Rameshwar Dass Vs. State of Punjab & Anr  Insc 1282 (13 December 2007)
Sinha & Harjit Singh Bedi S.B. Sinha, J:
Appellant stood trial for commission of an offence under Section 304B of the
Indian Penal Code in connection with unnatural death of his wife Sushma Rani.
They were married on 11.03.1986. An engagement ceremony took place twenty days
prior thereto. A demand for dowry was made. It was met in part. A sum of Rs.
25,000/- by way of a demand draft was handed over to the husbands family
at Mansa when shagun ceremony was performed.
another sum of Rs. 11,000/- was paid in cash, as further demand was made by the
family of the appellant. However, allegedly at the time of marriage the parents
of the appellant demanded a further sum of Rs. 40,000/- in cash which could not
be fulfilled. For non-fulfillment of the said demand, the deceased was
Appellant had sent a telegram on 16.04.1988 to Des Raj stating:
MISUNDERSTANDING REACH IMMEDIATELY RAMESHWAR On or about 4.06.1986, Sat
Paul, brother of the deceased (PW-1), visited the house of his brother-in-law Raj
Kumar (PW-2), which is situate in the village, where the incident took place
and stayed there for the night.
morning of the next day, both of them visited the house of the appellant.
Appellant and the deceased were found quarreling with each other on account of
demand of dowry of Rs. 40,000/-. He tried to pacify them. Appellant left his
house at about 9 a.m. Sat Paul and Raj Kumar also went to
the town. However, when they returned after three or four hours, the house was
found to be locked. On an enquiry having been made from the neighbours, they
were informed that the deceased had been taken to hospital as she had consumed
something. At about 1.30
p.m., they reached the
hospital at Bhatinda and came to know that Sushma Rani had expired. She
admittedly was pregnant at that time.
receipt of a report in this behalf, ASI Mal Singh visited the hospital at about
1.20 p.m. It was at a distance of about 1 km.
from the police post. Statement was made before him by Sat Paul at about 2.45 p.m.
said statement was sent to the police station and the same was recorded at 4 p.m. on the same day on the basis whereof the F.I.R. was
statement of PW-2 Raj Kumar was also recorded on the same day.
was arrested on 12.06.1988.
learned Sessions Judge, Bhatinda convicted the appellant under Section 304B of
the Indian Penal Code and sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for
seven years. An appeal filed thereagainst by the appellant was dismissed by the
High Court by reason of the impugned judgment.
Rajiv K. Garg, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant in support
of this appeal inter alia would submit:
The relation between the parties being cordial, the prosecution cannot be said
to have proved its case of causing harassment by the appellant to his wife.
The prosecution has not been able to prove demand of dowry of Rs. 40,000/-.
Des Raj in his previous statement did not state about the demand of dowry of Rs.
40,000/-. A complaint petition was later on filed under Sections 405 and 406 of
the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act which
ended in acquittal by a judgment dated 5.11.1992 and a revision petition filed thereagainst
by Des Raj was withdrawn on 2.03.1995 which clearly establishes innocence on
the part of the Appellant.
The family of the deceased having suffered several deaths, the deceased started
suffering from severe depression wherefor she was given a taveej
which also goes to show that she had committed suicide.
Even after the conviction, a settlement had been arrived at by and between the
parties and in fact the cousin of the deceased was married to the appellant whereafter
an application for compromise had also been filed.
learned counsel for the State, on the other hand, supported the impugned
fact that the deceased committed suicide is not in dispute. The only question
is whether the appellant is guilty of commission of an offence under Section
304B of the Indian Penal Code. Before the learned Sessions Judge, the
prosecution inter alia examined PW-1 Sat Paul, PW-2 Raj Kumar, PW-3 Dr. Balbir
Singh, PW-4 Dr. S.K. Gupta, PW-5 Gurjant Singh Record Keeper), PW-6 Anup Krishan
(Branch Manager State Bank of Patiala, Chandigarh), PW-7 G.S. Mann, (Manager,
State Bank of Patiala, Bhatinda), PW-8 Gulab Chand (Supervisor Telegraph
Office), Bhatinda, PW-11 Des Raj and PW-12 ASI Mal Singh.
