Death within 7 Years not Necessarily Dowry Death

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Case – Bajinath V. State Of Madhya Pradesh

Fact

Around 8 pm at night the deceased in laws had dinner and after watching television, retired to the respective rooms for the night. The daughter in law (deceased) was found hanging from the fan next morning. The deceased was married to Rakesh. A case was registered with chaneri Police station and on the completion the investigation charge-sheet was laid against the appellants together with Rakesh, husband of the deceased and Prem Bai, wife of the appellant No.1 under Sections 302, 304B, 498A, 201 read with Section 34 of the Code. According to the prosecution, the investigation revealed that the husband of the deceased along with the appellants had been demanding dowry and in pursuit thereof had subjected the deceased to harassment and torture in the proximate past of the incident. The Trial Court on an exhaustive assessment of the evidence adduced, acquitted the accused persons of the charges against which the respondent/State preferred an appeal before the High Court. The impugned decision has been rendered thereby upturning the acquittal. The trial court though admitted the fact that the incident occurred in the matrimonial home within 7 years of marriage yet dismissed the evidence in connection with the demand of motorcycle in the form of dowry and torture, cruelty and harassment on the deceased.

The High Court however being of the opinion that the deceased had died an unnatural death in suspicious circumstances in her matrimonial home within 7 years of marriage and that the same was preceded by persistent demands for a motorcycle as dowry in marriage accompanied by cruelty, returned the finding of guilt against the appellants but exonerated Prem Bai, the wife of appellant No.1 i.e. Baijnath. It accepted the evidence adduced by the prosecution qua the charge of dowry demand, harassment and cruelty in connection therewith and applied the deeming prescription/statutory presumption contained in Section 304B of the Code and Section 113B of Act, 1892.

Decision

The in laws preferred a criminal appeal to the Supreme Court of India, after being aggrieved by the conversion of their acquittal into conviction by the High Court under Sections 498A and 304B of the Indian Penal Code. They prayed to set aside the previous verdict. But, the Supreme Court relied on the finding of the trial court and rejected the observation given by the High Court and further observed that the analysis of the evidence by the Trial Court, in the court’s view , has been in the proper perspectives, factual and legal and thus the findings recorded by it are valid, the High Court based its determination substantially on presumptive inferences taking the aid of Section 113B of the Act, divorced from the attendant facts and the evidence with regard thereto. We are thus of the opinion, that the conclusions of the High Court do not constitute a plausible view on the materials on record and cannot be sustained. Supreme Court also enumerated the term dowry and also gave observation regarding the meaning of dowry and further also observed and stated that when it should be presumed that dowry death occurred because of cruelty, harassment before the death.

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