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Bombay High Court Dismisses Appeal Due to Nexus Between Cruelty and Wife’s Death

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Manisha, who is the daughter of the Informant was married to the Appellant. In the settlement of marriage, the Informant paid a dowry of Rs.70,000/- and presented some articles namely, T.V., Show-Case, cot, household utensils and ornaments as per the demand of in-laws. During the course of their marriage, Appellant asked for money from the Informant many times. The Informant due to his financial conditions was unable to fulfil the demand. Once, he took a loan of Rs 30,000 from his cousin and paid it to the after Manisha requested the Informant to pay so that she can avoid ill-treatment. After a while, she delivered a child, Nikita. The Appellant had come to see the newly born baby and he demanded Rs. 50,000/- to purchase auto-rickshaw. Thereafter, Original Accused Nos. 2 to 4 came to see Manisha’s daughter, they also demanded Rs. 50,000/- About three months thereafter, Manisha informed the Informant that the Appellant and the co-accused used to ill-treat her for the non-fulfilment of demand of Rs. 50,000/-. She narrated that the Appellant used to beat her under the influence of liquor and the co-accused abused and threatened her. On 10th December 2008, the Informant received a telephone call from Accused No. 4 and he was told to take Manisha back to his house immediately. On the next day, the Informant went to the house of the Appellant and didn’t see anybody in the house including Manisha. The Appellant told the Informant that Manisha ran away from the house. Therefore, the Informant searched for Manisha and her daughter Nikita but he could not trace them. On 13th December 2008, the Informant received a message on his mobile phone that the dead body of Manisha and her daughter were found floating in a well.

Appellant’s arguments

Learned counsel contended that at the time of the offence, the Appellant was not present in the house. It was also stated that the evidence regarding the demand for money and alleged cruelty is not proved. Counsel submitted that the Medical Officer has not noted the alleged injuries on the tongue of Manisha. Even though Manisha’s tongue was found clenched in between upper and lower jaws, there could have been some other injury on the tongue which was not mentioned. This is one of the symptoms if there is an unnatural death. In case of throttling or strangulation, the eyes remain open but in the present case, her eyes were closed. The Medical Officer denied that the injury sustained to Manisha could be possible by falling into the well or by coming in contact with any hard substance in the well. The case of Mulak Raj V/s. State of Haryana {1996 CRI. L. J. 1358} was cited wherein it was held that the fact of the deceased having a homicidal death in the household of the accused would not by itself connects all accused or any one of them with a crime. Unless no satisfactory evidence was found, the accused would be entitled to benefit of the doubt. Counsel cites the case of Ravindra Pyarelal Bidlan & others V/s. State of Maharashtra {1993 CRI. L. J. 3019} in which it is mentioned that there has to be a reasonable nexus between cruelty and death of the deceased.

Respondent’s arguments

Learned counsel bought forward the reports of the Medical Officer. In the post-mortem examination, he found that the cause of the death of Nikita was asphyxia due to drowning. whereas the cause of the death of Manisha was asphyxia due to throttling. No poison was detected inside. Accordingly, her death was said to be a homicidal death. Counsel submits that the Appellant and Manisha were last seen together. Hence the Appellant has to explain the injuries received by Manisha. In the case of Trimukh Maroti Kirkan V/s. State of Maharashtra {(2006) 10 SCC 681} it was held that “where an accused is alleged to have committed the murder of his wife and the prosecution succeeds in leading evidence to show that shortly before the commission of crime they were seen together or the offence takes place in the dwelling home where the husband also normally resided, it has been consistently held that if the accused does not offer any explanation how the wife received injuries or offers an explanation which is found to be false, it is a strong circumstance which indicates that he is responsible for the commission of the crime”. As no explanation has been given, this indicates that the Appellant has committed the crime. The cases of P. Mani V/s. State of Tamil Nadu {AIR 2006 SC 1319} and Tomaso Bruno & Anr V/s. State of Uttar Pradesh {(2015) 7 SCC 178} was cited but The Court rejected them as they were not applicable to the present case. It was also submitted that the Appellant has taken the defence of Alibi. The case of Soma Bhai V/s. State of Gujarat {1975 SCC (Cri) 515}, State of Haryana V/s. Sher Singh & Others {AIR 1981 SCC 1021(1)} and State of Maharashtra V/s Narsingrao Gangaram Pimple {AIR 1984 SCC 63} was cited wherein it was held that the plea of alibi must be proved with absolute certainty. After making inquiries with the employer, it was concluded that Manisha was alive till the arrival of the Appellant in the house till the morning of 11th December 2008. So, it cannot be said that at the time of the alleged incident the Appellant was not present in the house.

Court’s observation

The prosecution proved the chain of circumstances right from cruelty to being ill-treated for non-fulfilment of demand of money leading to the death of Manisha and involvement of the Appellant in the crime. This shows the nexus between cruelty and the death of the deceased. Thus, the offence of 498(A) read with 34 of IPC has been proved against Accused Nos. 1 to 4. As far as the delay in lodging of the FIR is considered, no such deliberate attempt has been found by the Informant. The Appellant’s submission about the lack of documentary evidence regarding the demand of money by the Appellant and his family has been rejected due to the availability of witnesses from the prosecution’s side.  The prosecution has although failed to prove the charge under Section 302 against the accused Nos. 2 to 5. As there is no evidence against Original Accused No. 5, they are acquitted.

Court’s judgement

It was held that the trial Court came to the correct conclusion. Thus, both the appeals are dismissed.

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