Meera vs State By the Inspector of Police Thiruvotriyur Police Station Chennai

Meera vs State By the Inspector of Police Thiruvotriyur Police Station Chennai - Supreme Court Case 2022 
REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 31 OF 2022
Meera ...Appellant(s)
Versus
State By the Inspector of Police
Thiruvotriyur Police Station Chennai ...Respondent(s)
J U D G M E N T
M.R. SHAH, J.
1. Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned judgment
and order passed by the High Court of Judicature at Madras dated
30.04.2019 passed in Criminal Appeal No. 748 of 2010 by which the
High Court has dismissed the said appeal so far as the appellant –
original accused No.2 is concerned, upholding the judgment and order
passed by the Trial Court convicting her for the offence under Section
498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the original accused No.2 –
mother-in-law of the deceased has preferred the present appeal.
2. As per the case of the prosecution, a complaint was lodged by
PW-1 Ramathilagam, mother of the victim therein alleging that all the
accused – her son-in-law, his mother, her daughter and father-in-law
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were harassing the deceased and she was subjected to torture/cruelty
for want of jewels. It was alleged that due to which her daughter had
immolated herself. She was taken to the hospital, however, she
succumbed to the injuries. All the accused were charged for the
offences under Sections 498A and 306 IPC. After investigation, the
Investigating Officer filed the charge sheet against accused Nos. 1 to 4
for the offences under Sections 498A and 306 of IPC.
2.1 The case was committed to the Court of Sessions, which was
numbered as Sessions Case No. 203 of 2008. The Trial Court framed
the charge against the accused for the aforesaid offences. The accused
pleaded not guilty and, therefore, they claimed to be tried by the Trial
Court for the aforesaid offences.
2.2 To bring home the charges against the accused, the prosecution
examined in all 16 witnesses. The prosecution also brought on record
documentary evidence through the aforesaid witnesses. After
completion of the evidences on the side of the prosecution, the
statements of the accused under Section 313 Cr.P.C. were recorded.
The accused pleaded total denial and stated that they had been falsely
implicated in the case. The Trial Court on appreciation of evidence
acquitted accused No. 4, however, it convicted accused Nos. 1 to 3 for
the offences punishable under Sections 498A and 306 IPC. The Trial
Court sentenced the accused to undergo one year R.I. with a fine of
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Rs.1,000/- for the offence under Section 498A IPC and three years R.I.
with a fine of Rs.2,000/- for the offence under Section 306 IPC. The Trial
Court also imposed default sentence in case of failure to pay the fine.
2.3 Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the judgment and order of
conviction and sentence imposed by the Trial Court, accused No. 1,
husband of the deceased, accused No. 2, mother-in-law of the victim
and accused No. 3, sister-in-law of the victim preferred the appeal before
the High Court. By impugned judgment and order, the High Court has
partly allowed the said appeal and has acquitted all the accused for the
offence under Section 306 IPC. By the impugned judgment and order,
the High Court has also set aside the conviction in respect of accused
Nos. 1 and 3 for the offence under Section 498A IPC. However, the High
Court has maintained the conviction and sentence in respect of accused
No. 2 for the offence under Section 498A IPC.
2.4 Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned judgment
and order passed by the High Court, dismissing the appeal of accused
No.2 and confirming the judgment and order passed by the Trial Court
convicting her for the offence under Section 498A IPC, the original
accused No.2, mother-in-law of the victim has preferred the present
appeal.
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3. We have heard Shri S. Nagamuthu, learned Senior Advocate
appearing on behalf of the appellant – original accused No.2. Though
served, nobody has appeared on behalf of the respondent State.
4. Shri Nagamuthu, learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of
the appellant has vehemently submitted that in the facts and
circumstances of the case, both, the Trial Court as well as the High
Court have erred in holding the appellant guilty for the offence under
Section 498A of the IPC.
4.1 It is submitted that considering the fact that the injuries sustained
by the deceased were deep and to the extent of 96%, she would not
have been in a position to make any statement. It is submitted that the
Hon’ble High Court when disbelieved the evidence of PW-1 to PW-3
while acquitting the other accused, the same yardstick ought to have
been applied in the case of the appellant also.
4.2 It is submitted that in fact the deceased did not want her husband
-A1 to go back to Saudi Arabia and for that she quarreled with her
husband and other family members, which was the root cause of
dispute/quarrel, which led to her committing suicide. It is submitted that
the domestic quarrel on account of the insistence of the deceased that
her husband - accused No. 1 should not go back to Saudi Arabia would
not amount to harassment in terms of Section 498A IPC.
