State of Madhya Pradesh vs Jogendra

State of Madhya Pradesh vs Jogendra Supreme Court Case 2022

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
STATE OF MADHYA PRADESH ….. APPELLANT
VERSUS
JOGENDRA & ANR. ….. RESPONDENTS
J U D G M E N T
Hima Kohli, J.
1. The present appeal has been preferred by the State of Madhya
Pradesh, being aggrieved by the judgment dated 10th September, 2008
passed by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, whereby the judgment of
conviction and sentence dated 17th December, 2003 imposed by the
learned Additional Sessions Judge on the original accused No.1,
Jogendra – husband of the deceased, Geeta Bai[respondent No. 1
herein] and the original accused No.2, Badri Prasad – father-in-law of
the deceased[respondent No. 2 herein] has been set aside under
Sections 304-B and 306 of the Indian Penal Code,1
 while maintaining the
order of conviction imposed on the original accused no. 1 – Jogendra
1 For short ‘IPC’
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CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
under Section 498-A IPC and reducing the sentence from three years to
the period already undergone by him, but setting aside the conviction
and sentence imposed on the accused No. 2, Badri Prasad even under
Section 498-A IPC.
2. A quick glance of the relevant facts is necessitated. The
deceased was 18 years old when she got married to the respondent No.
1 [A1] in a social marriage organisation function2
 conducted on 7th May,
1998. Before her marriage, Geeta Bai along with her mother, Kamla Bai
and her brother used to reside with her maternal uncle, Bansi Lal [PW1]. In less than four years of her marriage, Geeta Bai committed suicide
at her matrimonial home by pouring kerosene oil and setting herself on
fire. She was admitted in a burnt condition in the Community Health
Centre, Baroda on 20th April, 2002 and breathed her last on the same
day. At that time, she was five months pregnant. On receiving
information from the attending doctor, an FIR was lodged on 23rd April,
2002 [Exhibit P-13]. On completion of the investigation, the chargesheet was filed and the case was committed for trial in the Sessions
Court.
3. After examining the evidence produced by the prosecution and the
defence, the trial Court acquitted Sushila [A-3] – mother-in-law and
2 Samuhik VIvaah Sammelan
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CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
Jitender [A-4] – brother-in-law of the deceased, but convicted both the
respondents[A-1 and A-2] [husband and father-in-law of the deceased]
under Sections 304-B, 306 and 498-A IPC and imposed a sentence of
rigorous imprisonment3
 for life for the first offence, RI for a period of
seven years with fine for the second offence and RI for three years with
fine for the third offence. The conviction and sentence imposed on the
respondents was primarily based on the evidence of Bansi Lal [P.W.-1],
Shyam Bihari [P.W.-2] and Amrit Lal [P.W.-4], maternal uncles of the
deceased who stated that the respondents had been demanding money
from the deceased for constructing a house which her family members
were unable to give. As a result, she was constantly harassed and
subjected to cruelty, finally leading to her committing suicide. Dr. V.K.
Garg [P.W.-8], who had conducted the post-mortem examination [Ex. P7] on the dead body of the deceased, had deposed that on examining
the uterus, there was a foetus of five months in a dead condition and, in
his opinion, the death of Geeta Bai had taken place due to burning.
4. On the respondents preferring an appeal against the judgment of
conviction dated 17th December, 2003 passed by the Sessions Court, the
High Court gave a clean chit to the respondent No. 2 [A-2], while setting
aside the order of conviction in respect of the respondent No.1 [A-1]
under Sections 304B and 306 IPC. However, the conviction of the
3 For short ‘RI’
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CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
respondent No.1 was sustained under Section 498-A IPC, but the
sentence of RI for three years imposed on him was reduced to the period
already undergone by him. For arriving at such a conclusion, the High
Court was persuaded by the rulings in K. Prema S. Rao and Another v.
