Satish Kumar Batra
& Ors. Vs. State Of Haryana  INSC 681 (1 April 2009)
IN THE SUPREME COURT
OF INDIA CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 976 OF 2001 Satish
Kumar Batra & Ors. ....Appellants Versus State of Haryana ....Respondent
Dr, ARIJIT PASAYAT,
1. Challenge in this
appeal is to the judgment of a learned Single Judge of the Punjab and Haryana
High Court dismissing the Criminal Revision Petition filed by the present
appellants. Challenge in the Revision Petition was to the judgment of learned
Additional Sessions Judge, Sonepat, finding each of the present appellants
guilty of offence punishable under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
(in short the `IPC'). Learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Sonepat, had found the
accused persons guilty and had convicted them as aforenoted. In appeal learned
Additional Sessions Judge confirmed the same. Six persons were arrayed as
accused persons on the basis of information lodged by Santosh Kumari.
version in a nutshell is as follows:
Santosh Kumari and Satish Kumar (Appellant No.1) was solemnization on
21.10.1985. According to FIR No. 695 dated 20.6.1992 that was registered in
Police Station City Sonepat at the behest of Santosh Kumari, at the time of her
engagement, her parents had given sufficient articles valued at Rs.20,000/- to
her husband and other members of his family. At the time of her marriage,
various articles listed in the complaint were handed over to the accused and in
all about Rs.1,50,000/- were spent thereon. Despite this, the persons mentioned
in the complaint were not satisfied with the articles of dowry handed over to
them, with the result that her husband Satish Kumar, mother-in-law Satya,
brother-in-law Sunil Kumar, father-in-law Ram Lal, his sister Ishwar Devi and
Om Parkash, brother-in-law of Ram Lal had been pressing her to bring more
dowry. Satish Kumar husband had demanded Rs.5,000/- and Rs.10,000/- for purchase
of goods for his shop which amount was given to him. In spite of that, the
petitioners were not satisfied and had been beating her on several occasions.
After the birth of the children, the petitioners turned her out of the
matrimonial home, so that her parents could be forced to spend money on the
upbringing of the children. On the birth of each of her children, her parents
had spent Rs.20,000/-. But this had not satisfied her in-laws. Om Prakash, the
brother-in-law of her father-in-law used other methods to torture her and she
bore the atrocities attributing them to her wedlock. On 01.12.1991 the
appellants had tried to kill her by pouring kerosene oil on her, but she was
able to save herself by running away. The neighbours had pacified her and
assured that her in laws would behave properly in future.
assurance, there was no change in their attitude and on 03.03.1992 her husband
gave her severe beating and asked her to bring Rs.45,000/- for the purpose of
taking agency and they could give only Rs.25,000/-. On account of the beating,
she started bleeding and was about to leave for Delhi Police Station, but was
dissuaded by the members of the locality from doing so. The attitude of the
in-laws did not change and on 21.05.1992 she was turned out from the house
after being told that she should not return to the matrimonial home, otherwise
she and her children would be done to death. She was also told that if she
wanted to settle with Satish Kumar then her parents should purchase a separate
house for her. The Stridhan was kept by them. On the basis of this complaint,
formal FIR under Sections 406 and 498-A read with section 120-B IPC was
list of articles Ex.PB and letters alleged to have been written by Santosh Kumari
Ex.PD, Ex.PE, Ex.PF, Ex.PG and Ex.PH were taken into possession vide recovery
memo Ex.P5. On completion of the investigation challan was put in Court under
sections 406, 498-A IPC.
On going through the
challan, the learned trial Court framed charges under sections 406 and 498-A
IPC and when the accused pleaded not guilty to the charges, called upon the
prosecution to lead evidence in support of its case.
After completion of
the trial, the learned trial court acquitted the appellants of the offence under
Section 406 IPC but convicted them under Section 498A IPC and sentenced them to
undergo R.I. for two years and to pay a fine of Rs.500/- each and in default of
payment of fine to further undergo R.I. for one month.
4 Before trial was
completed, Ram Lal, the father of Santosh Kumar died and the other five persons
faced trial. Each one of them was convicted as in the case of the present
appellants. They also filed appeals along with the present appellants and their
appeals were dismissed. However, the High Court by order in a separate Criminal
Revision Petition (Criminal Revision No. 607 of 2000) directed their acquittal.
