Singh & Anr Vs. State of Punjab  Insc 1061 (12 October 2007)
Thakker & P. Sathasivam C.K. Thakker, J.
present appeal is filed by the two appellants against an order of conviction
and sentence recorded by the Addl. Sessions Judge, Gurdaspur on April 30, 2002 in Sessions Case No. 128 of 1999
and confirmed by the High Court of Punjab & Haryana at Chandigarh on May 4, 2005 in Criminal Appeal No.950-SB of 2002. By the said order,
the Courts below convicted the appellants herein for offences punishable under
Sections 304B and 315, Indian Penal Code (IPC).
offence punishable under Section 304B, IPC the appellants were ordered to
undergo rigorous imprisonment for seven years and to pay a fine of Rs.1,000/-
and in default of payment of fine, to further undergo rigorous imprisonment for
three months, whereas for an offence punishable under Section 315, IPC, they
were ordered to undergo imprisonment for three years.
facts of the case in nutshell are that Reeta Kumari, daughter of Tilak Singh
and Sudershana Rani-PW2, got married to Manmohan Singh (original accused No.1)
on February 19, 1999 as per Hindu rites and ceremonies.
to the prosecution, sufficient dowry was given by the parents of Reeta Kumari
at the time of marriage as per their financial status and capacity. However, Reeta
Kumari, immediately after marriage, disclosed on her first visit to parental
home after 3-4 days that the accused were subjecting her to taunts and
harassments for not bringing scooter and golden bangle (kara) in dowry. The
young bride was told in clear terms that if the demands of the accused of
scooter and golden bangle would not be met with, she should not come back to
matrimonial home. Even thereafter, during her visit to parental home at 2-3
occasions, Reeta Kumari informed her family members that the accused were
repeating their demand of scooter and golden bangle. She was, however, pacified
by Sudershana Rani and other family members to return to matrimonial home on an
assurance that scooter and golden bangle would be given when the
complainants husband (Manmohan Singh) would come on leave. It may be
stated that the husband of deceased Reeta Kumari was serving in Indian Army. It
is further the version of the prosecution that about 14 days prior to the
occurrence, PW7-Dharminder Singh, brother of Reeta Kumari went to village Kahnuwan
at the matrimonial home of deceased Reeta Kumari to enquire about the welfare
of his sister. On return, he informed his mother Sudershana Rani that Reeta Kumari
was being subjected to mal- treatment by the accused on account of demand of
dowry and that he had brought Reeta Kumari with him to parental home.
Complainant Sudershana Rani, thereafter, had a talk with the accused persons
and assured that their demand of scooter and golden bangle would be fulfilled
after Manmohan Singh would return.
was, therefore, again sent back to matrimonial home along with PW4-Gopal Singh,
cousin of Reeta Kumari. On June 20, 1999,
at about 3.30 p.m., one Mangat Ram, who acted as
mediator for the marriage between Reeta Kumari and Manmohan Singh, informed
parents of Reeta Kumari that Reeta Kumari died after consuming some poisonous
substance. On hearing the news, Sudershana Rani-complainant, along with her son
Dharminder Singh and nephew Daulat Singh went to the house of the accused at
village Kahnuwan where they found dead body of Reeta Kumari lying in a room.
Statement of Sudershana Rani was recorded at Ex.PB (FIR 111) on the same day by
PW 9 Swinder Singh (Station Inspector) who met them at the bus stand, Kahnuwan.
