Supreme Court Reverses Allahabad High Court Order in Dowry Death Case

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On 14th August in the case of Preet Pal Singh vs State, the Supreme Court set aside a High Court order granting bail to the accused convicted in a dowry death case. The Court observed that the High Court failed to record valid reasons while allowing the accused application as his arguments did not conform to the need of Section 389 of CrPC.

Brief Facts of the case

It was a case of dowry death where the respondent, the husband of the deceased, was convicted by the District and Session Judge of Lucknow under Sections 304B, 498A and 406 of IPC and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. He was sentenced to life imprisonment along with fine.

He proceeded to file an appeal to the High Court of Allahabad. He also filed a Miscellaneous Petition under Section 389 of CrPC in the same Court, praying that he be enlarged on bail while the appeal is being heard.

The High Court after hearing both the parties had passed a short, non-speaking order which observed that they found force in the arguments of the accused and hence allow him bail during the pendency of the appeal.

The order has not been appealed against by the deceased’s father.

Arguments

The Respondent/accused based their arguments on the fact that they have been framed. They alleged in the Session Court’s hearing that the reason behind the deceased’s death is suicide. They also alleged that she was mentally ill and had been in continuous communication with another man whom she wanted to marry. They submitted that:

  1. No FIR on demand for dowry or harassment had been filed before the death of the victim;
  2. The accused had taken 2.5 lakhs from the deceased’s brother but as a loan and not as dowry. This was established because the brother of the victim had not been produced as a witness; and
  3. The deceased had committed suicide which was evident from the post mortem report.

The appellant has proved that the deceased victim was harassed for dowry right from the commencement of her married life. She had complained to her parents about her in-laws’ repeated demands for money and car etc.

Court’s Observation

First, the Court visited the powers and duties of the High Court when deciding upon an application under Section 389 of CrPC. The provision allows the Court with an option to grant bail to a convicted prisoner while his appeal is pending. But, the reasons for the same must be recorded in writing. The Court has to see whether there are valid grounds to give rise to doubts about the validity of the conviction and if there is a chance that the appeal would be delayed.

Further, the Court visited the legislative intention behind adding a penal provision for dowry death. They visited the main ingredients of the same. They also mentioned once there are material points towards harassment or cruelty before the death of the victim, there is a presumption of dowry death, and the onus falls on the accused.

The Court visited prior case laws on these issues. They observed how there was a duty on the High Court to exercise its discretion under Section 398 judicially based on well-settled principles, and they need to record those reasons in writing. There must be strong reasons warranting the need for a grant of bail.

Court’s Decision

The Court stated that the respondent accused has failed to prove any illegality or error in his conviction. They expressed how they fail to appreciate how the High Court found any merits in the casual arguments put forth by the accused. They ignored most of the evidence put forth by the prosecution.

The Court set aside the High Court order and sent the accused back to custody cancelling all bail bonds.


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