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Satbir Singh and Another vs State of Haryana (Criminal appeal no. 1735-1736 of 2010)

CASE

Satbir Singh and Another vs State of Haryana


CITATION

Criminal appeal no. 1735-1736 of 2010


CORAM

Supreme court: Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction

Division bench – CJI, N.V. Ramana and Justice Aniruddha Bose.



ALSO KNOWN AS

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POINT OF CONSIDERATION

Whether the Trial Court, and the High Court, was correct in convicting the accused on the charge under Section 304B and 306, IPC?


FACTS

  1. The deceased and accused appellant no.1 were married on 01.07.1994. On 31.7.1995, at about 4 or 4.30 P.M, some persons informed the complainant that his daughter was ailing and admitted in the hospital. On this information he, along with his wife and son, reached the hospital and found that the deceased passed away due to burn injuries.

  2. The prosecution’s case was that the deceased committed suicide by setting herself ablaze just after one year of her marriage and that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty and harassment on account of bringing less dowry by both the accused.

  3. The appellants were convicted by the Trial Court vide order dated 11.12.1997 for the offences under Sections 304B and 306, IPC and were sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for seven years for the offence punishable under Section 304B, IPC and to undergo rigorous imprisonment for five years for the offence punishable under Section 306, IPC.

  4. Aggrieved thereby, the appellants approached the High Court to set aside the order of conviction and sentence passed by the Trial Court. The High Court vide impugned judgment dated 06.11.2008, upheld the order of the Trial Court and dismissed the appeal filed by the appellants.

  5. The appellants have filed the present appeals by way of Special Leave, challenging the concurrent findings of the Courts below.


ISSUES RAISED & RATIO

  • Whether the Trial Court, and the High Court, was correct in convicting the accused on the charge under Section 304B, IPC?

Section 304B, IPC must be interpreted keeping in mind the legislative intent to curb the social evil of bride burning and dowry demand. The prosecution must at first establish the existence of the necessary ingredients for constituting an offence under Section 304B, IPC. Once these ingredients are satisfied, the rebuttable presumption of causality, provided under Section 113B, Evidence Act operates against the accused.


The phrase “soon before” as appearing in Section 304B, IPC cannot be construed to mean ‘immediately before’. The prosecution must establish existence of “proximate and live link” between the dowry death and cruelty or harassment for dowry demand by the husband or his relatives.


It is clear that the prosecution was able to successfully prove that the death of the deceased due to burn injuries took place within approximately one year of her marriage. It has further been proved that soon before her death she was subjected to harassment and cruelty pursuant to demands of dowry. Since the ingredients of Section 304B, IPC stand satisfied, the presumption under 113B, Evidence Act operates against the appellants, who are deemed to have caused the offence specified under Section 304B of IPC.


  • Whether the Trial Court, and the High Court, was correct in convicting the accused on the charge under Section 306, IPC?

Section 113A, Evidence Act creates a presumption against the husband and/or his relative with respect to the abetment of suicide of a married woman, under certain conditions. Not going into the other conditions, a perusal of the provision indicates that such presumption shall be attracted only if the factum of suicide has been established by the prosecution first.


In the present case, the Trial Court and the High Court have concluded that the deceased committed suicide. However, we are of the considered opinion that the conclusion reached by the Courts below is based on assumptions, as there is no evidence on record to support the same.


In light of the fact that there was insufficient evidence to prove the factum of suicide beyond reasonable doubt, the presumption under Section 113A, Evidence Act, is not of much help for the prosecution. The essential ingredient of deceased committing suicide has not been proved by the prosecution by adducing sufficient evidence. In the present case, the prosecution has failed to establish that the death occurred due to suicide. Therefore, we are of the opinion that the finding of the Courts below convicting the appellants under Section 306, IPC merits interference by this Court.


IMPORTANT CASES REFERRED

  1. Bansi Lal vs State of Haryana (2011) 11 SCC 359

  2. Kans Raj vs State of Punjab (2000) 5 SCC 207

  3. Major Singh vs State of Punjab (2015) 5 SCC 201

  4. Wazir Chand vs State of Haryana (1989) 1 SCC 244

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