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Balwant Singh & Ors. Vs State of H.P.

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Citations: Balwant Singh & Ors. Vs State of H.P., 2008 10 JT 589

Date of Judgement: 29/09/2008

Case No: Criminal Appeal no. 831 of 2001

Case Type: Criminal Appeal

Appellant(s): Balwant Singh and Ors.

Respondent: State of Himachal Pradesh

Bench: Hon’ble Justice Dr. Arijit Pasayat, Hon’ble Justice Dr. Mukundakam Sharma

Statutes Referred

  • Indian Penal Code, 1860; Sections – 173, 304B, 306, 313, 498A
  • Indian Evidence Act, 1872; Section – 113B;

Cases Referred

  • State of Punjab Vs Gurdip Singh and Ors. (1996) 7 SCC 163;
  • Meka Ratnaswamy Vs Dasari Mohan and Ors. A.I.R. 1998 SC 774;
  • Mulak Raj and Ors. Vs State of Haryana, A.I.R. 1996 SC 2868;
  • State of Maharashtra Vs Ashok Shukla (1997) 11 SCC;
  • Pawan Kumar and Ors. Vs State of Haryana, (1998) 3 SCC 309;
  • Brij Lal Vs Prem Chand and Anr, AIR 1989 SC 1661.
  • Akula Ravinder and others Vs The State of Andhra Pradesh, AIR 1991 SC 1142
  • M. Srinivasulu Vs State of Andhra Pradesh, AIR 2007 SC 3146

Facts

  • Renu Bala was married to Anup Singh on July 6, 1992, in accordance with the Hindu rites and rituals. After a few days past her marriage, she started complaining about the mistreatment and cruelty of the accused.
  • The accused persons included Balwant Singh (father-in-law), Anup Singh (husband), Ravinder Singh (brother-in-law) and Kanta Devi (mother-in-law) of Renu Bala (referred to herein as deceased).
  • On January 5, 1993, Kamala Devi, the mother of the deceased, Renu Bala, was informed by her brother-in-law, Tilak Raj, about her daughter being admitted to Garget Hospital. Upon reaching the hospital, they later realised that Renu Bala was taken to Patohar Kalan, the village where the accused were residing.
  • Both went to the accused’s residence, where they found Renu Bala lying dead, while none of the accused was found present by her side.
  • Kamala Devi speculated foul play that her daughter was either killed or was provoked to commit suicide by consuming poison on account of eternal torture and cruelty on the part of her in-laws. Therefore, Kamala Devi lodged a report with the police Exhibit PW-3/A under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 at Una Police Station, formally registered as F.I.R. vide Exhibit PW-11/A.
  • The investigation began, an inquest report and outline of a spot map of the place where Renu’s dead body was found was prepared. Vomit samples of Renu Bala and the clothes worn before her death were investigated.
  • Two letters, produced by Devinder Singh (relative of the deceased) and two letters produced by Gurdayal Singh, father of the deceased Renu Bala, were also taken in possession. The postmortem report revealed that the deceased was pregnant by fourteen to sixteen weeks.
  • The report of Chemical Analyser, by Dr Gurcharan Singh, stated that the cause of death was a failure of the peripheral circulatory, due to aluminium phosphide establishing sufficient cause of death in the natural course of events.
  • Finally, a report under Section 173 of the Indian Penal Code was submitted in the Court of learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Una, who further committed the case to the Court of learned Sessions Judge, Una, on April 25, 1994.
  • Consequently, a charge was framed against the accused of offences under Sections 498-A, 304-B and 306 of the Indian Penal Code. However, the accused did not plead guilty instead claimed to be tried.
  • After examining witnesses by the prosecution and obtaining statements of accused persons under Section 313 of Indian Penal Code, the trial court held the accused persons guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of offences punishable under Section 498A and 306 Indian Penal Code.
  •  However, the accused were granted acquittal of offence charges under section 304B Indian Penal Code since it could not be established.
  • The appeal against the order of the trial court was admitted on July 22, 1997, in the High Court, which held that the offence under Section 306 is not made and to that extent, the order passed by the Sessions Judge deserves to be set aside.
  • Hence, the appeal was allowed partly. The order of conviction for offence under Section 498-A (cruelty) was confirmed, but a conviction for an offence under Section 306(abetment to suicide) was set aside.
  • In response to the order passed, an appeal against the judgment of the learned Judge of the Himachal Pradesh High Court was referred to the hon’ble Supreme Court of India.

