Bombay HC upholds acquittal of trio in 22-year-old dowry death case | Mumbai News – Times of India


MUMBAI: Upholding acquittal of a man, his brother and father accused of cruelty to wife and dowry death, Bombay high court said it is essential for the prosecution to produce reliable evidence of the woman being subjected, before her death, to cruelty and dowry harassment by her husband and in-laws for presumption to kick in.
The HC said section 498(A) of the Indian Penal Code does not contemplate every kind of cruelty which it makes punishable.
Section 498A IPC involves specific contingencies, said the HC bench of Justices P B Varale and V G Bisht. For instance it said these include, “to drive the woman to commit suicide, to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health, both mental and physical, and thus involving a physical torture or atrocity.’’
“Similarly, it also involves coercive harassment with a view to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any related person to her meet any such demand.’’
Since the prosecution brought none of these ingredients on record, no presumption of a dowry death could be raised, said the HC in an appeal by the state against a 2001 acquittal by a sessions court in Kolhapur.
The HC had found “absolutely no evidence that soon before the death’’ in 1999, the woman was harassed for dowry of Rs 50,000 as alleged by her brother.
Section 498(A) makes cruelty to wife by husband or her in-laws punishable with upto three years’ imprisonment. Section 304B deals with dowry deaths which attracts seven years’ or even life imprisonment.
Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 provides for presumption as to dowry death. It provides that when dowry death contemplated under Section 304B of the IPC, has been committed by a person, if it is shown that soon before her death, the woman was subjected by such person to cruelty or harassment, in connection with, any demand for dowry, the Court shall presume that such person had caused the dowry death.
The woman had died within seven years of marriage by burn injuries following a quarrel with her father-in-law. In a dying declaration, she said following the quarrel, she was “expelled from the house’’ by him.
The HC Judgment of December 8, 2020, was uploaded on Thursday and said all that the dying declaration shows is that “since she was fed up with the ill treatment and harassment by the accused, she took the extreme step of setting herself ablaze.’’ It did not find the prosecution evidence up to the mark and upheld the acquittal.

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