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Monday, December 16, 2013

Sec.498 A , 306 of I.P.C. - DISCHARGE OF REST OF ACCUSED - NO CASE AGAINST RELATIVES OF HUSBAND - ADDITIONAL SESSIONS JUDGE DISCHARGED THEM - HIGH COURT CONFIRMED - APEX COURT ALSO CONFIRMED AND DISMISSED THE APPEAL = Sherish Hardenia & Ors. …..Appellants Versus State of M.P. & Anr. …..Respondents = published in judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41091

Sec.498 A , 306 of I.P.C. - DISCHARGE OF REST OF ACCUSED - NO CASE AGAINST RELATIVES OF HUSBAND - ADDITIONAL SESSIONS JUDGE DISCHARGED THEM - HIGH COURT CONFIRMED - APEX COURT ALSO CONFIRMED AND DISMISSED THE APPEAL =
Whether it is quashing of an  FIR  or  a  Charge-Sheet,  or
   summoning a party under Section 319,  CrPC,  this  Court  has  repeatedly
   opined that the approach of the Judge must be  to  consider  
whether  the
   collected material and evidence is indicative of existence  of  merely  a
   prima facie case.  
It is only where there is  absence  of  even  a  prima
   facie case that the Judge would be justified in cancelling  the  FIR,  or
   quashing the Charge-Sheet, or declining the summoning of a  third  person
   under Section 319, CrPC.  =
The learned Single Judge, as  we  have  already
   noticed above, comprehensively and correctly analyzed the  case  law  and
   appreciated the evidence to come to the conclusion that there was  enough
   material available even at that stage for  maintaining  the  trial,  i.e.
   reversing the view of the Sessions Judge on this score.  
The Single Judge
   was correct in maintaining that there was inadequate material  in  regard
   to Sangeeta as had been held by the Sessions Judge.

The learned Single Judge has also rightly supported the decision  of  the
   Sessions Judge in holding that the material on record was insufficient to
   even prima facie indicate the  complicity  of  Sangeeta  in  the  alleged
   offences of cruelty and abetment of suicide.  We entirely agree with  the
   conclusion arrived in the impugned Order to the effect that a prima facie
   case justifying the trial of the Lajja Shankar, Meera  and  Sherish  have
   been established and that the Sessions Judge erred in  discharging  these
   three persons.
8. Accordingly, the appeals fail and are dismissed being devoid  of  merits.
   We would  have  imposed  exemplary  costs  on  the  Appellants  in  these
   proceedings but for the fact that the impugned Order reverses  the  order
   passed by the Sessions Court.  In other words if we had  been  confronted
   with concurrent findings punitive costs would have followed.

                                              REPORTABLE




                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA


                       CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION


                    CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.  2087     OF 2013
                [Arising out of S.L.P.(Crl.)No.6067 of 2008]




Sherish Hardenia & Ors.                            …..Appellants

      Versus

State of M.P. & Anr.                         …..Respondents

                                    WITH

                    CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 2088     OF 2013
                [Arising out of S.L.P.(Crl.)No.7424 of 2008]


Amrish Hardenia                                    …..Appellant

      Versus

State of M.P.                                …..Respondent




                               J U D G M E N T




VIKRAMAJIT SEN, J.


