Court Name: Bombay High Court
Coram: Justice S.S. Shinde and Justice N.B. Suryawanshi
Theme: Does the mere fact that wife committed suicide within seven years of marriage mean that it is dowry death or abetment of suicide
Subject: Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
FACTS OF STATE OF MAHARASHTRA V LAXMAN KASHINATH GHUGE AND ORS
Alka (deceased) was married to Laxman (accused no.1) on 08/05/1997. During the settlement of marriage of Alka and Laxman, Alka’s father agreed to give half tola gold ring and Rs 41,000 as dowry, of Rs 41,000, Rs 30,000 was supposed to be given before marriage for purchasing of the clothes and balance amount of Rs 11,000 after marriage. The half tola gold ring was given to the accused at the time of Sakharpuda Ceremony (engagement). After marriage initially for 2-3 months Alka was treated properly by her in-laws, thereafter Laxman, Thakubai (Laxman’s mother), and Rajendra (Laxman’s brother) started harassing her. They ill-treated her and asked her to bring the balance amount of Rs 11,000 as dowry from her father. She went to her parental house almost 7-8 times and asked for the remaining amount of dowry. However, her father due to financial difficulty was unable to pay the amount, and would thus promise her every time to pay the remaining amount after the agricultural produce, and thereby send her back. Unable to get the remaining amount she was ill-treated by her in-laws, additionally Laxman (accused no.1) used to manhandle her. Thus, for one last time she was sent to her parental house by Laxman on 29/11/1998 to bring the remaining amount of dowry latest by 01/12/1998. However, Alka’s father sent her back on 02/12/1998 to her matrimonial home with his nephew without giving the balance amount of dowry. Upon reaching her matrimonial home she was questioned by her husband (Laxman) as to whether she had bought the money, to which she refused stating that her father could not arrange, to which Laxman abused her. Somnath (Alka’s fathers’ nephew) left from Alka’s house and went to Panhal-Sathe village. Thereafter, on the same day a person from Alka’s village went to Panhal-Sathe and informed Somnath of Alka’s death, other two people went to her parental house to inform her parents. After receiving the news Shivaji (Alka’s father) along with some of his relatives went to her matrimonial home and brought the body of Alka to their house.
ISSUES IN STATE OF MAHARASHTRA V LAXMAN KASHINATH GHUGE AND ORS
When the wife commits suicide within seven years of marriage does that necessarily mean that its abetment of suicide or dowry death.
- It stated that the Sessions Judge has erred in acquitting the accused and did not consider the material on record.
- It stated that the Judge did not apply his mind while examining the oral and documentary evidence on record.
- It submitted that the prosecution has proved that the accused used to harass, torture mentally, ill-treat Alka upon non-payment of partial amount of dowry. It further submitted that Alka had died within seven years of marriage.
- It submitted that the prosecution had examined independent witnesses and proved the amount of dowry that was fixed to be paid to the accused. The material on record is sufficient to prove that it was a dowry death.
- It stated that the decision of the Sessions Judge to acquit the accused was not appropriate and that acquitting the accused of the offence punishable under Sections 304-B, 498-A and 306 r/w 34 of the IPC, must be set aside.
- It submitted that the appeal filed by the appellant must be allowed.
- It submitted that the death of Alka was not suicidal but accidental.
- It stated that the well in the field of the accused was slippery and that that the well was not constructed properly, and also there is a heap of rocks between the well and the house and near the well there were lemon trees. Thus, Alka might have fallen in the well accidentally while plucking the lemons from the tree.
- It submitted that the appellant while lodging a complaint did not mention that Rs 41,000 was demanded as dowry, and that Alka used to often complaint of the ill-treatment meted out to her by her in-laws.
JUDGEMENT: STATE OF MAHARASHTRA V LAXMAN KASHINATH GHUGE AND ORS
- The fact that Alka falling into well was accidental and not suicide cannot be believed as when Alka knew that the well was slippery she would not go there to either pluck lemons or wash clothes and utensils. Thus, it’s a fact that Alka had committed suicide
- The prosecution has failed to prove that there is a link between Alka’s suicide and cruelty on the part of the accused, i.e. the prosecution neither has sufficient witnesses nor adequate evidence to prove that Alka’s in-laws had provoked her to commit suicide. Thus, there was no point in interfering in the decision of the Trial Court of acquitting the accused.
- The appeal filed by the appellant shall fail. There is no merit in the appeal.
- The Criminal Appeal stands dismissed. Bail bonds, if any, shall stand cancelled.
Contributed by: Falgu Mukati (Pravin Gandhi College of Law)