Dowry Death | 'No Direct Involvement': Allahabad HC Acquits Mother-In-Law After 5 Yrs In Jail, Upholds Husband's Conviction

Sparsh Upadhyay

13 May 2024 6:27 AM GMT

  • Dowry Death | No Direct Involvement: Allahabad HC Acquits Mother-In-Law After 5 Yrs In Jail, Upholds Husbands Conviction

    While dealing with a case of dowry death, the Allahabad High Court last week acquitted the mother-in-law of the deceased as it found that she was living separately from her son and his wife (deceased) at the time of the crime in September 2015. A bench of Justice Ashwani Kumar Mishra and Justice Mohd. Azhar Husain Idrisi noted that there was a lack of specific allegations against her...

    While dealing with a case of dowry death, the Allahabad High Court last week acquitted the mother-in-law of the deceased as it found that she was living separately from her son and his wife (deceased) at the time of the crime in September 2015.

    A bench of Justice Ashwani Kumar Mishra and Justice Mohd. Azhar Husain Idrisi noted that there was a lack of specific allegations against her and that she had already separated from the family before the death of the deceased, indicating that she had no direct involvement in the alleged demands for dowry.

    The division bench, however, upheld the conviction of the husband of the deceased but the sentence awarded to him (life imprisonment) under Section 304-B IPC was modified to the sentence already undergone by him (about 8 years and 7 months).

    The Court said that when the court proceeds to award the maximum permissible sentence for an offence, it is the cardinal principle of law that reasons must be given for awarding such maximum punishment. However, the Trial Court did not give such reasons in the instant case.

    Essentially, the Court was dealing with the appeals filed by the father-in-law (dead), mother-in-law and husband of the deceased woman challenging their conviction under Section 304-B, 498-A and 201 of IPC and Section 4 Dowry Prohibition Act.

    While the father-in-law and mother-in-law were awarded 10 years of imprisonment, the husband was awarded life imprisonment for the offence under Section 304-B IPC.

    The father-in-law died during the pendency of his appeal in the HC.

    The case in brief

    The deceased woman got married in June 2012 to the one Rajendra, and in her matrimonial home, she was frequently harassed on account of dowry demands on multiple occasions.

    It was a case of the prosecution that though dowry was given as per the financial ability of the parents of the deceased, the demand for a motorcycle, gold chain and ring could not be met; she committed suicide in 2015.

    High Court's observations

    At the outset, the Court concluded from the weight of evidence on record that the deceased had died an unnatural death (death by suicide) within 7 years of her marriage and that the prosecution witnesses of fact had effectively proved that she was harassed for the demand of dowry.

    Further, the Court noted that even though the death of the deceased was unnatural, no information was furnished to the police about the unnatural death of the deceased as it was expected that accused persons would inform the police regarding the unnatural death of the deceased.

    The Court also noted that it was admitted that the death occurred on 19.9.2015, and on the same day, the deceased was cremated even though the accused persons were expected to have deferred the cremation till the arrival of the family members.

    β€œThe manner in which dead body has been surreptitiously disposed of without intimation made to the police, we are of the view that this was a case of dowry death. The prosecution witnesses although have not furnished the specific details with regard to the date and time of demand of dowry but they have fully supported the prosecution version of demand of dowry of motorcycle, gold chain and ring. In the facts of the case, we are of the opinion that the deceased has met an unnatural death within 7 years of the marriage, and that there was a demand of dowry which persisted till soon before her death,” the Court concluded while upholding the conviction of accused-husband

    So far as the case of the Mother-in-law was concerned, the court noted that the 70-year-old accused was in jail for the last 5 years; however, the allegation against her was not specific.

    The Court observed that the PW-4, who is the father of the deceased, had categorically admitted that the deceased and her husband (accused Rajendra) had separated from the family before her death.

    In view of this, the Court concluded that even if the deceased had died an unnatural death within 7 years of marriage, the mother-in-law could not be convicted for offence under Section 304-B, 498-A, 201 IPC & Section 4 Dowry Prohibition Act in the absence of any specific allegation against her, when it is admitted that deceased had a separate living. Given this, her conviction was set aside.

    Regarding the life imprisonment sentence awarded to the husband-accused, the Court modified it to the sentence already undergone by him while maintaining the fine and the default sentence. Further, noting that he has already spent 8 years+ in jail, the Court directed that he be now set to liberty on the sentence already undergone by him.

    Case title - Vedram And Anr. vs. State of U.P 2024 LiveLaw (AB) 297

    Citation: 2024 LiveLaw (AB) 297

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