Dowry Death Accused Is Acquitted Based on Testimony: Calcutta High Court

Introduction

The court stated that the learned trial judge erroneously convicted the appellants under Section 498A/304B/34 IPC and wrongly placed the onus on an inadmissible and weak piece of evidence based on the foregoing discussion and independent scrutiny of the entire evidence on record, the statutory provisions, as well as the law laid down by the Apex Court.

Facts

Rasmita Ghosh and Rabi Shashi Pandit were a married couple. They used to be lovers during their college days and married without the consent and against the wishes of Rasmita’s parents. After the marriage, they started living together in the paternal home of Rabi Pandit. On September 27, 2009, Rasmita’s father, Hitendranath Ghosh, filed a written complaint with the Officer-in-Charge Chakdaha Police Station, alleging, among other things, that after the marriage, Rasmita was tormented emotionally and physically by her in-laws and sister-in-law on the demand for dowry. On September 26, 2009, Rasmita was admitted to JNM hospital at Kalyani on account of suffering severe burns and she told her father who came to visit her that her members of her husband’s family put kerosene oil all over her and tried killing her. She died of her injuries about 1.30 a.m. on September 27, 2009. The case went to trial and the court found the appellants to be guilty and convicted and sentenced them accordingly. The appellants then appealed to the higher court. 

Arguments

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Counsel for the Appellants argued that the learned trial judge found the appellants guilty of violating Sections 498A/304B of the Indian Penal Code because she suffered a burn injury to her body within a year of marriage. Second, she was subjected to mental and physical torment by the appellants in exchange for dowry during her lifetime. The trial judge also believes, based on a Supreme Court ruling in Trimukh Maroti Kirkan vs. State of Maharashtra, reported in (2006) 10 SCC 681, that the dowry demand is made in such a secretive manner that it is difficult for the prosecution to have an impartial and unbiased witness. All of the aforesaid conditions, according to Mr. Ganguly, were not proven throughout the trial on the basis of the evidence presented by prosecution witnesses. The learned trial court found that the appellants used to seek dowry from the dead without any proof on record, based only on the fact that she died in an unnatural manner within one and a half years of her marriage.

Court Judgement

According to the court, the elements in sections 498A and 304B of the IPC are not the same, and they are not mutually exclusive. The victim in this case died after only a year and a few months of marriage. It has also been established that she died in an unusual manner. The learned trial judge established the presumption of law based on the victim’s purported oral dying pronouncement to her parents when they visited her in the hospital. There are two contradictory dying declarations, one written and the other oral, and the first must triumph because it was recorded by an unbiased witness who had no stake in the case’s outcome. 

Court Order

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The court stated that the learned trial judge erroneously convicted the appellants under Section 498A/304B/34 IPC and wrongly placed the onus on an inadmissible and weak piece of evidence based on the foregoing discussion and independent scrutiny of the entire evidence on record, the statutory provisions, as well as the law laid down by the Apex Court. The appeal was allowed and the appellants were acquitted. 

Case: Satish Chandra Pandit @ Sisir Pandit & Ors. Vs The State of West Bengal

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