 Yadla Srinivasa Rao and Others4
, Saro Rana and Others v. State of
 Jharkhand5
 and Appasaheb and Another v. State of Maharashtra6
and held that the demand of money for construction of a house cannot
be treated as a demand for dowry. The High Court agreed with the
submission made by the learned counsel for A-1 and A-2, respondents
herein that the offence under Section 304-B was not established against
them as the demand allegedly made on the deceased was for money to
construct a house, which cannot be treated as a dowry demand for
connecting her death to the said cause. The respondents were also
acquitted for the offence under Section 306 IPC as the High Court was of
the opinion that, from a scrutiny of the depositions of P.W.-1, P.W.-2,
P.W.-4 and P.W.-6, there was nothing to sustain the conclusion that the
respondents had abetted the deceased to commit suicide. As for the
offence under Section 498-A relating to cruelty meted out to the
deceased, the High Court acquitted the respondent No. 2, while
maintaining the conviction order in respect of the respondent No. 1.
4 (2003) 1 SCC 217
5 2005 Crl.L.J. 65 delivered by a Division Bench of the High Court of Jharkhand
6 (2007) 9 SCC 721
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CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
Aggrieved by the said judgment, the present appeal has been filed by the
State of Madhya Pradesh.
5. Mr. Prashant Singh, learned Advocate General for the appellantState has assailed the impugned judgment and contended that the High
Court has failed to appreciate the harassment caused to the deceased
at the hands of the respondents who had been constantly demanding
money from her to construct a house and purchase a plot of land; that
the High Court did not consider the testimonies of Bansi Lal [P.W.-1],
Shyam Bihari [P.W.-2], Amrit Lal [P.W.-4] and Rajesh Bhai [P.W.-6], who
had unanimously stated that whenever the deceased used to visit her
parental home, she would complain that she was being subjected to
assault by the respondents for bringing a sum of ₹50,000/- [Rupees Fifty
thousand] for constructing a house and that it was due to this
harassment caused by them that the deceased got fed up and was
forced to commit suicide. Learned counsel argued that contribution of
money to construct a house, as demanded by the respondents from the
deceased ought to be treated as a dowry demand and it is quite
apparently a case where the offence under Section 304-B was made
out. It was also submitted that this was a clear-cut case of abetment to
commit suicide and both the respondents had rightly been convicted for
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CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
the said offence by the trial Court, which order has been erroneously
overturned in appeal.
6. For the purpose of deciding the present appeal, it is considered
appropriate to extract below the statement of the uncle of the deceased,
Bansi Lal [PW-1], who has been found to be a reliable witness by both
the Courts below: -
“2. Whenever Gitabai had used to come then she had used
to say that she is beaten. She had told about beating by fatherin-law and husband. They had used to demand rupees fifty
thousand for construction of house. So they had used to beat
her. Since I had no money so I did not give. I and people of
society had also convinced to son-in-law and father-in-law but
they did not agree. Gitabai had also discussed about demand
of rupees fifty thousand with my sister and wife.
3. We had received the information of death of Gitabai by
phone at 11 o’clock of night. We did not give rupees fifty
thousand thereafter Gitabai was beaten consequently her finger
was also fractured. Her husband has committed beating.
Badriprasad had also expelled to Gitabai and Jogendra from
the house. After ouster from the house, Gitabai and Jogendra
had lived near the father of Badriprasad in Khanpur. Then both
of them had come to Kota from there. They had lived in Kota
for 7-8 months. After spending of money in Kota, both of them
arrived near my sister Kamlabai in Takarbada. Both of them
had stayed in Takarbada for 1-2 days. Jogendra demanded
rupees twenty thousand from my sister in Takarbada. My sister
had told me about it. Rupees twenty thousand was demanded
for purchase of a plot in Kota. The both Gitabai and Jogendra
arrived near me in Sultanpur from Takarbada. Jogendra also
demanded rupees twenty thousand from me. Rupees was
demanded for purchase of plot to construct the house. Money
was used to demand as dowry. I had not given rupees. Then
due to not giving of money, threatening to my niece Gitabai, he
had carried her to Kota.
4. I saw to Gitabai at that time. Then she was pregnant.
Subsequently Badriprasad, Jitendra and Sushila went near
Jogendra and Gitabai in Kota and keeping their luggage
forcibly, they brought the luggage and they also brought to
Gitabai and Jogendra in their house. After three months of
carrying from Kota, I received the news of death of Gitabai.”
