Decided on August 23,1999

VIMAL DEVI Respondents


- (1.) THIS appeal is directed against the judgment dated 31 -03 -1995 passed by the Sessions Judge, Udhampur acquitting the respondents of the charge of offence punishable under sections 306/201 RPC. Facts of the case out of which the appeal arises are that the deceased Mst. Shoba Devi who was married to respondent Sukhdev Singh died an unnatural death on 07 -05 -1991 in village Barmeen Teh. Ranmagar. She was cremated on 08 -05 -1991. On the report of the father of the deceased, a case u/s 498 -A/306/201 RPC was registered against the respondents in police station Ramnagar. After investigation, the police dropped the charge u/s 498 -A, but found the accused guilty of offence punishable u/s 306/201 RPC The accused were tried on the charge and finally acquitted by the order impugned.
(2.) THE judgment is assailed on the ground that although the deceased had been married only a year before her death, yet the learned trial court ignored the mandate of section 114 -C of the Evidence Act. Mr. Kakkar appearing for the state argued that the learned trial court failed to raise presumption about the abetment and also ignored the circumstances that respondents had hurriedly cremated the dead body to destroy the evidence. Both these circumstances according to the learned counsel stare at the conduct of the respondents which is relevant under section 8 of the Evidence Act. He next argued that there can be no direct evidence of cruelty in the absence of which what ever deceased confided to her parents ought to have been accepted without any reservation considering the nature of relationship involved. A married women generally does not complain against her in - laws and even if she volunteers an information, it is always with reservation to avoid further embarrassment if the information reaches the husband or the in - laws. So ordinarily, argued, learned counsel statements of parents of the deceased should have been accepted without seeking further corroboration. The argument has been controverted by Mr. Gupta, appearing for the respondents on the plea that in the absence of post -mortem finding it is not possible to opine about the cause of death. Since the offence of abetment to suicide pre -sup -posed that the deceased must have committed suicide unless cause of death is proved, the offence of abetment is not made out. According to the learned counsel even the evidence of cruelty which is a sine -quo -non for raising presumption u/s 114 -C of the Evidence Act is lacking because even if the statements of PWs the Chanchal Singh and Mst. Satya Devi who are parents of the deceased is accepted as true, charge of cruelty is not established. There are two versions about the cause of death. According to one version she consumed some poisonous object and died and the other is that she died because of high blood pressure and severe head -ache. Both the versions are based on individual perception unsupported by expert evidence as body was not subjected to the postmortem. So unless suicide is established section 114 -C of the Evidence Act will not be attracted. This section reads: - 114 -C. Presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman. - When the question is whether the commission of suicide by a woman had been abetted by her husband or any relative of her husband and it is shown that she had committed suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage and that her husband or such relative of her husband had subjected her to cruelty, the court may presume, having regard to all the other circumstances of the case, that such suicide had been abetted by her husband or by such relative of her husband.
(3.) TWO fold requirements of section are one that the woman must have died by committing suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage and two her husband or such relative of the husband had subjected her to cruelty. It is a case where neither of these requirements were found established by the trial court. The finding of the learned Sessions Judge is that death by suicide does not require any interference because post -mortem of the body was not conducted and the expert evidence is not available. The oral evidence that she consumed something poisonous is wholly inadequate because who gave this information to the witness is neither named nor examined. Cruelty has been defined in the explanation to section 498 -A of the Penal Code which reads as follows: - 498 -A Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty. - Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine. Explanation. - For the purpose of this section cruelty means. - (a) any willful conduct which is of such nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health whether mental or physical of the woman; or (b) harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her to or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand. It is willful conduct that too of such a nature as is likely to drive a woman to commit suicide or the harassment of the woman with a view to coercing her or her relation to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security, that constitute cruelty. The evidence relied by the prosecution does not cover part -B of the explanation. Whether what is stated by the parents of the deceased constitute cruelty under Part -A is a matter of appreciation of evidence. According to PW Chanchal Singh the only complaint deceased made to him was that her mother -in -law and sister -in -law did not allow her to touch any household goods brought by her husband. Statement of Mst. Satya Devi, mother of the deceased is that mother -in -law, sister -in -law and brother -in -law of the deceased used to accuse her for having killed a child of the family because of her witcheraf. The question arises even if this is assumed to be true or does it constitute cruelty as defined above, if the statement of the father is believed, it does not constitute cruelty, but the same cannot be said with regard to the statement of the mother. However, the father has stated that the deceased had disclosed the nature of cruelty to both of them and this is not contradicted. This therefore, is a question of appreciation of evidence on which two opinions are possible. The learned trial court has not believed the evidence of Mst. Satya Devi and for valid reasons because there are serious contradictions between her statement and the statement of her husband. But assuming that a contrary view is possible, it is not a case in which assessment of evidence by the trail court is either patently illegal or the conclusion recorded wholly untenable so as to justify the interference in appeal. This is the law laid down by the apex court in Ramesh Babulal Deshi Vs. State of Gujarat (AIR 1996 SC 2035) holding that: - ....This court has repeatedly laid down that the mere fact that a view other than one taken by the trial court can be legitimately arrived at by the appellate Court on reappraisal of the evidence cannot constitute a valid and sufficient ground to interfere with an order of acquittal unless it comes to the conclusion that the entire approach of the trial court in dealing with the evidence was patently illegal or the conclusions arrived at by it were wholly untenable. While sitting in judgment over an acquittal the appellate Court is first required to seek an answer to the question whether the findings of the trial court are palpably wrong, manifestly erroneous or demonstrably unsustainable. If the appellate court answers the above question in the negative the order of acquittal is not to be disturbed. Conversely, if the appellate Court holds, for reasons to be recorded, that the order of acquittal cannot at all be sustained. In view of any of the above infirmities it can then and then only -reappraise the evidence to arrive at its own conclusions. In view of the above, there is no merit in this appeal which is dismissed;

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