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Section 313, CRPC Is Not Mere Procedural Formality and Must Be Handled With Care and Caution: Supreme Court

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Facts of the Case 

The accused-appellant no.1 married the deceased on 01.07.1994. On 31.7.1995, the complainant got the information that his daughter is ailing and admitted to the hospital. The doctor found severe burn injuries on her body resulting in her death. The prosecution accused that after one year of her marriage the deceased was harassed for dowry and as a result, she committed suicide. 

The trial court convicted the appellants for the offenses under Sections 304B and 306, IPC. The court passed the sentence of rigorous imprisonment for seven years under Section 304B, IPC, and rigorous imprisonment for five years under Section 306, IPC.


Statement of the counsel


The learned counsel for the appellants submitted that the prosecution failed to prove the dowry demand. He further added that the possibility of accidental fire for dowry has not been ruled out. Adding further he stated that the prosecution has failed to prove that the demand was made proximate to the death of the deceased victim. 



The learned counsel for the respondent submitted that the appellants had not been able to show the need of this Court to interfere. The counsel made especial emphasis upon the fact that the deceased victim died within almost 1 year of the marriage. The witnesses have also confirmed that there were specific instances when demand for dowry was made with consistency.


Observation of the court

Section 304B IPC defines and provides the punishment for dowry demand. To interpret Section 304B, IPC the phrase “soon before” used in the Section must be interpreted properly. The phrase “soon before” can not be interpreted as “Immediately before”. This being a criminal statute, strict interpretation should be there but if the strict interpretation leads to absurdity or goes against the spirit of legislation the court may use their usual sense to resolve any ambiguities.

Section 113A, Evidence Act presumes and shifts the burden of proof upon the husband and his relative for dowry demand and the abetment of suicide of a married woman, under certain conditions. The accused persons had made a demand of a scooter and the deceased had complained of the cruelty and harassment to her brother. This proves that there exists a demand for dowry. The prosecution has not proved the essential ingredient of the deceased committing suicide.

The examination of an accused under Section 313, CrPC cannot be treated as a mere procedural formality, as it is based on the fundamental principle of fairness. This provision incorporates the principle of natural justice i.e. “Audi alteram partem” and enables the accused to explain. Thus, it imposes an obligation on the court to question the accused fairly, with care and caution. 

The court while referring to Section 232, CrPC observed that “If, after taking the evidence for the prosecution, examining the accused and hearing the prosecution and the defense on the point, the Judge considers that there is no evidence that the accused committed the offense, the Judge must record an order of acquittal”. 


Court’s Decision

The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the High Court and Trial Court have not committed any error in convicting the appellants under Section 304B, IPC and the appellants have failed to discharge the burden under Section 113B, Evidence Act. 

The court did not find the appellants guilty of an offense under Section 306, IPC, and set aside the conviction and sentence. 


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