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CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
7. Some of the relevant statements made by P.W.-1 during his crossexamination are also extracted below:
“13. After about 6 months of it, Gitabai had again come to
in-laws house and she had stayed for 6-7 months and when
we had used to go to take her then in-laws of Gitabai had not
used to send her. Witness himself said that their harassment
process had started during this time. My younger brother
had gone to take her for 6-7 times in this period. I had used
to live in Kota. After this when my mother had died then
Gitabai had come and she had also come for one more
programme. When Gitabai had gone to in-laws house after
6 months then after that I had met with her at the time of
death of my mother. When my mother had died then Gitabai
had come then she had stayed with my brother for 6 months.
When my mother had died then Jogendra had come with
Gitabai on third day and he had also caused beating before
us. He had not got tea so Jogendra had caused beating.
When Gitabai lived with brothers for 6 months then I had
gone there for many times during that period. Accused and
Sushilabai and Badri had also come there at the time of
death of my mother. I had stayed in the village for 12 days.
It is incorrect to say when Gitabai had stayed in Takarwada
at the time of death of mother then she had not made any
complaint of in-laws there. This fact is correct that first of all
Gitabai had complained at the time of death of mother.
Jogendra had stayed in our village for 2 days.
xxx xxx xxx
18. When Badriprasad had come at the time of death of
mother. After that, I have not met with Badriprasad till today.
Badriprasad demands rupees fifty thousand for construction
of house. Gitabai had told me this fact when Gitabai had
come after death of mother then she had told this fact that
Badriprasad demands rupees fifty thousand for construction
of house. Sister Kamlabai had told me this fact. Besides
her, any other person did not tell the fact of demand of
rupees fifty thousand. After 7 – 8 months of death of mother,
Kamlabai had told me the fact of rupees fifty thousand.
Which fact Kamlabai had told me, after 4 - 5 months of that,
Gitabai and Jogendra had come near me for demand of
rupees twenty thousand.”
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CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
8. It is clear that during his extensive cross-examination, P.W.-1 firmly
stuck to his statements that the harassment of his niece, Geeta Bai had
started within six months of her wedding with the respondent No.1 who
had asked her to fetch a sum of ₹20,000/-[Rupees Twenty thousand]
from her mother and P.W.-1 for construction of a house. The said
demand was also made by the respondent No.1 on P.W.-1 directly.
P.W.-1 stated that the deceased had also informed him that her father-inlaw, respondent No.2 had raised a demand of ₹50,000/- [Rupees Fifty
thousand] on her for construction of a house, which she was asked to
convey to him. The said witness was consistent in his deposition that
he used to give money to his deceased niece and her husband –
respondent No. 1 towards expenses and that both of them had
demanded a sum of ₹50,000/-[Rupees Fifty thousand] for construction
of a house, which he had declined to give. Pertinently, Shyam Bihari
[P.W.-2] and Amrit Lal [P.W.-4], both maternal uncles of the deceased,
had the same version to narrate as P.W.-1. Thus, the prosecution
version was that the respondents used to harass the deceased and that
the respondent No. 1 had demanded a sum of ₹20,000/-[Rupees Twenty
thousand], whereas the respondent No. 2 had demanded ₹50,000/-
[Rupees Fifty thousand] from the deceased for constructing a house and
for buying a plot of land. Fed up with the constant dowry demands made
on her by the respondents, which her family could not satisfy, Geeta Bai
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CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
had committed suicide by immolating herself at her matrimonial home
within seven years of her marriage.
9. The most fundamental constituent for attracting the provisions of
Section 304-B IPC is that the death of the woman must be a dowry
death. The ingredients for making out an offence under Section 304-B
have been reiterated in several rulings of this Court. Four pre-requisites
for convicting an accused for the offence punishable under Section 304-
B are as follows:
(i) that the death of a woman must have been caused
by burns or bodily injury or occurred otherwise than
under normal circumstance;
(ii) that such a death must have occurred within a
period of seven years of her marriage;
(iii) that the woman must have been subjected to cruelty
or harassment at the hands of her husband, soon
before her death; and
(iv) that such a cruelty or harassment must have been
for or related to any demand for dowry.