1. Leave granted.   These appeals assail the Judgment of the learned  Single
   Judge of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh at Jabalpur delivered  in  Crl.
   Revision Nos.1400 and 1445 of  2004  passed  on  6.5.2008.   The  learned
   Single Judge was called upon to decide two Revision Petitions against the
   Order dated 26.08.2004 passed by the  First  Additional  Sessions  Judge,
   Bhopal in Sessions Trial No.83 of 2004.  Amrish Hardenia, the  Petitioner
   in  Cr.R.No.1445/2004  stood  charged  with  offences  punishable   under
   Sections 498-A and 306 of  the  Indian  Penal  Code  (IPC). 
  Four  other
   accused namely, his parents, Shri Lajja Shankar and Smt. Meera,  as  also
   his brother and sister-in-law Shri Sherish  Hardenia  and  Smt.  Sangeeta
   have been similarly charged by the  prosecution.
 The  First  Additional
   Sessions Judge, however, favoured the view that no case worthy  of  trial
   had been made out against the latter  four  persons,  and  therefore  had
   discharged them.  
Proceedings against Amrish Hardenia,  husband  of  late
   Archana Hardenia had been ordered to continue.
In  these  circumstances,
   the father of the deceased, Dr. R.K. Sharma had approached the High Court
   in Criminal Revision No.1400 of 2004 challenging the legal  propriety  of
   the said Order of the Sessions Judge discharging his deceased  daughter’s
   parents-in-law and borther-in-law and his wife.  Amrish Hardenia, widower
   of the deceased Archana who was the  daughter of  Dr.  R.K.  Sharma,  had
   filed Cr.R. No.1445 of 2004 asserting in essence that no case  worthy  of
   trial had been disclosed against him either. We must  recognise,  at  the
   threshold, that the impugned Order manifests a comprehensive  marshalling
   of the facts and of the law applicable to the controversy.
2. Amrish and  Archana  were  married  to  each  other  on  19.11.1995,  and
   immediately turmoil in the marriage appears to  have  started,  allegedly
   owing  to  dowry  demands,  the  evidence  of   which   is   founded   on
   contemporaneous  letters  written  by  her  to  her  parents.   In  those
   instances where the assertion is that dowry  demands  had  been  made  as
   early as within one year of marriage, it would be sanguine  and  far  too
   optimistic  to  surmise  that  such  demands  would  not  be  reiterated,
   rearticulated and repeated during the marriage.  Of course, a  change  in
   the mindset of the husband is theoretically possible and we  expect  that
   evidence in this regard would be  led  to  dispel  the  veracity  of  the
   initial demand which has been reduced to an  epistolary  document  and/or
   its recurrence thereafter. Although it  is  not  an  inflexible  rule,  a
   demand for dowry made by  a  husband  will  invariably  be  prompted  and
   encouraged by the thinking of his parents.  In making these  observations
   we should not be  misunderstood  to  indicate  that  we  have  formed  an
   unfavourable opinion as to the culpability of Amrish,  his  parents  Shri
   Lajja Shanker and Smt. Meera and his  brother  Sherish.  However,  Judges
   cannot be blind to the  disgraceful  and  distressing  reality  vis-à-vis
   dowry, which prevails in some sections of  our  society.   What  we  find
   extremely disconcerting is that this social malaise is spreading  amongst
   all religious communities.  The demand of dowry  is  a  social  anathema,
   which must be dealt with firmly.
3. So far as the prosecution is concerned it  was  of  the  opinion  that  a
   triable case had been established against Amrish, the husband,  both  his
   parents, his brother.  The prosecution had made out a case  even  against
   his brother’s wife  who  came  into  the  family  five  years  after  the
   performance of the hapless marriage and approximately  two  years  before
   the tragic  suicide  of  late  Archana.   At  this  stage  therefore,  in
   discharging all four persons other than the husband/widower  Amrish,  the
   Sessions Judge had necessarily to have come to the conclusion that  on  a
   perusal of the material before the Court there was  no  likelihood  of  a
   conviction being returned, nay, that not even a prima facie case  against
   them had been  disclosed.   We  need  not  travel  beyond  the  decisions
   rendered by this Court in State of Maharashtra v. Somnath Thapa AIR  1996
   SC 1744 = (1996) 4 SCC 659; State of Bihar v. Ramesh Singh  AIR  1977  SC
   2013 = (1977) 4 SCC 39; Union of India v. Prafulla Kumar Samal  (1979)  3
   SCC 4 and Stree Atyachar Virodhi  Parishad  v.   Dilip  Nathumal  Chordia
   (1989) 1 SCC 715.  We also think that the  line  of  decisions  including
   State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal (1992) Supp. 1  335  as  well  as  Michael
   Machado v. CBI (2000) 3 SCC 262 and Suman v. State of Rajasthan (2010)  1
