State of M.P.  INSC 564 (29 July 2010)
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1645
OF 2009 Dasrath ... Appellant Versus State of M.P. ... Respondent
The present appeal is directed against the judgment of the High
Court dismissing the appeal of the appellant Dasrath. He was convicted by the
Trial Court of the offence under Section 304B, Indian Penal Code (IPC) and was
sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and pay a fine of Rs.
5,000/- and in default directed to suffer further imprisonment for one year. He
was also convicted for the offence under Section 201, IPC and was directed to
suffer rigorous imprisonment for one 2 year with a fine of Rs.1,000/- and in
default to suffer three month's further imprisonment.
Initially, as many as three accused persons came to be tried by
the Sessions Judge, they being accused No.1, Kalyan, accused No.2, Dasrath and
accused No.3, Smt. Usha. While accused No.2, Dasrath is the present appellant,
accused No.1, Kalyan Singh and accused No.3, Smt. Usha are his father and
sister, respectively. The Trial Court had also convicted Kalyan Singh for the
same offence. However, it acquitted accused No.3, Smt. Usha from all the
charges. Both the accused had filed an appeal challenging their conviction and
the sentences before the High Court. However, during the pendency of the
appeal, accused No.1 Kalyan Singh expired and his appeal, thus, abated. The
appeal of Dasrath, the present appellant came to be dismissed by the High Court
and that is how he is before us.
Shortly stated, the prosecution story was that Dasrath was married
to Pinki who died under suspicious circumstance of burning. An intimation
regarding death came to be given to the Police Station Pandhokhar, Distt. Gwalior.
The said intimation was given by the complainant Vadehi Saran s/o Ramanand
Kaurav who was none else but the father of the deceased Pinki. It was, inter
alia, stated that on that day i.e. 12.8.1992 in the morning his son Jitendra
Singh had gone to village Saujna for Rakhi 3 festival to his daughter Pinki's
house. But he returned at about 7 p.m. and told him that Pinki had caught fire
and was sent to Daboh for treatment.
Saran further stated that on hearing the news, he along with some co-villagers
went to Daboh. However, one Santosh belonging to his village met him near
Dugdha Dairy and told him that Pinki had died. Then Vadehi Saran along with
others went to village Saujna. But by the time they reached there, Pinki's
cremation was over. It was because of this that they came to the Police Station
and further action was requested on the basis of the death report.
On this basis, a First Information Report was got registered on
16.8.92 wherein it was recorded that the death intimation was given on 12.8.92
at 23.15 hours orally about the death of Pinki. It was recorded on a
preliminary inquiry made by Head Constable Jaswir Singh by visiting village
Saujna and the Station House Officer R.S. Purohit had also made inquiries
relating to the death. The place of occurrence was examined by SDOP R.K.
Hirodia and inquiry was made from the deceased's father Vadehi Saran, uncle
Uttam Singh, brothers Janved Singh and Jitendra Singh, mother Vidya Devi and
sister Pratibha. During this inquiry, it was found that the deceased was
married 2 years prior to the date of incident and because of the non-payment of
dowry, her husband Dasrath, father-in- law Kalyan Singh and Sister-in-law Usha
were harassing her. The earlier 4 statement given by Vadehi Saran was repeated.
It was then mentioned that on 12.8.1992 the sister-in-law Usha, husband Dasrath
caught hold of Pinki and father-in-law Kalyan Singh poured kerosene oil on her
and set her on fire because of which she got burnt. The accused thereafter
cremated her and cleaned the place where occurrence had taken place.
On the basis of this, further investigation ensued and after its
completion, a charge-sheet came to be filed in the Court for offences under
Sections 302, 304 B and 201 IPC. The accused were charged accordingly. The
prosecution, during the trial, examined as many as 11 witnesses. The accused
persons abjured the guilt and as stated earlier only two of them came to be
convicted, namely, Kalyan Singh and Dasrath. However, due to the death of
Kalyan Singh during the pendency of the appeal, the appeal filed by Dasrath
alone is to be considered.
