Narayana Rao Vs. State of A.P.  INSC 1280 (24 July 2009)
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 594
OF 2004 Undavali Narayana Rao .... Appellant Versus State of A.P. ....
This appeal has been filed against the judgment and order dated
22.10.2003 passed by the High Court of Andhra Pradesh at Hyderabad in Criminal
Appeal Nos.1692 of 2001 and 711 of 2002 whereby the High Court has affirmed the
judgment and order of the Sessions Judge, East Godavari District at Rajahmundry
dated 31.10.2001 in S.C. No.1 of 2000 where under the appellant has been
convicted for the offence under Section 498A Indian Penal Code (in short
"IPC") and sentenced to undergo R.I. for two years.
The facts and circumstances giving rise to this appeal are that a
private complaint was filed by Undavilli Veerayamma, PW.1/ complainant against
the appellant Undavalli Narayan Rao - the husband, and Undavalli Veerayamma @
Vijjamma - the mother-in-law of the deceased, Malathi Devi. Both of them are
alleged to have harassed the deceased for more dowry and due to the strained
relationship between the deceased and appellant, an agreement (Khararunama) was
executed, restraining the appellant from dealing with or alienating the
properties mentioned in the said "Khararunama". Subsequent to the
execution of said "Khararunama"
deceased restored marital relations with the appellant and they lived together
for nine years. During this period the deceased persistently complained about
the behaviour of the appellant and his mother, to her mother Smt. Undavilli
Veerayamma PW.1 and other relatives and the continuation of harassment at the
hands of the appellant and his mother.
It is alleged that the appellant killed his wife on 5.6.1999 and
stage managed a hanging to show that the deceased committed suicide. Her dead
body was hurriedly cremated with the assistance of co-accused Manyan Narayan
Rao, Valluri Gangadhar Rao and Chillikuri Rajasekhara Rao 3 without informing
the parents of the deceased who were away at Hyderabad and it was also alleged
that the close relatives of the deceased objected to the cremation but despite
their objections, the deceased was cremated.
After arrival of the parents of the deceased, a dispute arose and
when the mother of the deceased Smt. Undavilli Veerayamma PW.1 was about to
file a criminal case against the accused persons, a mediator attempted
conciliation between the parties, as a result whereof some land was parted with
through a registered document by the appellant in favour of the minor child of
the deceased as a consideration for not filing a criminal case.
subsequently the appellant refused to allow the minor child to be with her
maternal grandparents. Thereafter Smt. Undavilli Veerayamma PW.1 approached the
Police Station for registering an FIR and since there was abnormal delay, the
police refused to register the case as a result of which she filed a private
complaint, on the basis of which P.R.C.27/99 before the Additional J.F.C.
Magistrate, Peddapuram came to the Court for trial.
After committal, the case was proceeded with. Charges under
Section 302 read with 34 IPC against the appellant and his mother, and under 4
Section 201 IPC against all the five accused were framed, to which the accused
pleaded not guilty. During the course of the trial, the Public Prosecutor
prayed for framing of an additional charge under Section 498A IPC, which was
accordingly framed against the appellant and his mother.
To prove the prosecution case against the accused, 11 witnesses
were examined. Upon a full scale trial, the trial court came to the conclusion
that the charges under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC against the
appellant, his mother or any other co-accused were not made out. The appellant
alone was found guilty and convicted for the offence under Section 498A IPC,
and was awarded a sentence of R.I. for two years vide judgment and order dated
31.10.2001. The trial against co-accused Manyan Narayan Rao abated due to his
death during the pendency of the case.
Aggrieved by the finding of guilt recorded by the Trial Court for
the offence under Section 498A IPC, the appellant preferred Criminal Appeal
No.1612 of 2001. The State preferred Criminal Appeal No.711 of 2002 against the
acquittal in respect of all the other charges levelled against the appellant
and others. The High Court vide its judgment and order dated 22.10.2003
affirmed the judgment and order dated 31.10.2001 passed by the trial court i.e.
dismissed both the appeals. The State has not challenged the 5 judgment and
order of the High Court passed in its appeal. It is only the appellant who has
filed this appeal against the conviction and sentence as affirmed by the High
Court limited to the charge under Section 498A IPC.