prosecution case also disclosed that at the time of death, Reeta Kumari was
pregnant with a child of about 12 weeks gestation period in her womb. It was
alleged by the prosecution that death was caused by the accused and it was a
dowry death. Challan was, therefore, presented against the accused for offences
punishable under Section 304B, 315 and 498A, IPC. Since an offence punishable
under Section 304B, IPC was exclusively triable by a Court of Session, the
trial Magistrate committed the case to the Sessions Court, Gurdaspur. Charge
was framed against the accused, the contents thereof were read over and
explained to them. The accused pleaded not guilty to the charge and claimed to
accused denied to have committed any offence. According to them, they were
falsely implicated by the police. It was further stated that accused Manmohan
Singh and deceased Reeta Kumari (husband and wife) had gone to Vaishno Devi and
were returning from the temple on the previous day of the occurrence. When they
reached near Pathankot, the deceased insisted that they should first visit her
parental village Kahnuwan whereas husband Manmohan Singh, accused No.1 insisted
that they should go to the matrimonial home first. That was the reason for
consuming Aluminium Phosphate by the deceased Reeta Kumari and thus the
deceased committed suicide.
prosecution, in order to bring home the guilt of the accused, examined nine
witnesses including important witnesses, PW2- Sudershana Rani, complainant and
mother of deceased Reeta Kumari; PW4-Gopal Singh, cousin brother of deceased Reeta
Kumari and PW7- Dharminder Singh, brother of deceased Reeta Kumari.
charge was framed against five accused i.e. accused No.1-Manmohan Singh,
husband of the deceased; accused No.2-Janak Singh, brother-in-law of the
deceased, accused No. 3, Kishan Singh, father-in-law of the deceased, accused
No. 4, Bachni Rani, mother- in-law of the deceased and accused No.5-Sushma Rani,
sister-in-law of the deceased.
trial Court, after appreciating the evidence on record and on the basis of
depositions of PW2 Sudarshana Rani-complainant, PW 4 Gopal Singh and PW 7 Dharminder
Singh held that as far as accused No.5-Sushma Rani was concerned, she had
already married prior to the marriage of Manmohan Singh and was staying with
her husband and two children at matrimonial home at village Kaulsher which was
at a distance of 60-70 KMs. from Kahnuwan. She had been referred to in the FIR
as the sister of accused No. 1, Manmohan Singh. She would not have been
benefited by the demand of dowry of scooter and golden bangles. The trial
Court, therefore, held that it could not be said that she was a party to demand
of dowry as also in causing death of deceased Reeta Kumari. She was accordingly
ordered to be acquitted by the Court.
Regarding Manmohan Singh-accused No.1, husband of Reeta Kumari, the trial Court
observed that he was serving in Indian Army.
took leave from February
15, 1999 to March 26, 1999. The marriage was performed on February 19, 1999. After the marriage, he again
joined service. Thereafter he came on leave from June 14, 1999 to July
9, 1999. In the
circumstances, according to the trial Court, it could not be said that he was
responsible for committing offences punishable under Sections 304B and 315,
IPC. The Court, however, held that there was demand of dowry by accused
No.1-Manmohan Singh, husband of Reeta Kumari as stated by PW 2 Sudarshana Rani,
PW 4 Gopal Singh ad PW 7 Dharminder Singh. Accused No. 1 Manmohan Singh was,
therefore, held liable for an offence punishable under Section 498A, IPC.
to accused No.2-Janak Singh, brother in law of the deceased, accused No.3- Kishan
Singh and accused No.4-Bachni Rani, father-in-law and mother-in-law of deceased
Reeta Kumari, the Court held that it was proved beyond reasonable doubt that
they had committed offences punishable under Sections 304B and 315, IPC. As
already stated earlier, sentence was awarded on accused No.3-Kishan Singh and
accused No.4-Bachni Rani, father-in-law and mother-in-law of the deceased by
the trial Court. So far as accused No.2-Janak Singh was concerned, the trial
Court held that he was a juvenile when the offence was committed which was
clear from the perusal of his birth certificate. The Court, therefore,
forwarded him to the Juvenile Court for passing an appropriate order of
sentence in accordance with law.
Being aggrieved by the order of conviction and sentence, three accused persons,
viz. accused No.1-Manmohan Singh-husband, accused No.3-Kishan Singh-
father-in-law and accused No.4-Bachni Rani-mother-in-law preferred an appeal
before the High Court.