Learned Senior Counsel, Dr. J.N. Singh appearing on behalf of the
accused attacked the judgment of both the Courts below, firstly, contending
that conviction under Section 304B, IPC and Section, 201, IPC was wholly
incorrect as it was not proved that Pinki had died a suspicious or un-natural
death within the seven years of her marriage nor was her body found. He also
contended that there was no question of demanding any dowry as no complaint was
ever made for dowry nor was there any evidence regarding the demands of dowry.
Lastly, he suggested that there 5 was no question of any offence having been committed.
He pointed out that the Trial Court had acquitted all the accused of the
offence under Section 302, IPC though a charge was also framed under that
Section and there was no appeal by the State Government against the acquittal
under Section 302, IPC. Under such circumstances, it was clear that the accused
persons could not be held responsible for the death of Pinki.
As against this, Ms. Aishwarya Bhati, Learned Counsel appearing on
behalf of the respondent pointed out that it could not be said that the death
did not take place within seven years of marriage as the accused himself had
admitted that the marriage had taken place six years prior to the trial.
further pointed out that there was a clear assertion made by the witnesses in
their evidence. More particularly, Vadehi Saran (PW 4), Janved Singh (PW-5),
Pratibha (PW-6) and Jitendra Singh (PW-8) had clearly asserted that the dowry
was asked for by the accused persons.
Counsel further contended that if Pinki had died of burning, a report ought to
have been made for un-natural death which the accused did not bother to make,
instead they had cremated the body of Pinki without even intimating the
relatives of the deceased and also without waiting for the police. This was the
most suspicious circumstance which pointed towards the guilt of the accused.
It is on the basis of these rival versions that it is to be seen
as to whether the appellant Dasrath was rightly convicted for the offence.
The first contention raised by the Learned Counsel for the defence
regarding the corpus delicti not being found was countered by Ms. Bhati by
saying that there can be no dispute about the death of Pinki. It is not the
defence of the accused that Pinki was still living. On the other hand, the accused
persons admittedly had cremated her body on the fateful day.
this is not a case, according to her, of corpus delicti not being found and,
therefore, there being a serious suspicion about the death having taken place
at all. The question is, in the absence of corpus delicti, could it be presumed
that the accused persons alone were responsible for the death of Pinki. We must
hasten to add here that the accused persons have already been acquitted of the
murder charge. What remains to be seen is as to whether Pinki died an
un-natural death within seven years of her marriage and whether her death was
attributable to the demand of dowry and further whether she was dealt with
cruelly soon before her death. If these ingredients are proved by the prosecution
then the conviction of the accused under Section 304B, IPC will be complete.
There can be no dispute that Pinki had died an un-natural death.
In fact there is enough evidence to suggest that Pinki suffered the burn
injuries. It is not the defence of the accused that she died a natural death.
the Courts have very specifically held that Pinki suffered burn injuries and
died because of the same. In fact Jitendra Singh (PW-8) was specific in his
evidence that Pinki was burning on account of the kerosene having been poured
on her body. In fact it is apparent from his cross-examination that when Pinki
shouted, neighbours rushed to her house. There can be no dispute that this
witness has been dis-believed and rightly so, insofar as his evidence about the
accused deliberately burning Pinki is concerned.
there can be no dispute that Pinki was burnt and it was clear that she had died
an un-natural death. Again, it is clear from the report of the chemical
analyzer that the kerosene residues were found from Packet-A which contained
the clothes of Pinki which were seized during the investigation. Therefore, it
is clear that Pinki's death was caused because of the burns and not in the
normal circumstances. The finding of the Trial Court and the appellate Court in
that behalf is correct. For this reason we are not impressed by the argument of
the Learned Counsel that in the absence of corpus delicti, the conviction could
not stand. Similarly, there can be no dispute that Pinki died within seven
years of her marriage.
