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Delhi High Court added conviction under section section 304B IPC in a Dowry death case while disposing off appeal of the State.

January 9, 2018

 

 

Life conviction for murder upheld by Delhi High Court

A Bench of Delhi High Court Judges Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice I.S. Mehta pronounced Judgment in State V. Sanjay Singh, CRL. A. 766 of 2017 and disposed of the appeal filed by the State.

 

The background to the case is that one Suman, deceased, daughter of Nathu Singh was married to the Respondent/Accused Sanjay Singh on 26th April, 1995. According to the prosecution, the in-laws of the deceased were not satisfied with the dowry given by her parents. She was, therefore, ill-treated by the accused and his family members in the matrimonial home. Her ill-treatment increased after she delivered a baby girl.

For a period of about 2 months in May and June, 1997, the deceased stayed at her parental house. The co-accused Vijay Singh, the father of the Respondent, visited the parental house of the deceased along with his younger son on 26th June, 1997 and brought the deceased back to her matrimonial home. At night, she had coitus with her husband. In the early hours of 27th June 1997, the deceased Suman and her daughter Sweta were both found lying dead. The body of the deceased was found suspended with a hook with the help of a ligature.


The Respondent informed PW1, who talked to co-accused Satbir and reached Village Khajuri, along with the members of his family. PW1 lodged a report with the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Seelampur, in which he stated that his daughter had been subjected to cruelty and torture at the hands of the accused on account of dowry demands. She was pregnant at the time of her death. Her in-laws wanted the deceased to abort the child, but Suman had not agreed.


According to PW1, the Respondent and the co-accused Satbir had made an extra-judicial confession over the telephone to PW1 that they had killed his daughter. FIR 460/97 was then registered under Sections 302/304B/498A IPC at PS Gokalpuri.

The Charge was "That from 27th of April 1995 till 27th of June 1997 at house no. 134 Village Khajuri Khas, Delhi, you all in furtherance of your common intention, you Sanjay being husband of Smt. Suman, you Vijay Singh being her father-in-law, you Sashi being her brother-in-law and you Satbir being brother of her mother-in-law along with Kapil (facing trial at Juvenile Court) and Nirmala @ Bimla (her mother-in-law who is PO) treated Smt. Suman with cruelty and thereby committed an offence punishable U/s 498 A read with section 34 of the Penal Code.

 
Secondly at the night intervening 26th and 27th of June 97 at aforesaid house, you all along with your associates Kapil (facing trial of Juvenile Court) and Nirmala @ Bimla (mi), in furtherance of your common intention to murder Smt. Suman and Kumari Sweta strangulated them and caused their death and thereby committed an offence of murder punishable U/s 302 read with Section 34 of the Penal Code and within my cognizance."


In the judgment dated 31st January, 2000, the trial Court concluded that the offence under Section 302 IPC read with Section 34 IPC had not been proved against any of the accused persons and accordingly they were acquitted. However, all of them were stood convicted for the offence under Sections 498A IPC.


As far as the Respondent Sanjay was concerned, the trial Court concluded that on the unfortunate night he had dealt the deceased with cruelty and she perceived the act coupled with the past conduct of her husband and her in-laws and took it that, "the only way out for her was to take the extreme step of putting an end to her life." It is concluded that, "the particular mental frame of the victim, which was groomed by persistent cruel behaviour of accused Sanjay, offered meaning and value of his behaviour to the victim, suggesting her to act in a particular way."

 
The High Court agreed with the trial Court was that the deceased had shared the bed with her husband on that fateful night and that "in such a situation the facts give hypothesis to the events that when the lady was in the bed with her husband, she was mentally harassed or ill-treated by her husband. Absence of injury on her person ruled out physical injury to her. But mental torture pushed her in the stage of gloomy depression and she took the decision of self-destruction as well as murder of her daughter." Therefore, "it was clear that momentum of depression can be attributed to the husband of the victim."


 


The trial Court overlooked the fact the maximum sentence for the offence under Section 498-A IPC was three years. Therefore it could not have sentenced him to the period already undergone, by taking a "lenient view" as what he had undergone by then, i.e. 6 years, was twice the maximum sentence.


The High Court said that:

"The trial Court misdirected itself by presuming that that only because there was coitus between the Respondent and the deceased, there was no question of the Respondent subjecting her to mental cruelty. In light of Section 113 B IEA there was no occasion to draw a negative presumption on this crucial aspect. In the facts of the present case, the expression "soon before" would include the period earlier to the two months when the deceased remained with her parents. The proven facts had to be seen in their total perspective. The effect of the harassment for dowry suffered by the deceased could not be expected to be wiped out entirely in the two months she stayed with her parents. It is likely that added to the above, whatever happened between the evening when she came back to the matrimonial home, and her committing suicide, caused her so much mental anguish that she committed suicide. Even the sexual act was apparently not without physical discomfort as the medical report showed (and which was noticed by this Court in its order dated 28th May, 2015) that there was a bruising on the lower and external side of lower orifice in the vaginal region of the deceased. There was, therefore, no legal or factual basis for the trial court to conclude that the Respondent could not have subjected the deceased to cruelty or harassment "soon before her death."

 
Delhi High Court concluded the Judgment by saying that "For all of the aforementioned reasons, the Court is of the considered view that the trial Court erred in acquitting the Respondent of the offence under Section 304-B IPC and, therefore, sets aside that portion of the impugned judgment. This Court, accordingly, convicts the Respondent for the offence under Section 304-B (1) IPC."
 

 

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Read the Judgment of High Court of Delhi in State v. Sanjay Singh dated 8.1.2018

 

 

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