10. As the word “dowry” has been defined in Section 2 of the Dowry
Prohibition Act, 19617
, the said provision gains significance and is
extracted below:
“2. Definition of ‘dowry’ - In this Act, “dowry” means any
property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either
directly or indirectly –
(a) by one party to a marriage to the other party to the
marriage; or
(b) by the parents of either party to a marriage by any other
person, to either party to the marriage or to any other
person;
7 For short ‘the Dowry Act’
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CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
at or before or any time after the marriage in connection with
the marriage of the said parties, but does not include dower or
mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal law
(Shariat) applies.
Explanation I.— xxx xxx xxx8
Explanation II.— The expression “valuable security” has the
same meaning as in section 30 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of
1860).”
11. In a three Judge Bench decision of this Court in Rajinder Singh v.
 State of Punjab9
, Section 2 of the Dowry Act has been split into six
distinct parts for a better understanding of the said provision, which are
as follows:
“8. A perusal of Section 2 shows that this definition can
be broken into six distinct parts:
(1) Dowry must first consist of any property or
valuable security— the word “any” is a word of
width and would, therefore, include within it
property and valuable security of any kind
whatsoever.
(2) Such property or security can be given or even
agreed to be given. The actual giving of such
property or security is, therefore, not necessary.
(3) Such property or security can be given or agreed to
be given either directly or indirectly.
(4) Such giving or agreeing to give can again be not only
by one party to a marriage to the other but also by
the parents of either party or by any other person to
either party to the marriage or to any other person. It
will be noticed that this clause again widens the
reach of the Act insofar as those guilty of committing
the offence of giving or receiving dowry is concerned.
(5) Such giving or agreeing to give can be at any time. It
can be at, before, or at any time after the marriage.
Thus, it can be many years after a marriage is
solemnised.
(6) Such giving or receiving must be in connection with
the marriage of the parties. Obviously, the expression
“in connection with” would in the context of the social
evil sought to be tackled by the Dowry Prohibition Act
mean “in relation with” or “relating to”.”
8 Omitted by Act 63 of 1984 (w.e.f. 2.10.1985)
9 (2015) 6 SCC 477
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CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
12. In the light of the above provision that defines the word “dowry” and
takes in its ambit any kind of property or valuable security, in our opinion,
the High Court fell into an error by holding that the demand of money for
construction of a house cannot be treated as a dowry demand. In
Appasaheb’s case [supra] referred to in the impugned judgment, this
Court had held that a demand for money from the parents of the
deceased woman to purchase manure would not fall within the purview
of “dowry”, thereby strictly interpreting the definition of dowry. This view
has, however, not been subscribed to in Rajinder Singh’s case [supra]
wherein it has been held that the said decision as also the one in the
case of Vipin Jaiswal[a-1] v. State of Andhra Pradesh represented by
 Public Prosecutor10, do not state the law correctly. Noting that the
aforesaid decisions were distinct from four other decisions of this Court,
viz., Bachni Devi and Another v. State of Haryana11
, Kulwant Singh
 and Others v. State of Punjab12
, Surinder Singh v. State of
 Haryana13, and Raminder Singh v. State of Punjab14, the Court opined
that keeping in mind the fact that Section 304-B was inserted in the IPC
to combat the social evil of dowry demand that has reached alarming
10 (2013) 3 SCC 684
11 (2011) 4 SCC 427
12 (2013) 4 SCC 177
13 (2014) 4 SCC 129
14 (2014) 12 SCC 582
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CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
proportions, it cannot be argued that in case of an ambiguity in the
language used in the provision, the same ought to be construed strictly
as that would amount to defeating the very object of the provision. In
other words, the Court leaned in favour of assigning an expansive
meaning to the expression “dowry” and held thus :-
“20. Given that the statute with which we are
dealing must be given a fair, pragmatic, and common
sense interpretation so as to fulfil the object sought to be
achieved by Parliament, we feel that the judgment
in Appasaheb case [Appasaheb v. State of Maharashtra,
(2007) 9 SCC 721(2007) 9 SCC 721 : (2007) 3 SCC (Cri)
468] followed by the judgment of Vipin Jaiswal [Vipin
Jaiswal v. State of A.P., (2013) 3 SCC 684 : (2013) 2 SCC
(Cri) 15] do not state the law correctly. We, therefore,
declare that any money or property or valuable
security demanded by any of the persons mentioned
in Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, at or before
or at any time after the marriage which is reasonably
connected to the death of a married woman, would
necessarily be in connection with or in relation to the
marriage unless, the facts of a given case clearly and
unequivocally point otherwise.”
