Balwant Singh &
Ors. Vs. State of H.P.  INSC 1658 (29 September 2008)
IN THE SUPREME COURT
OF INDIA CRIMINAL APPELALTE JURISDICTION CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 831 OF 2001
Balwant Singh and Ors. ....Appellants Versus State of H.P. ....Respondent
Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT,
this appeal challenge is to the judgment of a learned Single Judge of the
Himachal Pradesh High Court holding each of the appellants guilty of offence
punishable underSection 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (in short the `IPC')
while setting aside the conviction and the sentence imposed in respect of
Section 306 IPC.
facts in a nutshell are as follows:
appellants-accused were tried for offences punishable under Sections 498A, 304B
and 306 IPC. Accused No.1 Balwant Singh was father-in-law, accused No.4-Kanta
Devi was mother-in-law, accused No.3-Ravinder Singh was brother-in-law and
accused No.2-Anup Singh was husband of Renu Bala (hereinafter referred to as
the `deceased'). The deceased was daughter of one Gurdayal Singh and Kamla
Devi. She was married to A-2, Anup Singh on July 6, 1992 in accordance with the
Hindu rites and rituals. After few days of her marriage, when Renu Bala visited
the house of her parents, she complained as to how accused persons were treating
her with cruelty by putting demands for refrigerator and scooter as dowry. It
was alleged that on January 5, 1993, Kamla Devi, mother of Renu Bala came to
know from Tilak Raj, her brother-in-law that Renu Bala was admitted in a
hospital at Gagret. She, therefore, along with Tilak Raj went to the hospital,
but Renu Bala was not there, and they came to know that Renu Bala was taken to
Patohar Kalan, the village where the accused were staying. Both of them then
went to the residence of the accused and found Renu Bala lying dead in verandah
of the house of the accused and none of the accused was there. Kamla Devi
suspected foul play that her daughter Renu Bala was either killed or was
compelled to commit suicide by consuming poison on account of their unlawful
demand of dowry by the accused and by treating her with cruelty. She,
therefore, lodged a report with the police Ex.PW-3/A under Section 154 of the
Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (in short the `Code') at Police Station, Una,
which was registered as formal F.I.R. vide Ex.PW-11/A. After registration of
the case, the investigation started. The police went to the spot, prepared
inquest report and rough spot map of the place where dead body of Renu Bala was
found. The Investigating officer also took into possession vomit of Renu Bala
and the clothes worn by her at the time of vomiting prior to her death. Two
letters, which were produced by Devinder Singh, were also taken in possession.
Postmortem was conducted by Dr. Vijay Kumar Raizda, which revealed that Renu
Bala was having pregnancy of fourteen to sixteen weeks.
He reserved his
opinion regarding cause of death till receipt of report of Chemical Analyser.
After receiving the report, Dr. Gurcharan Singh opined that cause of death was
peripheral circulatory failure due to aluminum phosphide which was sufficient
cause of death in natural course of events. Further investigation was conducted
by ASI, Jarnail Singh, who obtained two letters produced by Gurdyal Singh,
father of deceased Renu Bala. He submitted a report under Section 173 of the
Code in the Court of learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Una, who committed the
case to the Court of learned Sessions Judge, Una, vide his order dated April
After hearing the
learned Public Prosecutor for the State as well as learned defence counsel, a
charge was framed against the accused for the offences punishable under
Sections 498-A, 304-B and 306 of the IPC and they were asked as to whether they
4 The accused did
not plead guilty to the charge and claimed to be tried.
order to prove its case the prosecution examined 16 witnesses. After the
prosecution evidence was closed statements of the accused persons were recorded
in terms of the Section 313 of the Code. Six witnesses were examined to establish
their innocence. From the suggestions put during cross examination the accused
persons tried to make out a case that deceased was suffering from epilepsy and
frustrated by her life she committed suicide. The trial court as noted above
held the accused persons guilty of offences punishable under Section 498A and
306 IPC while directing acquittal of the charge in terms of Section 304-B IPC.
In appeal after referring to the evidence High Court came to hold that the
offence under Section 306 is not made out.
counsel for the appellants submitted that there is no evidence of any overt act
by A-3. The letters Exh.PW-5/A and PW-5/C show that there was no demand of
dowry but there was improper treatment.
counsel for the appellants further pointed out that having held that the
appellants were not guilty of offence punishable under Section 306 IPC there is
no scope for convicting the appellants under Section 498A IPC.
counsel for the State on the other hand supported the judgment of the High
Court. Section 498A reads as follows:
or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty- Whoever, being the
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.
Explanation - For the
purpose 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 6 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."
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 498A IPC. Cruelty has been defined in the Explanation for the
purpose of Section 498A.
498A IPC and presumptive Section 113B of the Evidence Act have been inserted in
the respective statutes by Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, 1983. It is to
be noted that Sections 304B and 498A, 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 498A gives the meaning of `cruelty'. In Section 304B
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 498A under which `cruelty' by itself amounts to an offence. Under
Section 304B it is `dowry death' that is punishable and such death should have
occurred within seven years of marriage. No such period is mentioned in Section
498A. A person charged and acquitted under Section 304B can be convicted under
Section 498A without that charge being there, if such a case is made out. If
the case is established, there can be a conviction under both the sections.
(See Akula Ravinder and others v. The State of Andhra Pradesh (AIR 1991 SC
1142). Section 498A IPC and Section 113B of the Evidence Act include in their
amplitude past events of cruelty. Period of operation of Section 113B 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.
8 The above position
was highlighted in M. Srinivasulu v. State of Andhra Pradesh (AIR 2007 SC
analyzing of the evidence it is clear that there is no material to establish
the guilt of A-3 i.e. brother-in-law of the deceased. Consequently he stands
acquitted of the charge. So far as other three accused persons are concerned,
the accusations have been established by the evidence of PWs 3, 4 and 5, the
documentary evidence and the exhibited letters and the convictions recorded so
far as they are concerned cannot be faulted.
is to be noted that the High Court has imposed sentence of one year.
Considering the age of the father-in-law and mother-in-law (A-1 and A-4) and
the period of sentence already undergone by them while upholding the conviction
the sentence is reduced to the period already undergone. The appeal stands
dismissed so far as A-2 is concerned.
appeal is disposed of accordingly.
(Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT)