On 30th December 2019 the learned trial Judge while acquitting Accused No. 2 (A-2) and Accused No. 3 (A-3) for the offences punishable under Sections 498-A, 304-B of I.P.C. and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and Accused No. 1 (A-1) for the offence punishable under Section 302 of the I.P.C., convicted A-1 for the offences punishable under Sections 304-B, 498-A of the I.P.C. and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and sentenced him to suffer rigorous imprisonment for seven years for the offence punishable under Section 304-B of the I.P.C. and to suffer rigorous imprisonment for two years and to pay a fine of Rs. 2,000/-, in default, to suffer simple imprisonment for two months, for the offence punishable under Section 498-A of the I.P.C. and also to suffer rigorous imprisonment for one year and to pay a fine of Rs. 2,000/- in default, to suffer simple imprisonment for two months, for the offence punishable under Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and was directed to run all the sentences imposed concurrently. The judgment was directed by Justice G. Sri Devi.
Accused No.1, in Sessions Case No.178 of 2016 on the file of the Judge, Family Court-cum-VI-Additional District and Sessions Judge, Nalgonda, is the appellant herein. According to the evidence during the trial, the case of the prosecution is that one Ashwini (hereinafter referred to as “the deceased”) was the elder daughter of P.W.1-Mididoddi Ramachandru and she was given in marriage to A-1 three years before the date of offence. At the time of marriage, P.W.1 presented cash of Rs. 4.00 lakhs, 5 ½ tulas of the gold ornaments and other household articles. Immediately after the marriage, the deceased was taken to the house of the accused and there, A-1 and the deceased lived happily for four months and thereafter, A-1 to A-3 started harassing the deceased for an additional dowry of Rs. 2.00 lakhs and one motorcycle.
On the demand made by A-1 to A-3, P.W.1 informed the deceased and A-1 to A-3 that he will arrange the additional dowry of Rs.2.00 lakhs and motorcycle to A-1 at the time of the Sankranthi festival. Three days thereafter, P.W.1 received a phone call from the younger brother of A-1 that the deceased fell from the motorcycle and received injuries and she was admitted to Kamineni Hospital, Narketpally and immediately, P.W.1, P.W.2 and P.W.5 went to Kamineni Hospital, Narketpally, but they did not find the deceased in the hospital. The R.M.P. doctor of Korlapahad Village informed them that the deceased was shifted to the Government Hospital, Nakrekal, then they went there and found the dead body of the deceased with injuries on the right shoulder and chest. Later, the dead body was sent to Community Health Centre, Nakrekal, where P.W.21 and another team of doctors have conducted a post-mortem examination over the dead body and issued Ex.P19-the post-mortem certificate. After completion of an investigation, PW.27 filed a charge sheet before the Court of Judicial Magistrate of First Class, Nakrekal, who in turn committed the case to the Sessions Division. On committal, the same came to be numbered as S.C.No.178 of 2018.
Learned Counsel for the Appellant/A-1 mainly contended that the evidence let in by the prosecution does not inspire confidence that the Appellant committed the alleged offences. According to her, there is absolutely no evidence against the Appellant/A-1, who is the husband of the deceased, and as such, the trial Court ought not to have convicted him for the charges framed against him. According to the learned Counsel, the alleged offence does not satisfy the requirements of Section 304-B of I.P.C. According to him, the words used in Section 304-B of the I.P.C. are that ‘soon before her death the deceased was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband. In the instant case, according to the learned Counsel, the deceased suffered a breathing problem on the alleged date of the incident and died while shifting her to the hospital. Therefore, he contended that the Appellant/A-1 is not liable to be convicted under Section 304-B of the I.P.C. In respect of the other charges for dowry harassment, she contended that there is no clinching evidence that would establish that there was any physical or mental harassment by the appellant/A-1 for dowry.
On the contrary, the learned Assistant Public Prosecutor appearing for the Respondent/complainant contended that the evidence on record would establish the case against the appellant and the trial Court was justified in convicting and sentencing the appellant for the charges framed against him. He also points out that according to Section 113-B of I.P.C. if a woman dies within seven years of her marriage, a presumption under Section 113-B of I.P.C. has to be drawn and if the events as spoken to by the prosecution witnesses are taken into consideration, it clearly satisfies the ingredients of Section 304-B of I.P.C. and thus justifies the conviction and sentence imposed by the trial Court.
In the cross-examination, P.W.1 categorically admitted that he is earning Rs.200/- to Rs.300/- per day by doing coolie work. P.W.2 also admitted in her cross-examination that she is also doing labour work and earning Rs.100/- per day. In view of the categorical admissions made by P.Ws.1 and 2 regarding their status, it is quite unbelievable that they have paid such a huge amount of Rs.4.00 lakhs cash and 5 ½ tulas of gold ornaments towards dowry to the accused and also informed the deceased that they will arrange additional dowry of Rs.2.00 lakhs and motorcycle at the time of Sankranti festival to accused and as such the case of the prosecution that at the time of marriage, P.Ws.1 and 2 have given 5 ½ tulas of gold ornaments, is found to be false.
Therefore, under these circumstances, the demand for additional dowry appears to have been invented by the prosecution witnesses after the death of the deceased. If the accused were harassing the deceased to bring an additional dowry, certainly this fact would have been stated by P.W.2 before P.W.28, who recorded her statement.
As discussed above, it is clear that the evidence is not wholly reliable about the demand for dowry soon before the death of the deceased. If that evidence is eschewed from consideration the appellant cannot be convicted for the offences punishable under Sections 498-A and 304-B of I.P.C. and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
The court is of the view that the prosecution has failed to prove the guilt of the Appellant/A-1 for the offences punishable under Sections 304-B and 498-A of I.P.C. and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, accordingly, the Criminal Appeal is allowed and the conviction and sentence passed by the learned Judge, against the appellant/A-1 for the offences punishable under Sections 498-A and 304-B of I.P.C. and Section 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, by judgment dated 30.12.2019 in S.C.No.178 of 2016 are hereby set aside and he is acquitted of the said offences and he shall be set at liberty forthwith if he is not required in any other case. The fine amount, if any, paid by the appellant/A-1, shall be returned to him.
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