Shri A.T.M. Rangaramanujam, learned senior counsel appearing for
the appellant has submitted that the prosecution has miserably failed to prove
the charge under Section 498A IPC against the appellant. The courts below have
erred in disbelieving Chy Undavalli Nanda Anuradha Sai Krishna DW.1 the
daughter of the appellant, and also the other witnesses on the issue that
appellant's wife died of a natural death resulting from a stomach ache. After
execution of an agreement dated 14.3.1990 there was no complaint either of
harassment or cruelty; no demand had ever been made for dowry. There was
inordinate delay in lodging the criminal case by the family of the deceased.
Therefore, the appeal deserves to be allowed.
On the contrary, Shri D. Rama Krishna Reddy, learned counsel
appearing for the state has vehemently opposed the contentions raised by the
learned senior counsel for the appellant and contended that both the courts
below rightly disbelieved the daughter of the appellant who was merely a child
of 8= years labeling her as a "tutored witness". From the date of 6
marriage till her death, the wife had been continuously harassed and subjected
to mental and physical torture by the appellant. The appellant was a habitual
drunkard and misbehaved with his wife, which forced her to commit suicide.
Therefore, the appeal has no merit and is liable to be dismissed.
We have considered the rival submissions made by learned counsel
for the parties and perused the record.
The provisions of Section 498A IPC read as under :
Husband 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.
- For the 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;
harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her to
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."
has been defined by the explanation added to the Section itself. The basic
ingredients of Section 498A I.P.C. are cruelty and harassment. The elements of
cruelty so far as clause (a) is concerned, have been classified as follows:
`wilful' conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to
commit suicide; or (ii) any `wilful' conduct which is likely to cause grave
injury to the woman; or (iii) any `wilful' act which is likely to cause danger
to life, limb or health, whether physical or mental of the woman.
purpose of clause (b) the essential ingredients are as under:
harassment of a married woman (II) With a view to coercing her or any person
related to her to meet the unlawful demand of dowry or for any property or
valuable security or on account of her failure or failure of any person related
to her to meet such a demand.
it is evident that the charge under Section 498A can be brought home if the
essential ingredients either in clause (a) or (b) or both are found duly
In S. Hanumantha Rao v. S. Ramani, AIR 1999 SC 1318, this Court
considered the meaning of cruelty in the context of the provisions under
Section13 of the Hindu Marriage
Act, 1955 and observed that :
cruelty broadly means, when either party causes mental pain, agony or suffering
of such a magnitude that it severs the bond between the wife and husband and as
a result of which it becomes impossible for the party who has suffered to live
with the other party. In other words, the party who has committed wrong is not
expected to live with the other party."
In V. Bhagat v. Mrs. D. Bhagat, AIR 1994 SC 710, this court, while
dealing with the issue of cruelty in the context of Section 13 of the Hindu
Marriage Act, observed as under :
.......It is not necessary to prove that the mental cruelty is such as to cause
injury to the health of the petitioner. While arriving at such conclusion,
regard must be had to the social status, educational level of the parties, the
society they move in, the possibility or otherwise of the parties ever living
together in case they are already living apart and all other relevant facts and
circumstances which it is neither possible nor desirable to set out
exhaustively. What is cruelty in one case may not amount to cruelty in another
case. It is a matter to be determined in each case having regard to the facts
and circumstances of that case. If it is a case of accusations and allegations,
regard must also be had to the context in which they were made........... The
context and the set up in which the word `cruelty' has been used in the section
seems to us, that intention is not necessary element in cruelty. That word has
to be understood in the ordinary sense of the term in matrimonial affairs. If
the intention to harm, harass or hurt could be inferred by the nature of the
conduct or brutal act complained of, cruelty could be easily established. But
the absence of intention should not make any difference in the case, if by
ordinary sense in human affairs, the act complained of could otherwise be
regarded as cruelty."
