Singh Vs. State of Punjab  INSC 501 (6 March 2009)
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 444
OF 2009 (Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No.3699 of 2008) Jagjit Singh ...Appellant
Versus State of Punjab ...Respondent
ARIJIT PASAYAT, J.
Challenge in this appeal is to the judgment of a Division Bench of
the Punjab and Haryana High Court allowing the appeal filed by the State
questioning the judgment of acquittal recorded by Additional Sessions Judge,
Amritsar. The appellant and two others faced trial for alleged commission of
offences punishable under Sections 304-B and 498-A of the Indian Penal Code,
1860 (in short the `IPC').
Prosecution version in a nutshell is as follows:
Singh (Complainant) made a statement Ex P.A. before the police on 18.3.1995
that his daughter Jasprit Kaur aged about 26 years was married to accused
Jagjit Singh on 26.12.1993 at Amritsar. Avtar Singh stated that he had given
dowry to Jasprit Kaur at the time of her marriage according to his capability.
The accused Jagjit Singh, his father Gurmukh Singh and his mother Raminder Kaur
were not happy with the dowry given by the parents of Jasprit Kaur and they used
to taunt her off and on for bringing lesser dowry at the time of her marriage.
The accused started maltreating Jasprit Kaur in connection with the demand of
dowry. Jasprit Kaur informed her father Complainant Avtar Singh and other
family members that the accused were greedy and they were not behaving properly
with her. One Baba Charan Singh who was the mediator in the marriage of Jasprit
Kaur with Jagjit Singh was approached by the parents of Jasprit Kaur. He was
informed about the maltreatment and harassment given to Jasprit Kaur by the
accused. Baba Charan Singh also advised and told the accused to treat Jasprit
Kaur property. Avtar Singh stated that on 17.3.1995 in the evening at about 5/6
P.M. Jasprit Kaur came to the house of the 2 Complainant. She was frightened
and was depressed. She informed her parents that the accused had asked her that
they were to purchase a new house and that Jasprit Kaur should bring money from
her parents. Jasprit Kaur had also informed her father that the accused had
made her life miserable at their house and had made living there impossible.
The complainant Avtar Singh and his wife consoled Jasprit Kaur and sent her
back to the house of the accused by telling her that they will inform her about
the demand in a day or two. Jasprit Kaur had given birth to a son on 25.12.1994
when also Avtar Singh had spent sufficient amount. But neither Jagjit Singh nor
his parents became happy. On 18.3.1995 at about accused 3.30 P.M. Baba Charan
Singh came to the shop of the Complainant and informed him that Jasprit Kaur
had been killed by the accused by strangulation. The Complainant accompanied by
his wife and his son went to the house of the accused Jagjit Singh where they
found that the dead body of Jasprit Kaur was hanging from the ceiling fan by a
cloth wrapped around her neck. At that time mother of the accused Jagjit Singh
namely, Raminder Kaur, was present at the house, while the other members of the
family were absent. The Complainant left his wife and son lnderjit Singh near
the dead body of Jasprit Kaur and proceeded to lodge a report with the police.
The police met Avtar Singh in Chowk Lachhmansar, Amritsar, 3 where he made
statement before the police which was read over to him and was signed by him in
token of its correctness. The Investigating Officer S.l.
Singh made his endorsement Ex.P.A./2 on the same and sent it to the Police
Station `C' Division where formal FIR Ex.PA/1 was recorded by AS.I. Charanjit
Singh. The Investigating Officer accompanied by the Complainant Avtar Singh
went to the house of the accused where on the top floor of the house, the dead
body of Jasprit Kaur was hanging with the ceiling fan in the room. The
photographs of the dead body were taken by the photographer as directed by the
Investigating Officer and after removing the dead body from the ceiling fan,
the cloth wrapped around the neck of the deceased was taken into police
possession. The inquest proceedings of the dead body was prepared and the same
was sent for post mortem examination through H.C. Lakhwinder Singh and
Constable Suba Singh. After post mortem examination of the dead body, the
clothes removed from the dead body were taken into police possession by the
Investigating Officer. All the accused were arrested and on completion of the
investigation they were challaned by SI. Paramjit Singh, S.H.O. P.S. `C'
appearance before the committing Magistrate, the accused were furnished copies
of the documents mentioned in Section 207 of the 4 Code of Criminal Procedure,
1973 (in short the `Code') and the case against them was committed for trial.