Singh (PW-1) had specifically asserted that the marriage was performed 3-4
years prior to the incident. Though this witness was declared hostile, at least
the fact that marriage had taken place 3-4 years prior to the incident can be
safely accepted. According to PW-2, Bhagwati Saran also the marriage had taken
place within 5-6 years prior to trial.
even this witness was declared hostile. However, that claim remained
un-controverted. Third witness PW-3, Hari Saran asserted that the marriage was
performed 6-7 years earlier to the date of his evidence.
evidence was in May, 1997 and even taking that the marriage took place
somewhere in the year 1990, it would still be within seven years.
Saran, the father also said that the marriage had taken place 6-7 years prior
to the date of his evidence which was again 30.09.1997.
according to his evidence even if the marriage could date back to the year
1987, it would still put the death of Pinki within seven years of her marriage.
Therefore, it is certain that Pinki died an un-natural death by
burning within seven years of her marriage. As regards dowry, Learned Counsel
for the defence pointed out that there was no specific evidence nor was any
allegation made in the First Information Report. We are not much impressed as
we have seen from the evidence that there were demands of Buffalo made to
Vadehi Saran, father of Pinki who did not accept that demand. Vadehi Saran has
also specifically stated in his evidence that after 1 = years of the marriage
when he went to the house of Pinki in the month of Shravan, door was closed and
the appellants were beating Pinki and that the floor was smeared with blood and
blood was also oozing out from the mouth of Pinki. He also asserted about the
demand of a large 9 size television as the television which was given in
marriage was a small colour television. This evidence of torture is well
supported by the evidence of Pratibha (PW-6), Anant Ram Singh (PW-7) and Uttam
Singh (PW-9). In view of this, the Trial court and the appellate Court have
recorded that, firstly, Pinki died an un-natural death because of burning
within seven years of her marriage and, secondly concluded that she was
subjected to cruelty and harassment by her husband and/or relatives in
connection with the demand for dowry and that she was subjected to cruelty soon
before her death.
Similar is the case as regards the offence under Section 201, IPC.
In fact it was incumbent upon the accused persons to firstly, inform the police
about the un-natural death of Pinki. They did not do so. On the other hand,
even after her death, they did not inform either the police or even the
relatives like her father etc., though they could have done so. In stead they
hurriedly conducted the funeral thereby causing destruction of evidence.
In State of Rajasthan v. Jaggu Ram [2008 (12) SCC 51], this Court
has considered the circumstance about the non-information to the parents and
the hurried cremation. This was also a case where accused persons were tried
for offence under Section 304B, IPC, where the accused, after the death of the
unfortunate lady did not bother to inform her parents. In 10 paragraph 26, this
Court took a serious note of the manner in which the body was disposed of. The
Court observed "the disposal of the dead body in a hush-hush manner
clearly establishes that the accused had done so with the sole object of
concealing the real cause of death of Shanti @ Gokul."
In that case, the funeral was conducted in the wee hours. In this
case, funeral was conducted in the evening.
From all this, it is clear that the prosecution has not only
proved the offence under Section 304B, IPC with the aid of Section 113B, Indian
Evidence Act but also the offence under Section 201, IPC. We are satisfied that
all the three ingredients of Section 304B, IPC, they being:
the death of a woman has been caused by burns or bodily injury or occurs
otherwise than under normal circumstances;
such death has been caused or has occurred within seven years of her marriage;
soon before her death the woman was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her
husband or any relative of her husband in connection with any demand for dowry."
the presumption under Section 113B of India Evidence Act are fully established
the case of prosecution.
We have gone through the judgments of the Trial Court as well as
the appellate Court carefully and we find that both the Courts have fully
considered all the aspects of this matter. We, therefore, find nothing wrong
with the judgments and confirm the same. The appeal is, therefore, dismissed.
.......................................J. (V.S. Sirpurkar)
......................................J. (Dr. Mukundakam Sharma)