defence of the appellant was that she had been suffering from several diseases
like depression, leucorrhea, abdominal trouble and was on medicine. He also
denied that Sat Paul came to Bhatinda on 4.06.1988.
to him, Shri Joginder Singh Bedi was requested to inform his in- laws on
telephone about the death of Sushma, whereupon his father-in-law and other
relations came in the night and demanded valuables including the ornaments and
on his refusal to give the same, they had filed a false case.
also alleged that he was detained by the police in the hospital.
prove mal-treatment of the deceased on the part of the appellant, three
witnesses were examined, viz., PW-1 Sat Paul, PW-2 Raj Kumar and PW-11 Des Raj.
PW-3 Dr. Balbir Singh examined the deceased when she was brought to the Civil Hospital. PW-4 Dr. S.K. Gupta conducted the post mortem examination
at 9 a.m. on 6.06.1988. The report reads as
staining was present on the dependant part of the body. Rigor mortis was
present. Eyes were congested enclosed. Fluid was coming out from nostrils and
mouth. Level of the uterus was 3 above the umbilicus. Ants were creeping
on the body. Multiple abrasions were seen on the waist line, neck, arm with
clotted blood. These abrasions and clotted blood was post-mortem and is caused
by ants. Lungs were congested. Stomach contained about 1/4th ounce of
semi-digested food small intestines contained a small amount of chime. Large
intestines contained some faecal matter. Bladder contained 2 ounces of urine.
On dissection of the uterus, it was engorged with dilated veins and going into
the abdomen about 2-1/2 above the umbilicus. A male dead foetus was lyng
in the utering cavity. The length of the foetus was 37 cms and weight was 1-2/4
kgs. Some cutaneus fat was present. Meconium was present in the large
intestines. There was a centre of ossification of the talus bone. Skin was red.
No centre was seen in the upper end of femur.
probable time that elapsed between injuries and death will be known after
receiving the report of the Chemical Examiner, Patiala. The time between death and post-mortem was within 24
The Branch Manager of the State Bank of India Shri Anup Krishan PW-6 proved
preparation of the demand draft of Rs. 25,000/- from Sector 22-D Branch of Chandigarh
on 1.02.1986 as also a draft dated 19.03.1986 for a sum of Rs. 5,000/- which
was issued from Chandigarh in favour of Rameshwar Dass (appellant) payable at Mansa.
PW-7 G.S. Mann, Manager, State Bank of Patiala, Bhatinda proved payment of the said drafts to the appellant.
Apart from the said draft of Rs. 25,000/- dated 1.02.1986 which was encashed on
3.02.1986 at Mansa, the prosecution, thus, had also been able to prove payment
of a sum of Rs. 5,000/- to the appellant by demand draft dated 19.03.1986.
The learned Sessions Judge relied upon the testimonies of Sat Paul and Des Raj.
The court found corroboration in their testimonies from the fact of payment of
money by way of demand drafts. The learned Sessions Judge also took into
consideration the fact that some quarrel must have taken place between the
spouses wherefor the telegram dated 16.04.1988 was sent to Des Raj by the
The fact that the death took place within seven years from the date of marriage
is not in dispute. Commission of suicide by Sushma Rani is also not in dispute.
The only question which is required to be taken into consideration is as to
whether the deceased soon before her death was subjected to cruelty or
harassment by her husband for or in connection with the demand of dowry.
