& ANR. Vs. State of Bihar  INSC 1262 (22 July 2009)
C Ri Min
Al Appellate Jurisdiction Criminal Appeal No. 296 of 2005 as Hadevi & Anr.
.. Appellant(S) Vs. State of Biha R .. Respondent( S) Wit H Criminal Appeal
Nos. 297 of 2005 And 1256 of 2007 Order These Appeals Arise From The Following
Devi deceased was married with Hare Ram Jha about 3-4 years before the incident
happened and was pregnant at the time of the occurrence. O n 22 nd September,
1997. P W.5 - Meena Devi, Sudhia Devi's aunt, received information that Sudhia
Devi was being beaten by her husband and his parents and sisters. Meena Devi
along with her relatives rushed to Sudhia Devi's ho m e and was told by her m
other-in-law Meera Devi and her daughters Asha Devi and Mithilesh Devi that she
was in the process of delivering a child. Meena Devi, ho w ever, insisted that
she should be allowed to see Sudhia Devi on which she was restrained from doing
so by Asha Devi and Mithilesh Devi and was also threatened with dire
consequences if she tried to enter the room. A heated argument ensued between
the parties -2- and the resultant noise attracted so m e residents of the
village. Meena Devi however managed to enter the room and having done so found
the dead body of Sudhia Devi lying in the courtyard. Meena Devi then rushed to
the police station and lodged the FIR. On the completion of the investigation
the accused Hare Ra m Jha, Sudhia Devi's husband, Durga Nand and Meena Devi,
his parents & Asha Devi & Mithilesh Devi, his sisters were charged for
offences punishable under Sec.304-B and 498A of the Indian Penal Code and
brought to trial.
prosecution in support of its case relied upon the evidence of P W.5- M eena
Devi and several other persons w h o had accompanied her to the house of the
deceased on the crucial day and also on the evidence of Ra m Saran Mishra-P
W.11 the father of the deceased, P W.13-Jeevo Devi- her m other, and P
W.15-Phoolo Devi, her Mousi. The prosecution also produced in evidence P W.16
Dr. Dhrub Kumar Dheeraj w h o had conducted postmortem on the dead body of the
deceased and P W.17-B.P.Singh, the Investigation Officer. In the course of the
trial P W.1-10 i.e.M eena Devi and all the others w h o had rushed to the
rescue of Sudhia Devi on the crucial day were declared hostile. A letter Ext.
P.2 written by the deceased to her m other on 25/6/1995, alleging maltreatment
was also produced in evidence by the -3- prosecution. The trial court relying
upon the evidence of P W.11, P W.13 an md P W.15 and the documents which had
been produced on record, convicted the accused under Sec.304-B and Sec.498-A of
the IPC and sentenced Asha Devi, Mithilesh Devi and Meera Devi to seven years
Sec.304-B and Durga Nand Jha and Hare Ram Jha - the father-in- law and the
husband of the deceased respectively, to undergo imprison m e nt for life.
accused thereupon filed an appeal in the High Court which has been dismissed by
the impugned judgment dated 23/4/2004.
appeals have been filed in this Court: Criminal Appeal No.296/2005 by Asha Devi
and Mithilesh Devi, Criminal Appeal No.297/2005 by Meera Devi and 1256/2007 by
Durga Nand Jha - father- law of the in- deceased, whereas Hare Ram Jha has
filed no appeal. All these matters are being disposed of by this judgment.
learned counsel for the appellants has, at the very outset, argued that as per
the facts on record, a case under Sec.304-B of the IPC was not spelt out as
there was no de m a n d for do wry soon before the death which was a sine qua
non for the applicability of that Section. On facts, the learned counsel has brought
to our notice that the marriage had taken place in the year 1993 and the death
had occurred on 22/9/1997 and even if Ext. P.2 which was the primary piece of
evidence on record, was taken into consideration, this too had been written on
25/6/1995 which was -4- about two years and three months before the death and
such as this could not form basis of the conviction. He has also sub mitted
that in any case there was no evidence to connect the accused, m ore
particularly Asha Devi, Mithilesh Devi and Meera Devi, with the incident and
that in any case the sentence awarded to Durga Nand Jha was excessive as it was
the settled position that in a case of conviction under Sec.304 seven years
nor m al rule with a higher sentence being awarded in exceptional cases. For
the last sub mission reliance has been placed upon the judgment Hem Chand vs.