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4.3 In the alternative, it is prayed by Shri Nagamuthu, learned Senior
Advocate appearing on behalf of the appellant – mother-in-law of the
victim that the appellant is an old lady, who is now 80 years old and,
therefore, if this Court is not inclined to interfere with the conviction, in
that case, a lenient view may be taken while imposing the sentence.
5. We have heard Shri Nagamuthu, learned Senior Advocate
appearing for the appellant at length.
6. We have also gone through and considered the judgment and
order of conviction passed by the Trial Court as well as the impugned
judgment and order passed by the High Court holding the appellant –
accused No. 2 – mother in-law guilty for the offence under Section 498A
IPC. We have also gone through the depositions of relevant witnesses
namely PW-1 to PW-3.
7. Having gone through the material on record and the findings
recorded by the Trial Court, we are of the opinion that it has been
established and proved that the deceased was subjected to
torture/cruelty by the appellant – mother-in-law with regard to jewels.
PW-1 – mother of the victim in her evidence has clearly stated that her
daughter was frequently subjected to harassment by her mother-in-law
for not adorning jewels. Similar is the deposition of PW-2 – father of the
victim. Both the aforesaid witnesses were subjected to crossexamination. However, after detailed cross-examination, they have
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stood by what they have stated. Therefore, both of them and even PW-3
have fully supported the case of the prosecution. There are concurrent
findings of facts recorded by both the Courts below on the harassment
and/or torture and/or cruelty by the appellant – accused No. 2 with
regard to jewels. The findings recorded by both the Courts below are on
appreciation of evidence, therefore, we are of the opinion that the
appellant has been rightly held guilty for the offence under Section 498A
IPC.
8. Now, in so far as the alternative submission made on behalf of the
accused to take a lenient view looking to the age of the appellant is
concerned, it is required to be noted that as such the Trial Court has
imposed the sentence of one year R.I. for the offence under Section
498A. However, the punishment could have been upto three years R.I.
At the time when the incident occurred, the appellant was approximately
between 60-65 years. The incident is of the year 2006. Therefore,
merely because long time has passed in concluding the trial and/or
deciding the appeal by the High Court, is no ground not to impose the
punishment and/or to impose the sentence already undergone. It is to
be noted that the appellant – mother-in-law is held to be guilty for the
offence under Section 498A of IPC. Being a lady, the appellant, who
was the mother-in-law, ought to have been more sensitive vis-à-vis her
daughter-in-law. When an offence has been committed by a woman by
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meting out cruelty to another woman, i.e., the daughter-in-law, it
becomes a more serious offence. If a lady, i.e., the mother-in-law herein
does not protect another lady, the other lady, i.e., daughter-in-law would
become vulnerable. In the present case, even the husband of the victim
was staying abroad. The victim was staying all alone with her in-laws.
Therefore, it was the duty of the appellant, being the mother-in-law and
her family to take care of her daughter-in-law, rather than harassing
and/or torturing and/or meting out cruelty to her daughter-in-law
regarding jewels or on other issues. Therefore, as such, no leniency is
required to be shown to the appellant in this case. There must be some
punishment for the reasons stated hereinabove. However, considering
the fact that the incident is of the year 2006 and at present the appellant
is reported to be approximately 80 years old, in the peculiar facts and
circumstances of the case, as a mitigating circumstance, we propose to
reduce the sentence from one year R.I. to three months R.I. with fine
imposed by the Trial Court to be maintained.
9. In view of the above and for the reasons stated above, the present
appeal succeeds in part. The conviction of the appellant – original
accused No.2 – mother-in-law is hereby confirmed/maintained. However,
instead of one year R.I. for the offence under Section 498A IPC, the
appellant is directed to undergo imprisonment of three months R.I. with
fine and the default sentence as imposed by the Trial Court. As the
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appellant is on bail, her bail bond stands cancelled and the appellant
shall now surrender before the appropriate Court / jail authority to
undergo the sentence as per the present order within a period of four
weeks from today. The present appeal is partly allowed to the aforesaid
extent. Pending applications, if any, also stand disposed.

………………………………….J.
 [M.R. SHAH]
NEW DELHI; ………………………………….J.
JANUARY 11, 2022. [B.V. NAGARATHNA]
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