 [emphasis added]
13. The Latin maxim “Ut Res Magis Valeat Quam Pereat” i.e, a liberal
construction should be put up on written instruments, so as to uphold
them, if possible, and carry into effect, the intention of the parties, sums it
up. Interpretation of a provision of law that will defeat the very intention
of the legislature must be shunned in favour of an interpretation that will
promote the object sought to be achieved through the legislation meant
to uproot a social evil like dowry demand. In this context the word
“Dowry” ought to be ascribed an expansive meaning so as to encompass
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CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
any demand made on a woman, whether in respect of a property or a
valuable security of any nature. When dealing with cases under Section
304-B IPC, a provision legislated to act as a deterrent in the society and
curb the heinous crime of dowry demands, the shift in the approach of
the courts ought to be from strict to liberal, from constricted to dilated.
Any rigid meaning would tend to bring to naught, the real object of the
provision. Therefore, a push in the right direction is required to
accomplish the task of eradicating this evil which has become deeply
entrenched in our society.
14. In the facts of the instant case, we are of the opinion that the trial
Court has correctly interpreted the demand for money raised by the
respondents on the deceased for construction of a house as falling within
the definition of the word “dowry”. The submission made by learned
counsel for the respondents that the deceased was also a party to such
a demand as she had on her own asked her mother and maternal uncle
to contribute to the construction of the house, must be understood in the
correct perspective. It cannot be lost sight of that the respondents had
been constantly tormenting the deceased and asking her to approach
her family members for money to build a house and it was only on their
persistence and insistence that she was compelled to ask them to
contribute some amount for constructing a house. The Court must be
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CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
sensitive to the social milieu from which the parties hail. The fact that the
marriage of the deceased and the respondent No.1 was conducted in a
community marriage organization where some couples would have tied
the knot goes to show that the parties were financially not so well off.
This position is also borne out from the deposition of P.W.-1 who had
stated that he used to bear the expenses of the couple. Before the
marriage of the deceased also, P.W.-1 had stated that he used to bear
her expenses and that of her mother and brother [his sister and nephew]
as her father had abandoned them. In this background, the High Court
fell in an error in drawing an inference that since the deceased had
herself joined her husband and father-in-law, respondents herein and
asked her mother or uncle to contribute money to construct a house,
such demand cannot be treated as a “dowry demand”. On the contrary,
the evidence brought on record shows that the deceased was
pressurized to make such a request for money to her mother and uncle.
It was not a case of complicity but a case of sheer helplessness faced by
the deceased in such adverse circumstances.
15. Now, coming to the second point urged by learned counsel for the
State that the High Court has overlooked the fact that Geeta Bai had
been subjected to cruelty/harassment at the hands of the respondents
soon before her death, which submission is strictly contested by learned
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CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
counsel for the respondents, we may note that the meaning of the
expression “soon before her death” has been discussed threadbare in
several judgments. In Surinder Singh (supra), while relying on the
provisions of Section 113-B of the Indian Evidence Act, 187215 and
Section 304-B IPC, where the words “soon before her death” find
mention, the following pertinent observations have been made: -
“17. Thus, the words “soon before” appear in Section
113-B of the Evidence Act, 1872 and also in Section 304-
B IPC. For the presumptions contemplated under these
sections to spring into action, it is necessary to show
that the cruelty or harassment was caused soon before
the death. The interpretation of the words “soon before”
is, therefore, important. The question is how “soon
before”? This would obviously depend on the facts and
circumstances of each case. The cruelty or harassment
differs from case to case. It relates to the mindset of people
which varies from person to person. Cruelty can be mental or
it can be physical. Mental cruelty is also of different shades.
It can be verbal or emotional like insulting or ridiculing or
humiliating a woman. It can be giving threats of injury to her
or her near and dear ones. It can be depriving her of
economic resources or essential amenities of life. It can be
putting restraints on her movements. It can be not allowing
her to talk to the outside world. The list is illustrative and not
exhaustive. Physical cruelty could be actual beating or
causing pain and harm to the person of a woman. Every
such instance of cruelty and related harassment has a
different impact on the mind of a woman. Some instances
may be so grave as to have a lasting impact on a woman.