The defence of the appellant, as noticed hereinbefore, was that the
relationship between the parties was cordial. An attempt was made to prove a
few letters allegedly written by the deceased to the accused. The said letters
were sought to be proved by one Joginder Singh Bedi. He was cited as a witness
on behalf of the prosecution. He had made his statement before the police under
Section 161 of the Indian Penal Code. Evidently, he was given up. The learned
Sessions Judge disbelieved his testimony opining that it is wholly unnatural
that he would see the deceased writing a letter. He made a statement that the
deceased was writing letters to him as also his wife. The said letters were not
produced. The learned Sessions Judge also took into consideration the fact that
there was nothing to show as was contended by the appellant that the
investigating officer took possession of the said letters wherefor no seizure
memo was prepared and handed over the same to the accused. Such a statement
made by Joginder was held to be wholly unnatural. The High Court in its
impugned judgment endorsed the said view.
document in terms of Section 65 of the Evidence Act is to be proved by a person
who is acquainted with the handwriting of the author thereof. DW-1 Joginder
Singh Bedi claimed his acquaintance with the handwriting of the deceased on the
basis of the letters written to him and his wife. He claimed that the deceased
had written a large number of letters. It was, therefore, expected that some of
them would be preserved. He did not produce any letter.
DW-1, as noticed hereinbefore, was a prosecution witness. He evidently was won
over and, thus, prosecution did not examine him as its witness. Submission of
Mr. Garg that he was the only independent witness who was available and was not
examined must be considered from that angle. In response to the questions posed
by the learned Sessions Judge, he even denied making any statement before the
police. We wish that the learned Magistrate had recalled the investigating
officer to bring the earlier statements of DW-1 to his notice. Unfortunately,
no such step was taken.
we fail to comprehend as to why the father and brother of the deceased in the
course of their depositions were not confronted with the said letters. In
ordinary course, it should have been done. Why such a course of action was not
taken recourse to is anybodys guess. The purported explanation of the
appellant that the said letters were taken into custody of the investigating
officer and later on returned to him is wholly unbelievable.
investigating officer would not seize letters without preparing any seizure
list. When the investigating officer visited the place of occurrence, the
appellant was not present. Even a copy of the telegram which was found in the
house had been seized. Other articles had also been seized. If seizure list had
been prepared, there does not appear to be any reason whatsoever as to why the
letters purported to have been written by the deceased would not be mentioned
in the seizure list. We, therefore, do not find any reason to differ with the
view taken by the learned Sessions Judge as also the High Court in this behalf.
far as the submission of Mr. Garg that the subsequent complaint made by father
of the deceased as against the appellant for commission of an offence under
Sections 405 and 406 of the Indian Penal Code read with Sections 3 and 4 of the
Dowry Prohibition Act ended in acquittal, is concerned, in our opinion, the
same is not very relevant. The said complaint was in relation to a demand made
before the marriage took place.
made therein were confined to non-return of the articles which was allegedly
given to the bride for her own use. Mis-appropriation of the said articles was
alleged on the part of the appellant therein. The learned Magistrate while
passing the said judgment of acquittal inter alia opined that whereas the
letter containing the draft of Rs. 5,000/- was addressed to Rameshwar Dass, it
was encashed by Rameshwar Garg.
in the purported letters written by the deceased to the appellant, the name of
the appellant was stated to be Rameshwar Dass Garg. The learned Magistrate, therefore,
in our opinion, misdirected himself in making such observations but it is not
necessary for us to express any opinion thereupon.
The said judgment of acquittal was passed on 5.11.1992, whereas the learned
Sessions Judge passed his judgment on 18.10.1989 in the instant case. The
charges in both the cases were not same. They were based on different
transactions. Surprisingly, for reasons best known to the appellant, no attempt
was made even to bring the said judgment dated 5.11.1992 to the notice before
the High Court. Had an application for adducing additional evidence been filed,
the High Court not only could have considered the same, it could have also
called for the record of the said case to examine the matter at some length.
however, gave an opportunity to the appellant, in our anxiety to do justice to
him, to file an application for bringing the same on records.
an application has been filed and we have taken into consideration the effect
of the said subsequent judgment. As two cases, it will bear repetition to
state, are on in respect of two different transactions, we are of the opinion
that the same does not have any relevance in the present case. For the self-
same reasons, the purported withdrawal of the criminal revision application
filed by Des Raj thereagainst is also not of much relevance. Both PWs 1 and 2
in no uncertain terms stated about the demand of dowry of Rs. 40,000/-.