The High Court again examined the evidence on record, heard the arguments of
the parties and considered the reasons recorded and conclusions arrived at by
the trial Court. It held that as far as accused Nos. 3 and 4, parents-in-law of
deceased Reeta Kumari were concerned, the trial Court was fully justified in
convicting both of them for offences punishable under Sections 304B and 315,
their conviction as well as order of sentence was maintained.
to accused No.1-Manmohan Singh- husband, however, the High Court held that from
the evidence, it was not proved that he was responsible for committing an
offence punishable under Section 498A, IPC. The Court observed that he was
serving in Indian Army and was occasionally attending matrimonial home after
taking leave. There was no sufficient evidence of demand of dowry by accused
trial Court, hence, was not right in convicting him under Section 498A, IPC. He
was, therefore, ordered to be acquitted.
The order convicting accused Nos. 3 and 4, father-in-law and mother-in-law of
deceased Reeta Kumari under Sections 304B and 315, IPC recorded by the trial
Court and confirmed by the High Court is challenged in the present appeal.
September 23, 2005, notice was issued on Special Leave
Petition as also on the application for bail. On November 28, 2005, leave was granted and the appellants were directed to be
released on bail on their executing a bond for a sum of Rs.25,000/- each to the
satisfaction of the Addl. Sessions Judge, Gurdaspur, Punjab. On September 18, 2006, an order was passed by the Court directing the Registry to
post the appeal at an early date. The matter thus has been placed
have heard learned counsel for the parties.
The learned counsel for the appellant contended that both the Courts committed
an error in convicting the appellants for offences punishable under Sections
304B and 315, IPC.
to the learned counsel, there was no demand of dowry by the accused and it
could not be said that death of deceased Reeta Kumari was due to harassment
because of demand of dowry.
also urged that the evidence of PW2- Sudershana Rani, PW4-Gopal Singh and PW7- Dharminder
Singh was not reliable and they ought not to have been believed by Courts
below. According to the counsel, all the three witnesses were
interested witnesses being close relatives of the deceased,
PW2-Sudershana Rani-mother, PW4-Gopal Singh and PW7-Dharminder Singh-cousin
brother and real brother, respectively. It was also contended that there were
material contradictions in their evidence as to when so called demand of
scooter and golden bangle was made. According to one version, such demand was
made at the time of shagun, whereas according to other version, it was towards
the dowry. Witnesses were aware that shagun and dowry were not one and same.
the prosecution was not certain as to the occasion of alleged demand. It was
also stated that from the evidence of Harbhajan Singh-DW1 and Ramesh
Shirodkar-DW2, it was proved that the accused were having scooter as also
motorcycle. If it were so, there was no occasion to demand scooter which was
the case of the prosecution. On all these grounds, it was submitted that both
the Courts were wrong in convicting the appellants and appeal deserves to be
The learned counsel for the State submitted that the order of conviction and
sentence recorded by the trial Court and confirmed by the High Court does not
call for interference. According to him, from the prosecution evidence, it was
clearly established that deceased Reeta Kumari was maltreated and harassed for dowry.
Immediately after her marriage on February 19, 1999, when she came to parental home
within few days, she complained that dowry demand was made by her in-laws and
even thereafter, the demand was repeated. Reeta Kumari was pregnant at the time
of death. Both the Courts were, therefore, right in convicting the appellants
under Section 304B and 315, IPC.
Having heard learned counsel for the parties, in our opinion, no case has been
made out by the appellants so as to interfere with the decision of the Courts
below. Admittedly, Reeta Kumari married to accused No.1-Manmohan Singh on February 19, 1999. The case of the prosecution is
very clear that in-laws of Reeta Kumari started harassing her by making demand
of dowry. She was told that her parents should give to accused persons scooter
and golden bangle. She was also told by the accused that she should not return
to matrimonial home if she would not bring scooter and golden bangle.
the Courts considered the evidence of prosecution witnesses and recorded a
finding that prosecution was able to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt as
to demand of dowry by the accused.
