext. 49) said to have been written by the
deceased to him from Ahmedabad. 
The appellants led
defence evidence through DW 1 who is said to have
written a letter dated 23-02-2004 (Ext. 44) and the
defence of the appellants was that the deceased was in
Chaksiriya village with her brother's family in Bihar
and was not at Ahmedabad on 16-02-2004 from where the
Page 3
CRIMINAL APPEAL 613 OF 2007 3
letter (Ext. 49) is said to have been written by her to
PW 3. The further case of the appellants in defence was
that the deceased was a minor when she got married to
the appellant No. 1 and she committed suicide because
she wanted to remain with her parents in Chaksiriya
village and did not want to live with the appellants at
Ahmedabad.
The Trial Court disbelieved the defence
evidence and convicted the appellants under Sections
304B, 498A and 306, IPC on the basis of the evidence of
PW 3 and Ext. 49 written by the deceased to PW 3 and
Ext. 31 written by PW 3 to the deceased. 
The appellants
challenged the findings of the Trial Court in the High
Court in the Criminal Appeal, but the High Court
maintained conviction of the appellants.
4. After hearing Mr. Haresh Raichura, learned
counsel for the appellants, and Ms. Pinky Behara,
learned counsel for the State, at length, we find that
besides Ext. 49, there is no other evidence of a
prosecution witness to establish that the appellants
had, in any way, subjected the deceased to cruelty or
harassment. In other words, the letter dated 16-02-2004
alleged to have been written by the deceased (Ext. 49)
to PW 3 is the only evidence produced by the
prosecution to prove that the appellants had subjected
Page 4
CRIMINAL APPEAL 613 OF 2007 4
the deceased to harassment and cruelty in connection
with demand for dowry. But, we have grave doubts as to
whether the said letter dated 16-02-2004 (Ext. 49) was
at all written by the deceased to PW 3 for various
reasons. The said letter dated 16-02-2004 is alleged to
have been written by the deceased from Ahmedabad.
 PW 3
has not stated in his evidence specifically that on 16-
02-2004 the deceased was at Ahmedabad. On the other
hand, DW 1 has stated in his evidence that on 15-02-
2004, his wife and he had gone to Chaksiriya village
which was the home of his wife and they stayed at
Chaksiriya up to 21-02-2004 and everyday they used to
meet Munnakumar (PW 3) and the deceased and PW 3 wanted
to send the deceased to Ahmedabad but the deceased was
not willing to go to Ahmedabad and she used to say that
if she is sent to Ahmedabad, she will commit suicide.
DW 1 has further stated in his evidence that he had
written an inland letter dated 23-02-2004 (Ext. 44) to
appellant No. 2 and he has also stated that the
hand writings and signature in the letter marked as Ext.
44 were his.
We find that Ext. 44 is an inland letter
and bears the postal stamp of not only the post office
of 'dispatch' in Bihar but also the post office of
'receipt' in Ahmedabad. 
The evidence of DW 1 supported
by Ext. 44 thus makes it probable that the deceased was
Page 5
CRIMINAL APPEAL 613 OF 2007 5
not at Ahmedabad but at Chaksiriya village in Bihar on
16-02-2004 when she is alleged to have written the
letter (Ext. 49) alleging demand of dowry and illtreatment by the appellants towards her. 
Moreover, from
a reading of Ext. 49 which is in Hindi, we find that at
many places the author of the letter has used words in
'puling' instead of 'striling', which raises serious
doubts as to whether the letter has been written by a
woman or by a man. Since there are grave doubts as to
whether the letter (Ext. 49) was actually written by
the deceased or not, conviction of the appellants only
on the basis of the said letter (Ext. 49) for the
offences under Sections 304B, 498A and 306, IPC is
unsafe.
5. Coming now to Ext.31, we find that the
letter (Ext. 31) is dated 25-04-2004
and is admitted by
PW 3 to have been written by him from Chaksiria in
Bihar to the deceased at Ahmedabad. 
Relevant portions
from this letter (Ext. 31) are extracted hereinbelow:
“... ... ... ...
The main reason for writing this letter
is that since when you have gone (sic) I
have been waiting for your letter. But
unfortunately, I have not received even a
single letter. 
But after talking to you on
telephone, I am satisfied that this time you
are living happily and not being misbehaved.
Page 6
CRIMINAL APPEAL 613 OF 2007 6
... ... ... ... ...
Further, I have to say that you have
not to think anything about Rs.33,000/- as
to from where your Bhaiya will manage the
amount. 
Regarding it, I want to convey you
that I have so much self confidence and high
thinking that not to talk of Rs.33,000/-, I
would have paid even Rs.43,000/- provided
that you are alright. 
You should not face further problems. 
What more should I write.
It is better to write less and understand
more.”
From the aforesaid contents of the letter dated 25-04-
2004 of PW 3 to the deceased, it is clear that after
talking to the deceased on telephone, PW 3 was
satisfied that the deceased was living happily and was
not being misbehaved with. This letter is dated 25-04-
2004 and was most proximate to 18-05-2004 when the
deceased committed suicide by pouring kerosene on her
body and this letter is evidence of the fact that the
deceased was happy and was not being misbehaved with
by anybody. This being the evidence, there are
reasonable doubts in the story of the prosecution that
the appellants had subjected the deceased to cruelty
or harassment soon before her death.
6. Learned counsel for the State, Ms. Pinky
Behara, vehemently submitted that in Ext.31, there is
also a mention that PW 3 will provide not just
Rs.33,000/- but even Rs.43,000/- provided the deceased
Page 7
CRIMINAL APPEAL 613 OF 2007 7
was alright so that the deceased did not face any
problems. She submitted that this would show that
there was some demand of dowry on PW 3 in connection
with the marriage of the deceased. 
On a reading of
Ext. 31, it is difficult for the Court to record a
definite finding that there was a demand of
Rs.33,000/- or Rs.43,000/- towards dowry.
 In any case,
even if there was such demand of dowry of Rs.33,000/-
or Rs.43,000/-,
mere 'demand of dowry' without proof
of 'cruelty' or 'harassment' caused to the deceased by
the appellants cannot make the appellants liable for
the offences under Sections 304B, 498A or 306, IPC.
7. To establish the offence of dowry death under
Section 304B, IPC the prosecution has to prove beyond
reasonable doubt that the husband or his relative has
subjected the deceased to cruelty or harassment in
connection with demand of dowry soon before her death.

Similarly, to establish the offence under Section
498A, IPC the prosecution has to prove beyond
reasonable doubt that the husband or his relative has
subjected the victim to cruelty as defined in Clauses
(a) and (b) of the Explanation to Section 498A, IPC.

In the present case, the prosecution has not been able
to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the appellants
Page 8
CRIMINAL APPEAL 613 OF 2007 8
have subjected the deceased to any cruelty or
harassment.
 Further, we have noticed from Ext. 31
written by PW 3 to the deceased on 25-04-2004 that
after talking to the deceased on telephone, he was
satisfied that she was living happily and was not
being misbehaved with. 
No other material having come
in evidence to establish that the appellants
instigated the deceased to commit suicide, it is
difficult for the Court to hold that the appellants
had in any way abetted the suicide by the deceased on
18-05-2004.
8. For the aforesaid reasons, we set aside the
impugned judgment of the High Court as well as the
judgment of the Trial Court and allow the appeal. The
appellants are on bail and their bail bonds are
discharged.
............................J.
(A.K. PATNAIK)
............................J.
(SUDHANSU JYOTI MUKHOPADHAYA)
NEW DELHI,
MARCH 18, 2013

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