Cheekati Manavendranath Roy,J. -
(1.)Both these Criminal Appeals arise out of the judgment dated 07.01.2013 rendered by the III Additional Sessions Judge, Nandyal, Kurnool District, in Sessions Case No.245 of 2012, whereby the learned Additional Sessions Judge convicted accused No.1 for the offence punishable under Sections 498-A and 304-B of the Indian Penal Code (for short "I.P.C.") and sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of three years and to pay a fine of Rs.1,000/- and in default of payment of fine, to undergo imprisonment for one month for the offence punishable under Section 498-A IPC and sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of seven years for the offence punishable under Section 304-B of IPC and ordered that both the sentences shall run concurrently. The learned Additional Sessions Judge acquitted accused Nos.2 and 3 for the offences punishable under Sections 498-A, 302 r/w.109 and 304-B r/w.34 of IPC.
(2.)Accused No.1 has preferred Criminal Appeal No.25 of 2013 assailing judgment of conviction, and PW.1, father of deceased-Shaik Rizwana Begum, has preferred Criminal Appeal No.148 of 2013 dissatisfied with the quantum of punishment imposed against accused No.1 and also assailing the judgment of acquittal of accused Nos.2 and 3. Since both the appeals arise out of the same judgment, they were heard together and are being disposed of by this common judgment.
(3.)Prefatory facts of the prosecution case relevant to dispose of these Criminal Appeals may be stated as follows:
(a) Shaik Rizwana Begum (hereinafter referred as "the deceased") is the legally wedded wife of accused No.1. Their marriage was solemnized about six years prior to the death of the deceased. Accused No.2 is the mother and accused No.3 is the sister of accused No.1. At the time of marriage of accused No.1 with the deceased, the parents of the deceased gave an amount of Rs.5.00 Lakhs, 16 tolas of gold ornaments towards dowry to the accused as demanded by them. Out of lawful wedlock of accused No.1 with the deceased, they begot two children. They lived happily only for short time after the marriage. Thereafter, accused No.1, who is addicted to vices, particularly, consuming alcohol, started harassing the deceased by making illegal demand for additional dowry. He used to subject the deceased to torture at the instigation of accused Nos.2 and 3 to bring additional dowry from her parents. Accused No.1, who is unable to meet the expenses of his vices, used to pressurize his wife to bring additional dowry from her parents. The deceased used to inform her parents about her suffering in the hands of the accused, that accused No.1 to 3 have been harassing her physically and mentally to bring additional dowry. Her parents used to pacify her and advise her to adjust with accused No.1 in the interest of her marital life.
(b) As the accused continued to harass her with demand for additional dowry, panchayats were also held in the presence of the elders. The elders advised accused No.1 to look after the deceased properly without making any such illegal demands and harassing her. Despite the advice of the elders, the accused continued to harass the deceased demanding her to bring additional dowry from her parents.
(c) Whileso, on 13.12.2011 at about 5.40 P.M. accused No.1 picked up a quarrel with the deceased as she is not complying with his demand to bring additional dowry from her parents and he beat her. Accused No.1 poured kerosene on her and set her ablaze. Thereafter, he went away from the house. Unable to bear the pain as she was engulfed in the flames, she raised cries. Accused No.2, who is her mother-in-law, immediately tried to extinguish the fire on her. She shifted the deceased to the Government Hospital, Nandyal, and informed about the incident to the parents of the deceased. Immediately, her parents reached the Hospital.
(d) On the same day i.e. on 13.12.2011 at about 6.53 P.M. on the requisition given by the doctor, the Principal Junior Civil Judge, Nandyal, visited the hospital and recorded the dying declaration of the deceased. She stated in the said dying declaration that as her husband and sister-in-law abused her and as her husband has been daily subjecting her to torture that she poured kerosene on her and set herself ablaze. She further stated that her husband, mother-in-law and sister-in- law are responsible for the said incident.
(e) Thereafter, on the same day i.e. on 13.12.2011 at about 19.30 hours on receipt of M.L.C. intimation from the Government Hospital, the Head Constable of II Town Police Station, Nandyal, visited the Government Hospital, Nandyal and recorded the statement of the deceased. In her statement given to the police, she stated that her husband is addicted to vices like drinking alcohol and playing cards and used to subject her to cruelty - both physically and mentally by making illegal demand to bring additional dowry. Her mother-in-law and sister-in-law used to support him. When she informed about the harassment to her parents that they used to convince her to adjust and lead marital life with accused No.1. Even though panchayat was held in the presence of the elders regarding the said demand of additional dowry by the accused, there is no change in the attitude of her husband. He used to come to house daily in an inebriated condition and used to harass her. On 13.12.2011 also at about 5.40 P.M. while she was in the house, that her husband picked up a quarrel with her for not bringing additional dowry and beat her and poured kerosene on her and set her ablaze and went away. Unable to bear the pain, when she raised cries that her mother-in-law came and put off the flames and her mother-in-law admitted her in the hospital. Ex.P11 is the said statement of the deceased recorded by the Head Constable.
(f) The Head Constable returned to the Police Station and registered the said statement as a case in Crime No.211 of 2011 for the offences punishable under Sections 498-A and 307 of IPC and under Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
(g) Thereafter, the deceased succumbed to the said injuries in the hospital on 17.12.2011 at about 6.00 P.M. Her death intimation was received by the Police. So, the Section of law was altered from Sections 498-A and 307 IPC and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act to Sections 498-A, 302 r/w.34 of IPC and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. Accordingly, altered FIR was registered. Thereafter, Sub- Divisional Police Officer, Nandyal took-up investigation in the case.
(h) Inquest was held over the deadbody of the deceased by the Tahsildar-and-Mandal Executive Magistrate, Kurnool in the presence of the inquest witnesses on 18.12.2011. Thereafter, autopsy was held over the deadbody of the deceased by the doctor and he opined that the deceased died due to "shock due to mixed degree flame burns".
