A Supreme Court Bench consisting of Justice Radhakrishnan and Vikramjit Singh comes heavily on High Court and trial Court’s reason for convicting an accused for the offences U/S 306 and 498A IPC.
Facts of the Case;
The Accused Mangat Ram, a member of SC community, married the deceased Seema, a member of the Aggarwal community on 13.7.1993 at Ambala. Few months after the marriage, on 15.9.1993, according to the prosecution, the accused sprinkled kerosene oil on the body of the deceased and set her on fire, having failed to meet the dowry demand. On hearing the hue and cry, neighbours assembled and took her to the Civil Hospital, Gohana and, later, she was shifted to the Medical College and Hospital, Rohtak, where she died on 17.9.1993. The appellant, along with his parents and sister, were charge-sheeted for the offences punishable under Sections 498- A and 304-B IPC. The trial Court convicted the accused U/S 306 and 498A IPC since the dowry demand was not proved. The High Court upheld the conviction and confirmed the sentence against which the accused approached the Supreme Court.
The trial Court in its judgment stated that “the trial Court has stated that the conduct of Mangat Ram keeping and leaving Seema in Baroda at his home amounted to causing cruelty and harassment to Seema. In para 32, the trial Court has also recorded a very strange reasoning, which is as follows: "32. Accused was very safely entered into defence and led defence evidence that Seema had been suffering from epilepsy prior to her marriage. In case, if this fact would have been in the knowledge of Mangat Ram, he would have never solemnised marriage with Seema. After enjoying sex with her, he must have deserted this lady”. Against this reasoning Justice K.S.Radhakrishnan, who wrote the judgment stated that “We fail to see how the Court can come to the conclusion that having known the deceased was suffering from Epilepsy, he would not have married the deceased. If the Court's reasoning is accepted, then nobody would or could marry a person having Epilepsy. Another perverse reasoning of the trial Court which, according to the trial Court, led to the act of suicide, is as follows: "33. ...... She has been brought up by her grand maternal father Bidhi Chand and he contracted a love marriage with her. But in spite of that, he quenched his lust of sex by enjoying Seema and then left her in a rustic life of village. Seema, out of frustration and discontentment, wanted to get rid of that life. When her maternal grandfather did not reach for her rescue, she being fully harassed, sprinkled kerosene oil on her body and took her life”.
In Para-17 of the judgment the Supreme Court criticized the High Court Judgment also. It states as follows;
We fail to understand how a judicially trained mind would come out with such a reasoning and, at least, we expected that the High Court would have set right that perverse reasoning, but we are surprised to note that the High Court adopted yet another strange reasoning, which reads as follows: "When deceased had contracted marriage with the appellant-accused on her own accord against the wish of her maternal grandfather then, deceased was not expected to commit suicide because she was to stay with the appellant-accused. On the other hand, appellant-accused being employee had not kept the deceased with him at the place of his posting. Deceased was staying with the parents of the appellant- accused. So, actions of the appellant-accused abetted the deceased to commit suicide."
18. We fail to see how the failure of a married person to take his wife along with him to the place where he is working or posted, would amount to cruelty leading to abetment of committing suicide by the wife. Taking wife to place of posting depends upon several factors, like the convenience of both, availability of accommodation and so many factors. In the instant case, the accused had left the wife in the matrimonial home in the company of his parents and we fail to see how that action would amount to abetment to commit suicide”.
It is also stated as follows;
“We find it difficult to comprehend the reasoning of the High Court that "no prudent man is to commit suicide unless abetted to do so." A woman may attempt to commit suicide due to various reasons, such as, depression, financial difficulties, disappointment in love, tired of domestic worries, acute or chronic ailments and so on and need not be due to abetment. The reasoning of the High Court that no prudent man will commit suicide unless abetted to do so by someone else, is a perverse reasoning.
21. We fail to see how the High Court can say that the accused being a police man should have kept his wife with him at his workplace. Further, the High Court then posed a wrong question to itself stating that if there is no direct evidence, no circumstantial evidence, then what type of evidence the deceased or complainant was to collect, when the marriage is inter-caste, a logic we fail to digest.
22. We are sorry to state that the trial Court as well as the High Court have not properly appreciated the scope of Sections 498-A and 306 IPC.
Holding the legal position as above, the Supreme Court set aside the judgments of High Court and trial Court and acquitted the accused for all the offences.