Section 304B (Dowry death) was inserted by Act 43 of 1986 with effect from November 19, 1986. The said section reads thus:
Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs
otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage
and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or
harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection
with, any demand for dowry, such death shall be called "dowry death",
and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.
Explanation- For the purpose of this sub-section,
"dowry" shall have the same meaning. as in section 2 of the Dowry
Prohibition Act, 1961 (28 of 1961).
Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprisonment for a term
which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment
order that this section may apply, the following ingredients must be satisfied;
death of a woman must have been caused by burns or bodily injury or otherwise
than under normal circumstances;
death must have occurred within seven years of her marriage;
woman must have been subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or by
relatives of her husband;
or harassment must be for or in connection with demand for dowry;
cruelty or harassment is shown to have been meted out to the woman soon before
the instant case, the prosecution has examined PW3-Dr.Swinder Kumar. He deposed
that on June 21, 1999, he conducted the post mortem on
the dead body of Reeta Kumari and found the following injuries;
1. 3 x
= cm. abrasion on right side of the anterior of the middle of the neck.
2. 2 x
1 cm. abrasion on right side of the anterior of the middle of the neck just 1
cm. below injury No.1
3. 4 x
2 cm. abrasion on left side of the anterior of the middle of the head.
dissection of injuries Nos. 1, 2 and 3, sub-coetaneous tissues of the neck shows
extravagation of blood beneath the injured areas. On further dissection,
fracture of projection in laryngeal cartilage seen.
proceeded to state:
time between injuries and death was immediate and between death and postmortem
within 24 hours. In our opinion, based on the report of the Chemical Examiner,
which is Ex.PC, the cause of death in this case was ante mortem throttling and
consumption of aluminium phosphide, which is a pesticide, Ex.PD is the correct
copy of the postmortem report, the original of which I have brought today in
the Court which is signed by me and Dr. H.S. Dhillon and Mrs. Raminder Kaler.
cross-examination, he stated that the injuries near the mouth were possible if
an attempt had been made by someone to prevent taking tablet or trying to take
injury on the neck could be possible in such a struggle.
Thus, from the evidence of Dr.Swinder Kumar-PW3, it was proved that Reeta Kumari
died unnatural death. As already noted earlier, Reeta Kumari married to Manmohan
Singh on February 19,
1999 and she died on June 20, 1999 i.e. within a period of four months.
Thus, the death was caused within seven years of her marriage. From
the prosecution evidence, it was proved beyond reasonable doubt that deceased Reeta
Kumari was subjected to cruelty and harassment by the accused in connection
with demand of dowry from day of her marriage.
demand was repeated from time to time and it resulted in sad and untimely death
of a young bride. But for continuous demand of dowry by the accused and
constant harassment, two lives would have been saved. We are, therefore, of the
considered opinion that both the Courts were right in convicting the appellants
for the offences with which they were charged.
our judgment, both the Courts were right in rejecting defence version that
since the accused possessed scooter as well as motorcycle, there was no
necessity to make demand of scooter. The High Court observed that it was a
matter of common knowledge that even if in-laws had several things in the
house, still they demand dowry. Even if we may not go to that extent, in our
opinion, in the present case, there was sufficient evidence in the form of
sworn testimony of PW2-Sudershana Rani, PW4- Gopal Singh and PW7-Dharminder
Singh that there was a demand of dowry by accused and deceased Reeta Kumari had
made such complaint immediately after marriage which was repeated and
reiterated. The deceased used to inform about such demand by the accused to her
parents. It is, therefore, totally irrelevant whether accused possessed
motorcycle or scooter. Demand of dowry in this case was clearly proved and
conclusively established by the prosecution.
also find no substance in the contention of the appellants that there was
material contradiction in the deposition of prosecution witnesses as to the
occasion of making demand, i.e. as shagun or as dowry. From the evidence, it is
proved that accused persons insisted for scooter and golden bangle as they had
obliged parents of Reeta Kumari by allowing her to marry to accused
No.1-Manmohan Singh. In our opinion, therefore, both the Courts were right in
coming to the conclusion that there was demand of dowry by the accused.