Some instances which degrade her dignity may remain
etched in her memory for a long time. Therefore, “soon
before” is a relative term. In matters of emotions we
cannot have fixed formulae. The time-lag may differ from
case to case. This must be kept in mind while examining
each case of dowry death.
18. In this connection we may refer to the judgment of
this Court in Kans Raj v. State of Punjab [(2000) 5 SCC 207 :
2000 SCC (Cri) 935] where this Court considered the term
“soon before”. The relevant observations are as under: (SCC
pp. 222-23, para 15)
“15. … ‘Soon before’ is a relative term which
is required to be considered under specific
circumstances of each case and no
15 For short ‘the Evidence Act’
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CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
straitjacket formula can be laid down by
fixing any time-limit. This expression is
pregnant with the idea of proximity test. The
term ‘soon before’ is not synonymous with
the term ‘immediately before’ and is opposite
of the expression ‘soon after’ as used and
understood in Section 114, Illustration (a) of
the Evidence Act. These words would imply that
the interval should not be too long between the
time of making the statement and the death. It
contemplates the reasonable time which, as
earlier noticed, has to be understood and
determined under the peculiar circumstances of
each case. In relation to dowry deaths, the
circumstances showing the existence of
cruelty or harassment to the deceased are not
restricted to a particular instance but
normally refer to a course of conduct. Such
conduct may be spread over a period of time.
If the cruelty or harassment or demand for
dowry is shown to have persisted, it shall be
deemed to be ‘soon before death’ if any other
intervening circumstance showing the nonexistence of such treatment is not brought on
record, before such alleged treatment and the
date of death. It does not, however, mean that
such time can be stretched to any period.
Proximate and live link between the effect of
cruelty based on dowry demand and the
consequential death is required to be proved by
the prosecution. The demand of dowry, cruelty or
harassment based upon such demand and the
date of death should not be too remote in time
which, under the circumstances, be treated as
having become stale enough.”
Thus, there must be a nexus between the demand of
dowry, cruelty or harassment, based upon such demand
and the date of death. The test of proximity will have to
be applied. But, it is not a rigid test. It depends on the
facts and circumstances of each case and calls for a
pragmatic and sensitive approach of the court within the
confines of law.
[emphasis added]
16. In Rajinder Singh [supra], falling back on the rulings in Kans Raj
 v. State of Punjab and Others16
, Dinesh v. State of Haryana17 and
16 (2000) 5 SCC 207
17 (2014) 12 SCC 532
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CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
 Sher Singh @ Partapa v. State of Haryana18, it has been emphasized
that “soon before” is not synonymous to “immediately before” and the
following observations have been made: -
“24. We endorse what has been said by these two
decisions. Days or months are not what is to be seen.
What must be borne in mind is that the word “soon”
does not mean “immediate”. A fair and pragmatic
construction keeping in mind the great social evil that has
led to the enactment of Section 304-B would make it clear
that the expression is a relative expression. Time-lags
may differ from case to case. All that is necessary is
that the demand for dowry should not be stale but
should be the continuing cause for the death of the
married woman under Section 304-B.”
 [emphasis added]
17. In the above context, we may usefully refer to a recent decision of
a three Judge Bench of this Court in Gurmeet Singh v. State of
 Punjab19 that has restated the detailed guidelines that have been laid
down in Satbir Singh and Another v. State of Haryana20, both
authored by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, relating to trial under Section
304-B IPC where the law on Section 304-B IPC and Section 113-B of
the Evidence Act has been pithily summarized in the following words:
“38.1. Section 304-B IPC must be interpreted keeping in
mind the legislative intent to curb the social evil of bride
burning and dowry demand.
38.2. The prosecution must at first establish the
existence of the necessary ingredients for constituting
an offence under Section 304-B IPC. Once these
ingredients are satisfied, the rebuttable presumption of
causality, provided under Section 113-B of the Evidence
Act operates against the accused.
38.3. The phrase “soon before” as appearing in Section 304-
B IPC cannot be construed to mean “immediately before”.