   SCC 250 = AIR 2010 SC 518 are also apposite in the context of Section 319
   of the CrPC.  Whether it is quashing of an  FIR  or  a  Charge-Sheet,  or
   summoning a party under Section 319,  CrPC,  this  Court  has  repeatedly
   opined that the approach of the Judge must be  to  consider  whether  the
   collected material and evidence is indicative of existence  of  merely  a
   prima facie case.  It is only where there is  absence  of  even  a  prima
   facie case that the Judge would be justified in cancelling  the  FIR,  or
   quashing the Charge-Sheet, or declining the summoning of a  third  person
   under Section 319, CrPC.  The learned Single Judge, as  we  have  already
   noticed above, comprehensively and correctly analyzed the  case  law  and
   appreciated the evidence to come to the conclusion that there was  enough
   material available even at that stage for  maintaining  the  trial,  i.e.
   reversing the view of the Sessions Judge on this score.  The Single Judge
   was correct in maintaining that there was inadequate material  in  regard
   to Sangeeta as had been held by the Sessions Judge.
4. An argument has been continuously raised vis-à-vis the passage  of  seven
   years before the subject marriage ended  with  the  suicide  of  Archana.
   This has rightly been found not to vitiate the trial against any  of  the
   persons (except Sangeeta).  There can be no gainsaying that no  case  can
   possibly be made out under Section 306 read with Section 498-A, IPC after
   a marriage has crossed the seven years’ period; it is only the  statutory
   presumption that stands removed, thereby also shifting the onerous burden
   from the shoulders of the accused to that of the prosecution.
5. It would be idle and in fact illogical to contend that law  expects  that
   on the first demand of dowry, prosecution under Section 498-A has  to  be
   commenced.  In the Indian idiom,  where  it  is  oftspoken  that  on  her
   marriage a daughter ceases to be a member of her parents’ family and  may
   return to it only as a corpse, the  reality  is  that  only  when  it  is
   obvious that the marriage has become  unredeemably  unworkable  that  the
   wife and her family would initiate proceedings under Section 498-A,  IPC.
   Before that stage is arrived at, the bride endures the ill treatment  and
   taunts knowing that the marriage would be undermined and  jeopardized  by
   running to the police station.  We must hasten to add that a  malpractice
   is now widely  manifesting  itself  in  that  lawyers  invariably  advise
   immediate commencement of Section 498-A proceedings employing them  as  a
   weapon of harassment. Courts however, are aware and alive to  this  abuse
   of otherwise salutary statutory provision.  Therefore, pleas  founded  on
   limitation have to be viewed with great circumspection.  In  this  regard
   the statement of Ms. Sheetal Bhandari pertaining to conversations held by
   the deceased Archana in August, 2003 will indubitably be  cogitated  upon
   by the Trial Court.
6. In the impugned Order the learned Single Judge has  kept  in  perspective
   the time endured decision in Sheoprasad Ramjas Agrawal  v.  Emperor   AIR
   1938 Nagpur 394 and of this Court in Century Spinning & Manufacturing Co.
   Ltd. v. State of Maharashtra AIR 1972 SC 545 = (1972) 3 SCC 282 and State
   of Karnataka v. L. Muniswamy    AIR 1977 SC 1489 = (1977) 2 SCC  699   to
   be satisfied that  the  material  and  evidence  on  record  sufficiently
   support the trial against Amrish, Shri Lajja Shankar,  Smt.  Meera    and
   Sherish.
7. The learned Single Judge has also rightly supported the decision  of  the
   Sessions Judge in holding that the material on record was insufficient to
   even prima facie indicate the  complicity  of  Sangeeta  in  the  alleged
   offences of cruelty and abetment of suicide.  We entirely agree with  the
   conclusion arrived in the impugned Order to the effect that a prima facie
   case justifying the trial of the Lajja Shankar, Meera  and  Sherish  have
   been established and that the Sessions Judge erred in  discharging  these
   three persons.
8. Accordingly, the appeals fail and are dismissed being devoid  of  merits.
   We would  have  imposed  exemplary  costs  on  the  Appellants  in  these
   proceedings but for the fact that the impugned Order reverses  the  order
   passed by the Sessions Court.  In other words if we had  been  confronted
   with concurrent findings punitive costs would have followed.




                              ............................................J.
                                        [T.S.THAKUR]






                                       .....................................
                                       .......J.
                                        [VIKRAMAJIT SEN]
New Delhi
December 13, 2013.
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