In Mohd. Hoshan v. State of A.P.; (2002) 7 SCC 414, this Court
while dealing with the similar issue held that mental or physical torture
should be "continuously" practiced by the accused on the wife. The
Court further observed as under :
one spouse has been guilty of cruelty to the other is essentially a question of
fact. The impart of complaints, accusations or taunts on a person amounting to
cruelty depends on various factors like the sensitivity of the individual
victim concerned, the social background, the environment, education etc.
Further, mental cruelty varies from person to 9 person depending on the
intensity of sensitivity and the degree of courage or endurance to withstand
such mental cruelty. In other words, each case has to be decided on its own
facts to decide whether the mental cruelty was established or not."
In Smt. Raj Rani v. State (Delhi Administration); AIR 2000 SC
3559, this Court held that while considering the case of cruelty in the context
to the provisions of Section 498A I.P.C., the court must examine that
allegations/accusations must be of a very grave nature and should be proved
beyond reasonable doubt.
In Sushil Kumar Sharma vs. Union of India, AIR 2005 SC 3100, this
Court explained the distinction of cruelty as provided under Section 306 and
498A IPC observing that under Section 498A cruelty committed by the husband or
his relation drive woman to commit suicide etc. while under Section 306 IPC,
suicide is abated and intended. Therefore, there is a basic difference of the
intention in application of the said provisions.
In Girdhar Shankar Tawade v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 2002 SC
2078; this Court held that "cruelty" has to be understood having a
specific statutory meaning provided in Section 498A I.P.C. and there should be
a case of continuous state of affairs of torture by one to another. In
explanation "b", there is absence of physical injury but it includes
coercive 10 harassment for demand of dowry etc. therefore the aforesaid
provisions deal with patent and latent acts of the husband or his family
members. But both are equally serious in terms of the provisions of the
Provisions of Section 498A IPC were introduced by an amendment to
curb the harassment of a woman by her husband and/or his family members, for
demand of dowry etc. under the garb of fulfillment of the customary
The instant case is required to be examined in the light of the
settled legal propositions. The appellant was married to Malathi Devi
(Deceased) on 14.6.1987. It is evident from the evidence on record that a dowry
passed on to the appellant consisting of Rs.50,000/- cash, Ac.3.00 of wet land
and Ac.6-00 of mango tope along with 50 tolas of gold and 2 kgs. of silver. It
is also revealed in the evidence on record, that after about two years of the
marriage, the deceased was being harassed by the appellant as well as by his
mother. There was a demand that the property in her name be sold and deceased
should bring more money from her parents. The deceased was beaten by the
appellant and was forced out of the house. The deceased Malathi Devi complained
to her mother and other family members that the 11 appellant was always drunk
and ill-treated her. However, by the intervention of the elder members of the
community, the matter was resolved and an agreement dated 14.3.1990 was
executed to the effect that the immovable properties owned by the husband and
wife would be preserved for their children and none of them would alienate any
part of any property in their names. However, they would have a right to enjoy
its usufruct. After sometime, the appellant and his mother started pressurising
the deceased to alienate the land in contravention of the said agreement and
she should bring money from her parents. The appellant's mother also threatened
the deceased that in case she did not agree for the said transfer of land, she
would remarry her son with another girl. The deceased left her matrimonial home
on 25.5.1999. However, she was taken aback by her family members on 26.5.1999
and in consultation with the family members of the appellant and by
intervention of certain other persons, the dispute was pacified. It was
resolved that there would be no quarrel in future.