The trial Court convicted accused No.1-Manmohan Singh for an offence punishable
under Section 498A, IPC. The High Court, however, set aside the said conviction
observing that he was not regularly staying with Reeta Kumari as he was serving
in Army and used to come only for few days by taking leave.
witnesses have, no doubt, deposed that demand of dowry was also made by accused
No.1-Manmohan Singh-husband of Reeta Kumari and believing the said evidence,
the trial Court convicted him. But the High Court was of the view that there
was no sufficient evidence to prove demand of dowry by accused No.1-Manmohan
Singh and acquitted him. The said acquittal is not challenged by the State.
That part of the order thus has become final. The matter, therefore, rests
For the foregoing reasons, in our opinion, both the Courts were wholly right
and fully justified in recording an order of conviction and in imposing
sentence on appellants-accused Nos. 3 and 4. We see no infirmity therein and
dismiss the appeal and confirm the order of conviction and sentence.
they are on bail, we direct them to surrender to undergo the remaining period
parting with the matter, we may advert to one aspect. The trial Court, while
not accepting the evidence of PW4-Gopal Singh as to demand of dowry by accused
No.1-Manmohan Singh-husband of Reeta Kumari, had observed that no such demand
could have been made by him. It was because PW4-Gopal Singh had stated that
accused No.1-Manmohan Singh ill-treated deceased Reeta Kumari soon after her
death. He further stated that 10/12 days prior to the incident, accused
No.1-Manmohan Singh reiterated the demand of scooter and golden bangle. Now,
accused No.1-Manmohan Singh was on leave from February 15, 1999 to March
after marriage ceremony on February 19, 1999,
accused No.1-Manmohan Singh stayed with his wife for more than a month before
reporting for duty. Thereafter, he again sought leave from June 14, 1999 to July 9, 1999. According to the trial Court, he must have reached his
village on or after June
16, 1999 from Goa and Reeta Kumari died on June 20, 1999. Thus, according to the trial Court, accused No.1- Manmohan
Singh could not have made demand of scooter and golden bangle 10/12 days
prior to the incident. The trial Court, therefore, did not believe that
part of the statement of Gopal Singh.
The trial Court, however, proceeded to state;
falsehood in this part of the statement of Gopal Singh, regarding the demand of
scooter and golden kara made by accused Manmohan Singh, just 10/12 days prior
to the death of deceased is utterly glaring. As already said above the accused Manmohan
Singh had taken leave from 15.2.1999 to 26.3.1999, for marriage and after that
from 14.6.1999 to 9.7.1999. This leave record was produced by DW2. If accused Manmohan
Singh had taken leave from 14.6.1999, he must have reached his village from Goa on or after 16.6.1999. Therefore, the presence of Manmohan
Singh in his house at village Kahnuwan, just 10/12 days prior to the alleged
occurrence when Gopal Singh made visit does not crop up at all.
is unfortunate that the trial Court has made a caustic remark that there was
falsehood on the part of PW4-Gopal Singh as to demand of dowry by
accused No.1-Manmohan Singh. A Court of law may not accept a particular part of
the evidence considering the other facts and circumstances on record. But that
does not necessarily mean that what was stated by the witness was
false. In fact, PW4-Gopal Singh was believed by the trial Court as
well as by the High Court. It may be that the witness had committed some
mistake in giving the period during which dowry demand was made by accused
No.1-Manmohan Singh. If that part of the evidence is not consistent with the
facts on record, the Court may not accept it.
only for that reason, the Court should not make disparaging remarks as has been
done by the Court.
While dealing with a matter, the Presiding Officer of a Court may extend
benefit of doubt to the accused in the light of omissions, contradictions or
discrepancies in the deposition of prosecution witnesses. He may also offer
comment on the conduct of parties or witnesses. He may as well make necessary
observations keeping in view their demeanour.
been rightly said that the Judges are flesh and blood mortals with likes and
dislikes, preferences and prejudices and they are also normal human traits.