18 (2015) 3 SCC 724
19 (2021) 6 SCC 108
20 (2021) 6 SCC 1
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CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
The prosecution must establish existence of “proximate and
live link” between the dowry death and cruelty or harassment
for dowry demand by the husband or his relatives.
38.4. Section 304-B IPC does not take a pigeonhole
approach in categorising death as homicidal or suicidal or
accidental. The reason for such non-categorisation is due to
the fact that death occurring “otherwise than under normal
circumstances” can, in cases, be homicidal or suicidal or
accidental.”
 [emphasis added]
18. In the instant case, it is not in dispute that the marriage between
the deceased and the respondent No. 1 – accused had taken place on
7
th May, 1998 and the deceased was brought in a severely burnt
condition from her matrimonial home to the Health Care Centre at
Baroda on 20th April, 2002 and she had expired on the very same day. It
is also not in dispute that the death had occurred on account of the
deceased dowsing kerosene oil and setting herself on fire. The
evidence brought on record amply demonstrates that the harassment of
the deceased for money had commenced within a few months of her
marriage and had continued thereafter on several occasions. This fact is
borne out from the deposition of PW-1, which shows that on not being
able to fulfil the demand for ₹50,000/- [Rupees Fifty thousand] made by
the respondent No. 2 [father-in-law], he had thrown out the deceased
and the respondent No.1 from the matrimonial home. They had then
shifted to Kota and resided there. Thereafter, respondent No.2 had
brought the couple back to Baroda and had again started demanding
money from the deceased. Then the deceased and the respondent No.
Page 18 of 20
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
1 moved to Tankarwada. This time, it was respondent No. 1 who had
demanded a sum of ₹20,000/- [Rupees Twenty thousand] from the
deceased and her uncle for constructing a house. On being persistently
hounded with the repeated demands for money made on her which her
family could not fulfil, the hapless deceased who was well into the
second trimester of her pregnancy, immolated herself at her matrimonial
home.
19. The above glairing circumstances when viewed together, can
hardly mitigate the offence of the respondents or take the case out of the
purview of Section 304-B IPC, when all the four pre-requisites for
invoking the said provision stand satisfied, namely, that the death of
Geeta Bai took place at her matrimonial home within seven years of her
marriage; that the said death took place in abnormal circumstances on
account of burning and that too when she was five months pregnant; that
she had been subjected to cruelty and harassment by the respondents
soon before her death and such cruelty/harassment was in connection
with demand for dowry. Though the High Court found the testimony of
P.W.-1 [maternal uncle of the deceased] to be trustworthy and consistent
and no credible evidence could be produced by the respondents to
demolish the prosecution version, surprisingly, their conviction under
Section 304-B IPC has been set aside and furthermore, respondent No.
Page 19 of 20
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
2 has been acquitted for the offence punishable under Section 498-A
IPC.
20. Taking into account the evidence brought on record by the
prosecution, particularly, the testimony of P.W.-1, this Court has no
hesitation in holding that the analysis of the trial Court was correct and
the respondents deserved to be convicted under Sections 304-B and
498-A IPC. However, we do not propose to disturb the findings
returned by the High Court that has acquitted the respondents for the
offence of abetment to commit suicide under Section 306 IPC, as the
prosecution could not bring any conclusive evidence on record to
satisfactorily demonstrate that it was due to the abetment on the part of
the respondents that the deceased had committed suicide by immolating
herself. Accordingly, the judgment of conviction and sentence passed by
the trial Court in respect of both the respondents under Section 304-B
and Section 498-A IPC, is restored. However, the sentence imposed on
them by the trial Court of RI for life is reduced to RI for seven years,
which is the minimum sentence prescribed for an offence under Section
304-B IPC.
21. In view of the foregoing discussion, the present appeal is partly
allowed. The respondents shall surrender before the trial Court within
Page 20 of 20
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 190 OF 2012
four weeks to undergo the remaining period of their sentence. The
appeal is allowed in the above terms.
.................................CJI
[N. V. RAMANA]

......................................J.
 [A. S. BOPANNA]
 .....................................J.
New Delhi, [HIMA KOHLI]
January 11, 2022.
Page 21 of 20

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले

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