when the family members of the deceased had gone to Hyderabad, Malathi was
found dead on 5th June, 1999. She was cremated on 6th June, 1999 hurriedly
without being subjected to any post mortem autopsy and without any information
to the family members of the deceased. When the family members of the deceased
came and met the appellant, his mother 12 and other family members attempted to
resolve the dispute, and not to report the matter to the police and for that
consideration, the appellant and his mother agreed to transfer the immovable
property of the appellant in the name of the only child of the deceased. As a
consequence Ex.P.2 dated 15th June, 1999 was executed and registered purporting
to be a partition deed between the appellant and his minor daughter Chy
Undavilli Nanda Anuradha Sai Krishna DW.1. According to the said partition deed
about Ac.11.69 cents land was given to the daughter. After sometime, it came to
the knowledge of the family members of the deceased that the child was not
being treated properly, therefore, they approached the appellant's family and
made an attempt to take the child in their custody but the appellant did not
agree for it. Thus, the mother of the deceased filed the criminal complaint and
in exercise of the power under Section 156(3) Code of Criminal Procedure, the
court directed for investigation.
The Trial Court was fully satisfied with the explanation for delay
in launching the criminal prosecution. Admittedly there was a delay of about 2
months but it was fully explained by the witnesses particularly, Undavilli
Veerayamma (PW1), Undavilli Vara Prasada Ramachandra Murthy (PW2), Goli Ammanna
Chowdary (PW3) and Kakara Krishnamurthy (PW8) that the 13 appellant had
transferred the land in the name of the minor child and as agreed upon, no
criminal case was to be filed. Subsequently, when the appellant and his mother
did not take care of the child properly, the complaint was filed. There is
evidence on record that legal proceedings had also been initiated by the family
members of the deceased seeking custody of the child. A civil suit was also
filed to restrain the appellant from transferring the immovable property in
favour of any other person by any means.
The Trial Court came to the conclusion that Chy Undavalli Nanda Anuradha
Sai Krishna DW.1, born on 1.1.1991, the only child of the appellant and
deceased, deposed falsely to save her father and other family members and she
was merely a "tutored witness". There were other circumstances that
the child was in bed with her grandmother, and not with her mother, when the
deceased was allegedly complaining of a stomach ache. No medical evidence was
led to establish that the deceased was ailing so seriously from before.
The independent witnesses deposed that when they came to know that
Malathi Devi had died, they reached the place of occurrence and witnessed that
the room in which her dead body was found, had been opened by lifting 14 the
lever from inside. The body of the deceased was in a sitting posture on a
double cot on her knees, and hanging from a fan tied with a sari. It was,
therefore, inferred that it was a case of suicide as otherwise; there was no
occasion to bolt the room from inside.
Taking into consideration various other circumstances,
particularly, the agreement dated 14.3.1990, the Trial Court came to the
conclusion that the relations between the husband and the wife were not
cordial, and that she had been harassed to meet the unlawful demand of the
appellant as he wanted to dispose of the immovable property and compel the
deceased to fetch more money from her parents. The execution of the deed dated
15.6.1999 (Ex.P.1) was enough to show that it had been executed in order to
restrain the family members of the deceased to launch criminal prosecution against
the appellant. The Court also took other circumstances into account, that the
death of the deceased was in the house of the appellant; neither the appellant
nor his mother made any attempt to inform the family members of the deceased
about the death; her dead body had been cremated hurriedly without any autopsy
having been conducted; there were independent witnesses like Sunkara Nagaraju
(PW5) etc. and came to the conclusion that she had been harassed/coerced to the
extent that Malathi committed suicide.
court rightly found the charge under Section 498-A fully proved against the
The High Court after appreciating the entire evidence concurred
with the findings recorded by the Trial Court. We do not see any cogent reason
to take a view contrary to the one taken by the courts below. The appeal is
devoid of any merit and is, accordingly, dismissed. Appellant is on bail. His
bail bonds and surety bonds are cancelled. He shall be taken into custody to
serve out the remaining sentence.
.....................................J (Dr. Mukundakam Sharma)
............................J (Dr. B.S. Chauhan)
July 24, 2009.
No. : Criminal Appeal No. 594 of 2004
of decision : 24.7.2009
Title : Undavali Narayana Rao vs.
: Hon'ble Dr. Justice Mukundakam Sharma Hon'ble Dr. Justice B.S. Chauhan
of C.A.V. : 28.5.2009
Judgment delivered Hon'ble Dr. Justice B.S. Chauhan by :