Issues Involved

  • Whether there is a scope for convicting the appellants under Section 498A Indian Penal Code?
  • Whether the provision under sections 304-B of Indian Penal Code and 498-A of Indian Penal Code mutually inclusive of each other?

Contention of Petitioner

  • It was submitted that there was no evidence or witness against any alleged overt act by the brother-in-law of the deceased, and hence acquittal should be granted to him.
  • Moreover, the learned Counsel for the appellants contended that although there was improper treatment towards the deceased, the demand for dowry could not be sufficiently established by the letters produced as the evidence in the court of law.
  • It was further pointed out that, since the appellants were not guilty of an offence punishable under Section 306 of Indian Penal Code, there is also no scope for convicting the appellants under Section 498A of Indian Penal Code.

Contention of Respondent

  • Learned Counsel, representing the Respondent, which is the State in this case, supported the judgment, earlier passed by the High Court.
  • It was contended that based on materials, letters and sworn testimony placed on record, it is conclusively proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the appellants ill-treated the deceased.
  • The case thus clearly falls within the ambit of Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code.
  • Another contention by the Respondent was that Sections 304B and 498A of Indian Penal Code cannot be mutually inclusive. Both provisions deal with two distinct offences.
  • It is a cruelty that is an everyday necessity to both the Sections, and that has to be proved. Even if any person is charged and acquitted under Section 304B, he can be convicted separately under Section 498A if such a case arises.
  • Hence, it is irrelevant whether the charge under Section 304B exists for the person to be convicted for cruelty.

Judgement

  • After the due analysis of the evidence, it was held that there is no material fact to establish the guilt of the brother-in-law of the deceased. Consequently, the court acquitted him of the charges.
  • The accusations of the remaining three accused had been well established by the evidence procured, and the exhibited letters and hence the convictions so far as the other accused are concerned cannot be condemned.
  • The order of conviction and sentence for an offence punishable under Section 498-A of the Code was hence confirmed, and the appeal stands dismissed so far, the husband of the deceased, Renu Bala, is concerned.
  • However, the court, taking into account the age of the father-in-law and mother-in-law of the deceased and the term of sentence already undergone by the convicts, directed it to be set off.

The appeal shall stand so disposed of.

Ratio Decidendi

  • It can be seen from the above facts that the conduct of the accused all throughout, after the marriage of Renu Bala until her death, was unnatural.
  • After about one and half months of the marriage, Renu Bala complained to her parents about the demand of dowry and ill-treatment by the appellants. The letters Exhibit PW 5/A to Exhibit PW 5/C as well the sworn testimony of PW 3 mother, PW 4 uncle and PW 5 sister-in-law (Bhabhi) establishes the said fact.
  • The parents of Renu Bala tried their best to get the matter settled and getting the appellants convinced, Renu Bala was sent back to her matrimonial home.
  • In this case, the mother of the deceased is certainly a star witness. When she went to the residence of the accused, after knowing that she was admitted in the Garget Hospital, Renu Bala was found lying dead with none by her side.
  • For any plea to be maintained under Section 498A, cruelty, whether mental or physical, has to be established beyond a reasonable doubt. ‘Consequences of cruelty are likely to drive a woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health.’
  • On the basis of material facts placed, it can be decisively established that Renu Bala was ill-treated by appellants-accused and this case clearly comes within the ambit of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.
  •  Since none of the letters or any other evidence mentions any fact regarding the demand of dowry, the case, therefore, would not fall within the ambit of Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code.
  • Another point that is to be necessarily noted here is that, Sections 304B and 498A, Indian Penal Code cannot be held mutually inclusive, as they deal with two different offences.
  • It was also asserted that Section 498A gives the meaning of ‘cruelty’ whereas, in Section 304B, there is no such mention of any explanation regarding the importance of ‘cruelty’.
  • Another difference is that in Section 304 B, ‘ dowry death’ is punishable if it occurred within seven years of marriage whereas no such time period is prescribed for the offence of cruelty under Section 498A.
  • Owing to this rationale, even if the person is charged and acquitted under Section 304B, he can be convicted under Section 498A without the previous charge being there if such a case arises.
  • And if the case of both the offences is established, there can be a conviction under both the sections as well.

Conclusion

To conclude the above case, the court has taken the appropriate decision by disposing of the appeal. It was well established by the material facts that the appellants were held guilty of the offence punishable under the provision of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code and hence convicted for the same.

Drafted By: Shivani Tiwary, School of Law DAVV.

Published On: September 22, 2021 at 12:04 IST