Conviction under Section 498A IPC was upheld by the High Court so far as the
present appellants are concerned. Primarily the prosecution relied upon the
version of the complainant (PW 1), mother (PW 5), and the brother (PW 6). The
stand of the appellants all through was that the evidence of these witnesses
does not inspire confidence. The High Court noted that there were lots of improvements
and false implication of two other persons. The trial court, the First
appellate court and the High Court did not accept this plea.
However, finding that
the evidence was inadequate, the High Court directed acquittal of the
3. In support of the
appeal learned counsel for the appellant submitted that the courts below did
not notice the inherent improbabilities in the evidence of PWs 1, 5 & 6.
Though the High Court noted that there were lots of inconsistencies and
improvements, yet chose to direct acquittal only of two persons while upholding
the conviction on the self-serve evidence qua the appellants. It is submitted
that appellant No.1 has already suffered custody for more than 13 months.
4. Learned counsel
for the respondent on the other hand supported the judgment of the courts below
including the High Court.
5. It is to be noted
that in the first information report the thrust of allegations was primarily
directed against the acquitted accused persons i.e Om Prakash and Ishwar Devi.
They have been acquitted by the High Court.
So far as the
evidence of PWs 1, 5 & 6 is concerned, it is true as noticed by the High
Court, that there were lots of improvements. But the High Court found that even
if these improvements are kept out of consideration, the evidence was
sufficient to hold the present appellants guilty. It is to be noted that these
improvements primarily related to appellant Nos.2 & 3.
Therefore, in our
considered opinion the acquittal as directed qua the co- accused persons should
have also been done in the case of appellant Nos.2 6 & 3. However, the
evidence is clear and cogent so far as the appellant No.1 is concerned.
6. Section 498-A
appears in Chapter XX-A IPC.
Section 498-A IPC and presumptive Section 113-B of the Indian Evidence Act,
1872 (in short "the Evidence Act") have been inserted in the
respective statutes by the Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, 1983 and by the
Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 1986, respectively.
8. Section 498-A IPC
and Section 113-B of the Evidence Act include in their amplitude past events of
cruelty. Period of operation of Section 113-B of the Evidence Act is seven
years, presumption arises when a woman committed suicide within a period of
seven years from the date of marriage.
9. Section 498-A
reads as follows:
or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.--Whoever, being
the 7 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.
purposes of this section, `cruelty' means-- (a) any wilful conduct which is of
such a 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 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."
10. Section 113-B
reads as follows:
Presumption as to dowry death.--When the question is whether a person has
committed the dowry death of a woman and it is shown that soon before her death
such woman had been subjected by such person to cruelty or harassment for, or
in connection with, any demand for dowry, the court shall presume that such
person had caused the dowry death.
purpose of this section, `dowry death' shall have the same meaning as in
Section 304-B of Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860)."
11. Consequences of
cruelty which are likely to drive a woman to commit suicide or to cause grave
injury or danger to life, limb or health, whether mental or physical of the
woman are required to be established in order to bring home the application of
Section 498-A IPC. Cruelty has been defined in the Explanation for the purpose
of Section 498-A. It is to be noted that Sections 304-B and 498-A IPC cannot be
held to be mutually inclusive.
These provisions deal
with two distinct offences. It is true that cruelty is a common essential to
both the sections and that has to be proved. The Explanation to Section 498-A
gives the meaning of "cruelty". In Section 304-B there is no such
explanation about the meaning of "cruelty". But having regard to
common background to these offences it has to be taken that the meaning of
"cruelty" or "harassment" is the same as prescribed in the
Explanation to Section 498-A under which "cruelty" by itself amounts
to an offence.
12. The object for
which Section 498-A IPC was introduced is amply reflected in the Statement of
Objects and Reasons while enacting the Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act 46
of 1983. As clearly stated therein the increase in the number of dowry deaths
is a matter of serious concern. The extent of the evil has been commented upon
by the Joint Committee of the Houses to examine the work of the Dowry
Prohibition Act, 1961. In some cases, cruelty of the husband and the relatives
of the husband which culminate in suicide by or murder of the helpless woman
concerned, constitute only a small fraction involving such cruelty.