State of Haryana in 1994 (6) S C C 727 The learned counsel for the State has,
ho w ever, pointed out that a clear finding of fact had been recorded by the
two courts below on an appreciation of the evidence and the fact that the
deceased had m et an unnatural death and had been tortured prior to the
strangulation indicated that all the accused had been involved in the incident.
She has brought to our notice the evidence of the Doctor - P W.16 w h o deposed
of epidermal burn injuries 4" x 3" x 3 x 2" on the upper part of
the abdomen and contusions on the chest wall in an area of 7" x 3"
and observed that ultimate cause of death was traumatic asphyxia and
strangulation and that the m ark of hanging was postmortem in nature. O n
internal examination it was found that upper lobes of both lungs were bruised
and other internal organs were congested. It -5- is also clear from the
post-mortem report that a female oet us of about 36 weeks was also found in the
dead body. She has accordingly urged that instead of presenting a case of murder,
the accused have already been dealt with in a very light manner. She has also e
m p h asized that the words `soon before the death' occurring under Sec.304-B
could not be mechanically applied and the chain of circumstances and the
conduct of the accused were extremely relevant factors in evaluating the
evidence in a case under Sec.304-B, m ore particularly, on account of the
presumption laid against the accused by virtue of Sec.113-B of the Evidence
W e have
heard learned counsel for the parties and have perused the record. At the very
outset we must observe that a perusal of the statements of P W s.11 and 15 w h
o are father and m other of the deceased respectively, do not show any involvement
of Asha Devi and Mithilesh Devi - two of the sisters- law. Even a perusal of
the letter - Annexure P.2 in- does not indicate any cruelty on their part. As a
matter of fact, it has been brought to our notice by the learned counsel for
the appellants that Mithilesh Devi had been married in the year 1976 and Asha
Devi in 1979 and they were living in their matrimonial ho m e s at so m e
distance from the village in which the incident happened.
-6- W e,
therefore, find that there is absolutely nothing to connect these two accused
with the incident. Criminal Appeal No. 296/2005 must, therefore, to our mind be
allowed. Asha and Mithilesh are ordered to be acquitted.
evidence against the other accused ho w ever is un- exceptional. Meera Devi is
the m other-in-law and Durga Nand Jha is the father- law and Hare Ram Jha-the
husband. It has co m e in the evidence in- that the deceased was being harassed
by these three persons for having brought inadequate do wry and repeated de m a
n d s were m a d e for a T.V. set etc. and further that asum of Rs.51,000/- had
been given after the marriage pursuant to a de m a n d. The learned counsel for
the appellants has, ho w ever, sub mitted that as a Panchayat had been
organized to sort out the dispute, the best evidence in this case would have
been the appearance of some members of the Panchayat to show that such a problem
true that if a statement from a Panchayat member had co m e on record, the case
of the prosecution would be strengthened but this o mission would not m e a n
that the evidence available was insufficient to record a conviction, m ore
particularly, in the back drop of Sec.113-B of the Evidence Act.
find from Ext. P.2 referred to above that the primary villain was the m other
in law Meera Devi and that Her husband and son were in fact acting as tools at
from a reading of Ext. P.2 with the statements of ocular evidence it appears
that the demands had been made over for a period of time. The presence of burn
m arks on the abdomen of the deceased indicate torture and cruelty meted out to
the deceased even on day w he n she m et her death. Moreover, as already observed
above, from the doctor's evidence it transpires that the deceased was first
strangulated, and, thereafter (to camouflage the cause of death) she had been
hanged in the bedroom to make it look as a case of suicide. It has come in the
evidence of P W.17, the I.O. B.P.Singh, that he had entered the room to find
the dead body hanging from the roof. In this view of the matter and keeping in
mind the presumption under Sec.113-B of the Evidence Act, we find absolutely no
merit in the other two appeals.
appeals of Meera Devi and Durga Nand Jha (Crl.A. Nos. 297/2005 and 1256/2007
respectively), are accordingly, dismissed. We are told that Meera Devi is on
bail. She shall be taken into custody forthwith to serve out the remaining
period of sentence.
.... . . . ..... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .J (Harjit
Singh Bedi) .... . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .J (J.M. Panchal)
Ne W Delhi, July 22, 2009.