Apart therefrom, we have noticed hereinbefore that the fard-bayan was recorded
in the hospital. When the investigating officer on receipt of the report went
to the hospital, there was none. In normal course, the appellant should have
been in the hospital. The first informant arrived at the hospital within a few
minutes. He upon receipt of the news of his sisters death made a statement
at the hospital at about 2.30
p.m. In a situation of
this nature, he would not make a statement which is imaginary so as to
implicate the appellant falsely. Apart from the oral testimony of the
prosecution witnesses, the very fact that the appellant himself had sent the
telegram asking Des Raj to come immediately is also a pointer to the fact that
the spouses were not on good terms.
There appears to be a ring of truth in the statement of the first informant that
a telegram was sent. He came to see his sister. His brother- in-law was the
resident of the same village. After he spent his night at his brother-in
laws place, he had visited the appellants house together with him. He
tried to pacify them. Only when the appellant went out, they also went out and
came back after a few hours to find the door closed. Appellant evidently tried
to show that he had gone to office. It was a Sunday and as such the question of
his going to office did not arise.
Another factor which is of some significance cannot also be lost sight of. The
deceased was in the family way. She was carrying for 5-6 months.
from the statement of her father and brother to that effect, even the post
mortem report clearly proved the said fact. Des Raj in his testimony denied and
disputed that a taveej was given to her because she was suffering
from depression. According to him, it was given for the birth of a child. A
pregnant woman ordinarily would not commit suicide unless relationship with her
husband comes to such a pass that she would be compelled to do so.
attempt had also been made to show that there was death of two children in the
family as also a brother of the deceased. It was stated that one of sisters
committed suicide and the taveej was given for her warding off the
evil spirits of her deceased sister. No such evidence has been brought on
must also notice the conduct of the appellant.
statement under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the appellant
accepted that at the time of his marriage, a demand for Rs. 40,000/- was made
from the parents of the deceased and they showed their inability to pay the
Mal Singh, investigating officer stated that when he had visited the Hospital,
nobody was present. If the statement of the appellant is to be believed that he
immediately rushed to the hospital, there was no reason of his not being there.
According to him, he was detained in the hospital but the same has not been
proved. It was only on 12.06.1988 that Sub-Inspector Sukhdev Ram had arrested
him. Why he was not available for six days has not been explained by the
appellant. Even there was nothing on record to show that it was either DW-1 or
the appellant, who got the deceased admitted in the hospital. The prosecution
has discharged its primary onus, as envisaged under Section 304B of the Indian
Penal Code. In terms of Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act, onus of proof
was upon the appellant. [See State of Karnataka v. M.V. Manjunathegowda and Anr., (2003) 2 SCC 188] As the defence
taken by the appellant has not been established, he cannot be held to have
discharged the said onus.
We, therefore, are of the opinion that there is no merit in this appeal which
is dismissed accordingly.
Before parting, however, we must notice the submissions made by Mr. Garg that
21 years have passed, the appellant has married a cousin of the deceased and an
application has been filed by Des Raj for condoning the offence.
offence under Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code is not compoundable. Why
and under what circumstances the cousin of the deceased, if any, has been
married to the appellant is not known. Only because such a marriage has
allegedly taken place, the same by itself cannot be said to be a ground for
rejecting the prosecution story. These contentions cannot also persuade us to
impose a lesser punishment upon the appellant as in terms of Section 304B of
the Indian Penal Code the minimum sentence is seven years rigorous imprisonment.
Appellant has been awarded only the minimum sentence. We, therefore, cannot
even interfere with the quantum of the sentence.
The appeal, for the reasons stated above, is dismissed.