Misuse of 304 B dowry death-mentality of girls parents

Date of Reserve: 26th August 2010

Date of Order: September 01 , 2010 Crl. Revision Petition No.555/2003 01.09.2010

Narender Singh Arora …Petitioner
State (Govt. of NCT Delhi) & Ors. …Respondents

Mr. R.S. Bains and Ms. Parvinder Khatra for revision petitioner.
Mr. O.P. Saxena, APP for State/ respondent no.1.
Mr. Satish Tamta for respondent no.2


1. Whether reporters of local papers may be allowed to see the judgment?
2. To be referred to the reporter or not?
3. Whether judgment should be reported in Digest?


1. This petition under Section 397/401 read with Section 482 of Cr.P.C has been preferred by the revision petitioner for setting aside the judgment and order dated 22nd March, 2003 passed by learned Additional Sessions Judge, New Delhi in Sessions Case No.104 of 2001 whereby the learned Sessions Judge acquitted the accused persons of charge under Section 498A/304B 302 read with Section 34 IPC.

2. Brief facts relevant for purpose of deciding this revision petition are that the petitioner’s daughter Mrs. Arveen was married to Mr. Paramjit Singh Rana (respondent no.2) in 1984. She delivered a child on 26th August, 1987. She committed suicide by hanging herself from ceiling fan with the help of a chunni on 23rd November 1988. A case under Section 302/498A/304B read with Section 34 IPC was registered against the husband, father in law, brother in law and sister in law. When trial started, father of the deceased through State got appointed Special Public Prosecutor in this case and Ms. Rani Jethmalani a known criminal lawyer and Mr. P.K Dey her Junior conducted the prosecution case.

3. The learned trial court came to conclusion that it was not a case of dowry death and no case under Section 498A/304B or 302 IPC was made out against the accused persons. Dissatisfied with the judgment, this revision petition has been preferred on the ground that the judgment passed by learned trial court was based upon misreading of evidence and misinterpretation of facts and law. It is stated that there was sufficient evidence on record by way of testimony of PW-1, PW-2, PW-9, PW-11, PW-15 and PW-16 to show that the deceased was harassed for dowry and it was a case of dowry death. It is also submitted that the trial court wrongly observed that the cruelty in the form of beatings was not there. The cruelty could not only in the form of beatings but mental cruelty by way of taunts, harassment, etc was sufficient to bring home offence under Section 498A IPC. The trial court did not consider the evidence in proper perspective.

4. The counsel for the revision petitioner also submitted that the trial court did not consider that it was a case of murder, if not of dowry death and should have convicted the accused persons for murder.
5. This case is a reflection of mentality which is now taking grip of parents of a deceased wife in the criminal cases. Whenever a woman dies an unnatural death within seven years of her marriage at in-laws’ house, whatever be the cause of death, the in-laws must be hanged. This case also shows how truth is losing significance because of the ego of the litigants to see that in-laws should be hanged.
6. Suicide is a known phenomenon of human nature. Suicides are committed by living human beings for various reasons, some are not able to bear the normal stresses which are common in life. Some are not able to cope up with the circumstances in which they are placed. Some commit suicide because of frustration of not achieving the desired goals. There are many cases where students commit suicide because they failed to achieve certain percentage of marks. Some commit suicide because they are not able to retain top position, some commit suicide because they are not able to cope with the demands of life. Some commit suicide because they suffer sudden loss, some commit suicide out of fear of being caught. There are various reasons for which suicides are committed by men and women. All suicides are unnatural deaths. Suicide is a complex phenomenon. One, who commits suicide, is not alive to disclose as to what was going on in his or her mind when he or she committed suicide. There is no presumption that every suicide committed by a married woman in her in-laws’ house or at her parents’ house has to be because she was suffering harassment at the hands of her husband or her in-laws.

7. Normally in-laws are convicted on the testimonies of parents of the girl who, in a fit of anger or because they had lost their daughter, are not prepared to believe that their daughter could commit suicide for any other reason. Fortunately, in this case, the deceased was in the habit of writing letter to her parents when she was living at her in-laws’ house and to her husband when she was living in her parents’ house and these letters were produced before the trial court. The trial court went through these letters and after going through all the letters written by the deceased, preferred to believe the circumstances prevalent between deceased and her in-laws, as reflected by the letters instead of believing the testimony of father of the girl and other relatives of the girl who wanted the court to believe that it was a dowry death. The learned trial court extensively quoted these letters. A perusal of these letters would show that the deceased was in the habit of writing every minuscule thing happening in the family of her in-laws to her father. She was in love with her father and in her letters gave details of happenings in the family of her in-laws to her father. She had written to the extent that she had to go to market by Rickshaw and that her in-laws were not well-off. She had written how her bhabi used to behave cleverly and wanted to separate from the house, how her bhabi used to behave; how her father-in-law used to behave, who were the servants in the family, how they used to cook, what her bhabhi did at the dinner table, how she managed to take bigger share of chicken and all trivial things. The learned trial court concluded that girl who was writing to her father about each and every circumstance of her matrimonial home to such minute details, could not have held back any information from her father if she was harassed on account of dowry or any dowry demand had been made to her. I consider that the trial court rightly put greater reliance on the letters written by the deceased right up to the time of her death to her parents and rightly rejected the oral testimony of her father and other family members who wanted the court to believe that she was being harassed on account of dowry demands. It is well known maxim that men may speak lies but the circumstances do not. The letters written by the deceased is her own testimony in respect of what kind of life she was leading. This testimony of her is unimpeachable and most reliable testimony because it was given by her when there was no shadow of any litigation between the two and relations were normal. The testimony given by her father is not normal testimony. Her father and other family members who deposed in the court testified after death of Arveen and their testimony is coloured with the loss they suffered due to sudden death of the daughter little realizing that she committed suicide not because of dowry demands but because of her fragile and sensitive nature which is reflected from the letters written by her. The letters reflect that she was in deep love with her husband, her husband was also in deep love with her. It looks she was not getting all those facilities at her in-laws’ house to which she was used to and accustomed at her parents’ house. The letters do not reflect any kind of ill-treatment being meted out to her either at the hands of her husband or at the hands of her in-laws. The letters only reflect the usual day-to-day hiccups which a newly married couple has to undergo. I consider that the learned trial court relied upon the best evidence in order to come to a just and right conclusion whether it was a case of dowry death or it was a case of simple suicide and rightly acquitted the accused persons for the offences under Section 304B/302/498A read with Section 34 IPC.

8. The counsel for the petitioner argued that the trial court did not look into the theory of murder of the girl though charge of murder was there. In this case, the death had taken place by hanging. There were ligature marks around the neck of deceased. It is argued by the counsel for the petitioner that the ligature mark was continuous on the neck without a break and if it were a case of hanging, the ligature mark would not have been continuous and there would have been a break in the ligature mark. It is submitted that it was a case of manual strangulation and a case of murder. This theory was also examined by the learned trial court. The trial court had referred to medical jurisprudence and drawn a table showing differences between a suicidal death by hanging and a homicidal death by strangulation and came to a conclusion that there was no evidence of a homicidal death. The learned trial court also noted that to the doctor who conducted postmortem, no questions were put suggesting that this was a case of murder and not a suicidal death. Even otherwise, except the ligature marks, there was no other external injuries, no mark of struggle and no other evidence to show that it was a homicidal death. To my view, the learned trial court rightly came to conclusion that it was a suicidal death. I find no force in this revision petition. The revision petition is hereby dismissed.

September 01, 2010

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