(i) During the course of investigation, the Investigating Officer seized half burnt langa and other clothes relating to the deceased under the cover of panchanama report. He prepared a scene of offence observation report and he found that the accused has already cleaned the scene of offence with acid mixed with water in a bucket and the said bottle was seized under the cover of mediators report.
(j) He has arrested accused No.1 to 3 and produced them before the Court and they were remanded to judicial custody.
(k) As the investigation revealed that accused No.1 at the instigation of accused Nos.2 and 3, harassed the deceased for additional dowry and committed murder of the deceased, on completion of investigation, the Sub-Divisional Police Officer, Nandyal, who investigated the case, filed charge-sheet against the accused for the offences punishable under Section 302 IPC against accused No.1, under Sections 302 r/w.109 IPC against accused Nos.2 and 3, under Section 304-B and under Sections 4 and 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 against accused Nos.1 to 3 before the committal Court.
(l) The said charge-sheet was taken on to the file by the learned Judicial Magistrate of First Class, Nandyal, in P.R.C.No.12 of 2012. As the offence is exclusively triable by the Court of Session, the learned Magistrate committed the case for trial to the Court of the Principal District and Sessions Judge, Kurnool. It was numbered as Sessions Case No.245 of 2012. Thereafter, it was made over to the Court of III Additional District and Sessions Judge, Nandyal, for disposal according to law.
(m) The trial Court framed charges under Section 498-A IPC against accused Nos.1 to 3, under Section 302 IPC against accused No1, under Section 302 r/w.109 IPC against accused Nos.2 and 3, under Section 304-B IPC against accused No.1 and under Section 304-B r/w.34 IPC against accused Nos.2 and 3, read over the said charges to the accused and explained the substance of the charges to them in Telugu, for which, they abjured the guilt and claimed to be tried.
(n) During the course of trial, prosecution got examined PWs.1 to 20 witnesses and got marked Exs.P1 to P18 documents and M.Os. 1 to 3 material objects to substantiate its case.
(o) After closure of the prosecution evidence, the accused were examined under Section 313 Cr.P.C. to enable them to explain the incriminating evidence available against them in the evidence adduced by the prosecution. Accused Nos.1 to 3 denied the incriminating evidence adduced against them by the prosecution. Ex.D1 was marked on their behalf.
(p) Accused No.1 has submitted a statement under Section 233(2) Cr.P.C. at the time of his examination under Section 313 Cr.P.C. wherein he stated that 13.12.2011 is Tuesday and it is a working day and he was on duty in Loco-shed of Railways at Gooty. H returned to Nandyal as usual at about 9.00 P.M. on that day and learnt that his wife- Rizwana Begum suffered burn injuries due to accidental fire from gas stove and she was admitted in the hospital, Nandyal and from there she was shifted to Government General Hospital, Kurnool. He went to Kurnool Hospital and her parents and brothers did not allow him to see his wife. He further stated that he never harassed or tortured his wife at any time in any manner and he and his wife lived separately from his mother and sister in the same premises and that all of them were falsely implicated in the above case.
(q) Accused No.2 also submitted her statement under Section 233(2) Cr.P.C. at the time of her examination under Section 313 Cr.P.C. and she stated that on 13.12.2011 at about 5.45 P.M. she saw her daughter-in-law running out of her residence engulfed in flames and immediately she tried to extinguish the flames. When she asked her as to how it happened that her daughter-in-law informed that she was accidentally caught fire from the gas stove. Immediately, she informed the same to the parents of her daughter-in-law and thereafter admitted her daughter-in-law in the hospital. Parents and brother of her daughter-in-law came there and they did not allow her to stay there and they have forcibly sent her away from that place. She along with her daughter is residing separately from her son and his wife. She further stated that none of them have harassed or tortured the deceased. Her son returned at about 9.00 P.M. from duty on that day from Gooty and she informed her son about the incident and he immediately went to hospital at Nandyal and he came to know that his wife was shifted to Government General Hospital, Kurnool and when he went to the said hospital that he was not allowed to see his wife by his in-laws.
(r) Accused No.3 also filed her statement under Section 233(2) Cr.P.C. at the time of her examination under Section 313 Cr.P.C., wherein she stated that she is not married, living with her mother and her brother-accused No.1 and his wife are living separately from them. She further stated that on 13.12.2011 at about 5.45 P.M. while she and her mother were in their house that they heard cries of her sister-in-law-Rizwana Begum and when they came out, she saw her in flames and her mother tried to extinguish the flames and informed the parents of Rizwana Begum about the incident and that thereafter her mother took Rizwana Begum to District Hospital, Nandyal and admitted her in the hospital. The parents of Rizwana Begum did not allow them to stay at the hospital and they have forcibly sent her away from the hospital. She further stated that she and her mother never harassed or tortured Rizwana Begum and they did not abet her brother to harass her.
(s) At the culmination of the trial, after considering the evidence on record and on appreciation of the said evidence, and after hearing the learned Public Prosecutor for the State and the learned defence counsel, the learned Additional Sessions Judge, by the impugned judgment, acquitted accused Nos.2 and 3 of the charges levelled against them and convicted accused No.1 for the offences punishable under Sections 498-A and 304-B of IPC and sentenced him to undergo imprisonment as detailed supra.
(t) Aggrieved by the impugned judgment of conviction, accused No.1 has preferred Criminal Appeal No.25 of 2013 and PW.1, father of the deceased, has preferred Criminal Appeal No.148 of 2013 dissatisfied with the quantum of sentence imposed against accused No.1 and assailing the judgment of acquittal of accused Nos.2 and 3, questioning the legality and validity of the said judgment.