Court found that the evidence was insufficient to fasten the guilt on the
the correctness of the judgment of acquittal, the State filed an appeal. By the
impugned judgment the High Court found that the co-accused Gurmukh Singh and
Raminder Kaur were staying separately and, therefore, there was doubt about
their participation in the commission of the offence. But the present appellant
was found guilty of offence punishable under Section 304-B IPC and sentenced to
suffer RI for seven years.
Learned counsel for the appellant submitted that the judgment of
the trial Court was well reasoned and the High Court should not have interfered
with the judgment of acquittal recorded, more particularly, when the acquittal
in respect of co-accused persons was affirmed.
Learned counsel for the respondent-State on the other hand
supported the judgment of the High Court.
It is to be noted that the deceased breathed her last within about
one year and three months from the date of marriage while living in the house
of her in laws. She was not suffering from any ailment prior to marriage and
even after the marriage she continued to be hale and hearty. The evidence of PW-3,
the father of the deceased is very significant. According to him on 17.3.1995
the deceased came to his house. She informed him that the accused was torturing
her as they had to purchase a new house they were demanding Rupees one lac from
her. To the similar effect is the evidence of PW-4 the brother of the deceased.
Prosecution had pressed into service the agreement deed Ex.PB for the purchase
of house by Gurmukh Singh from one Sapan Dass (PW-2). Said agreement reveals
that it was executed on 8.2.1995 and the sale deed was to be executed on
8.5.1995. The High Court noted that this document amply established that the
family required money for purchase of plot from Sapan Dass. The High Court
further noted that there was no material brought on record to show that the
agreement was performed by the accused persons. The High Court found that the
presumptuous conclusion of the trial Court that there was no link of the demand
for dowry with the said agreement. The High Court also noted that 6 the trial
Court had erroneously concluded that the accused persons were rich persons and,
therefore, there was no need for asking any dowry.
In Appasaheb and Anr. v. State of Maharashtra (2007 (9) SCC 721)
it was inter-alia held as follows:
Two essential ingredients of Section 304-B IPC, apart from others, are (i)
death of woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than
under normal circumstances, and (ii) woman is subjected to cruelty or
harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection
with, any demand for "dowry". The explanation appended to sub-section
(1) of Section 304-B IPC says that "dowry" shall have the same
meaning as in Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act reads as under:
Definition of `dowry'.--In this Act, `dowry' means any property or valuable
security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly-- (a) by one
party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage; or (b) by the parents
of either party to a marriage or by any other person, to either party to the
marriage or to any other person, at or before or any time after the marriage in
connection with the marriage of the said parties, but does not include dower or
mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim personal law (Shariat)
view of the aforesaid definition of the word "dowry" any property or
valuable security should be given or agreed to be 7 given either directly or
indirectly at or before or any time after the marriage and in connection with
the marriage of the said parties. Therefore, the giving or taking of property
or valuable security must have some connection with the marriage of the parties
and a correlation between the giving or taking of property or valuable security
with the marriage of the parties is essential. Being a penal provision it has
to be strictly construed.
a fairly well-known social custom or practice in India. It is well-settled
principle of interpretation of statute that if the Act is passed with reference
to a particular trade, business or transaction and words are used which
everybody conversant with that trade, business or transaction knows or
understands to have a particular meaning in it, then the words are to be
construed as having that particular meaning. (See Union of India v. Garware
Nylons Ltd. and Chemical and Fibres of India Ltd. v. Union of India.) A demand
for money on account of some financial stringency or for meeting some urgent
domestic expenses or for purchasing manure cannot be termed as a demand for
dowry as the said word is normally understood. The evidence adduced by the
prosecution does not, therefore, show that any demand for "dowry" as
defined in Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act was made by the appellants as
what was allegedly asked for was some money for meeting domestic expenses and
for purchasing manure. Since an essential ingredient of Section 304-B IPC viz.
demand for dowry is not established, the conviction of the appellants cannot be
The High Court has analysed the evidence of the witnesses clearly
keeping in view the parameters relating to the scope of interference with the
judgment of acquittal. The analysis does not suffer from any infirmity to
warrant interference. Since the minimum sentence has been awarded we find no
scope to interfere in this appeal. The same is dismissed accordingly.
.........................................J. (Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT)