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Friday, January 9, 2015

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


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                       CRIMINAL APPEAL No.1167 OF 2011

       Hari Om                                              Appellant(s)


      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
      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
      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
      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

      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.

                                          [FAKKIR MOHAMED IBRAHIM KALIFULLA]

                                                       [ABHAY MANOHAR SAPRE]

New Delhi;
October 31, 2014

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