Thomas Reed Powell once said; "Judges have preferences for social policies
as you and I. They form their judgments after the varying fashions in which you
and I form ours. They have hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections,
passions. They are warmed by the same winter and summer and by the same ideas
as a layman is."
Justice John Clarke has also stated;
have never known any judges, no difference how austere of manner, who
discharged their judicial duties in an atmosphere of pure, unadulterated reason.
Alas! we are 'all the common growth of the Mother Earth' - even those of us who
wear the long robe." (emphasis supplied)
the same time, however, it cannot be overlooked that judicial restraints and
discipline are equally necessary to orderly administration of justice. One must
always keep in view golden advice given by S.K. Das, J. in State of U.P. v. Mohd. Naim, (1964) 2 SCR 363 : AIR 1964 SC 703;
there is one principle of cardinal importance in the administration of justice,
it is this : the proper freedom and independence of Judges and Magistrates must
be maintained and they must be allowed to perform their functions freely and
fearlessly and without undue interference by anybody, even by this Court. At
the same time it is equally necessary that in expressing their opinions Judges
and Magistrates must be guided by considerations of justice, fair-play and
restraint. It is not infrequent that sweeping generalizations defeat the very
purpose for which they are made. It has been judicially recognized that in the
matter of making disparaging remarks against persons or authorities whose
conduct comes into consideration before courts of law in cases to be decided by
them, it is relevant to consider
the party whose conduct is in question is before the court or has an
opportunity of explaining or defending himself;
there is evidence on record bearing on that conduct justifying the remarks; and
it is necessary for the decision of the case, as an integral part thereof, to
animadvert on that conduct. It has also been recognized that judicial
pronouncements must be judicial in nature, and should not normally depart from
sobriety, moderation and reserve." (emphasis supplied)
State of M.P. v. Nandlal, (1986) 4 SCC 566, while disposing the writ petition,
the High Court made certain sweeping observations attributing mala fides,
corruption and underhand dealings to the State Government.
the disparaging remarks as unjustified, hypothetical and unwarranted, Bhagwati,
may observe in conclusion that Judges should not use strong and carping
language while criticising the conduct of parties or their witnesses.
must act with sobriety, moderation and restraint. They must have the humility
to recognise that they are not infallible and any harsh and disparaging
strictures passed by them against any party may be mistaken and unjustified and
if so, they may do considerable harm and mischief and result in injustice.
Here, in the present case, the observations made and strictures passed by B.M. Lal,
J. were totally unjustified and unwarranted and they ought not to have been
are reminded of the following observations of Shetty, J. in A.M. Mathur v. Pramod
Kumar, (1990) 2 SCC 533 : JT 1990 (1) SC 545;
Judges Bench is a seat of power. Not only do judges have power to make binding
decisions, their decisions legitimate the use of power by other officials. The
Judges have the absolute and unchallenged control of the Court domain. But they
cannot misuse their authority by intemperate comments, undignified banter or
scathing criticism of counsel, parties or witnesses. We concede that the Court
has the inherent power to act freely upon its own conviction on any matter
coming before it for adjudication, but it is a general principle of the highest
importance to the proper administration of justice that derogatory remarks
ought not to be made against persons or authorities whose conduct comes into
consideration unless it is absolutely necessary for the decision of the case to
animadvert on their conduct.
the case on hand, in our judgment, there was no occasion for the trial Court to
go to the extent of describing the evidence of PW4-Gopal Singh to be
false. Even if it is conceded that in the light of other evidence on
record, the Court was not convinced as to the demand of dowry by accused No. 1 Manmohan
Singh, 10/12 days prior to the incident, the Court could have
acquitted accused No.1 on that ground. In our considered opinion, however, it
was certainly not a case of making scathing remarks against the witness. All
those remarks are, therefore, ordered to be deleted from the record.
The appeal is disposed of accordingly.