Therefore, it was
proposed to amend IPC, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (in short
"CrPC") and the Evidence Act suitably to deal effectively not only
with cases of dowry deaths but also cases of cruelty to married women by the
husband, in-laws and relatives. The avowed object is to combat the menace of
dowry death and cruelty.
13. One other
provision which is relevant to be noted is Section 306 IPC.
The basic difference
between the two sections i.e. Section 306 and Section 498-A is that of
intention. Under the latter, cruelty committed by the husband or his relations
drag the woman concerned to commit suicide, while under the former provision
suicide is abetted and intended.
14. It is well settled
that mere possibility of abuse of a provision of law does not per se invalidate
a legislation. It must be presumed, unless the contrary is proved, that
administration and application of a particular law would be done "not with
an evil eye and unequal hand". (See A. Thangal Kunju Musaliar v. M.
Venkatichalam Potti (1955 (2) SCR 1196))
15. In Budhan
Choudhry v. State of Bihar (1955 (1) SCR 1045) a contention was raised that a
provision of law may not be discriminatory but it may lend itself to abuse bringing
about discrimination between the persons similarly situated. This Court
repelled the contention holding that on the possibility of abuse of a provision
by the authority, the legislation may not be held arbitrary or discriminatory
and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
16. From the decided
cases in India as well as in the United States of America, the principle
appears to be well settled that if a statutory provision is otherwise intra
vires, constitutional and valid, mere possibility of abuse of power in a given
case would not make it objectionable, ultra vires or unconstitutional. In such
cases, "action" and not the "section" may be vulnerable. If
it is so, the court by upholding the provision of law, may still set aside the
action, order or decision and grant appropriate relief to the person aggrieved.
17. In Mafatlal
Industries Ltd. v. Union of India (1997 (5) SCC 536) a Bench of nine Judges
observed that mere possibility of abuse of a provision by those in charge of
administering it cannot be a ground for holding a provision procedurally or
substantively unreasonable. In Collector of Customs v. Nathella Sampathu Chetty
(1962 (3) SCR 786), this Court observed: (SCR p. 825) 12 "The possibility
of abuse of a statute otherwise valid does not impart to it any element of
18. It was said in
State of Rajasthan v. Union of India(1977 (3) SCC 592): (SCC p. 658, para 147)
"It must be remembered that merely because power may sometime be abused,
it is no ground for denying the existence of power. The wisdom of man has not
yet been able to conceive of a Government with power sufficient to answer all
its legitimate needs and at the same time incapable of mischief."
(Also see Commr.,
H.R.E. v. Sri Lakshmindra Thirtha Swamiar of Sri Shirur Mutt (1954 SCR 1005).
19. As observed in
Maulavi Hussein Haji Abraham Umarji v. State of Gujara ((2004 (6) SCC 672),
Unique Butyle Tube Industries (P) Ltd. v. U.P. Financial Corpn. (2003 (2) SCC
455) and Padma Sundara Rao v. State of T.N. ((2002 (3) SCC 533), while
interpreting a provision, the Court only interprets the law and cannot
legislate it. If a provision of law is misused and subjected to the abuse of
the process of law, it is for the legislature to amend, modify or repeal it, if
20. In the instant
case the evidence of PWs 1, 5 & 6 clearly establish the accusations so far
as the accused appellant No.1 i.e. Satish Kumar is concerned and therefore we
find nothing infirm in the judgment of the High Court in upholding the conviction
of accused appellant Satish Kumar. The sentence imposed was two years. It is on
record that he has undergone sentence of more than 13 months. He has been
released on bail pursuant to order dated 9.7.2001. Therefore, while upholding
the conviction, sentence is reduced to the period already undergone. So far as
the appellant nos.2 & 3 i.e. Sunil Kumar and Satya Devi are concerned, the
prosecution has not been able to establish the accusations so far as they are
concerned. Their appeal is accepted and the conviction is set aside. The bail
bonds executed by them for giving effect to the order dated 9.7.2001 shall
22. The appeal is
disposed of accordingly.
..J. (Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT)
(Dr. MUKUNDAKAM SHARMA)