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Raja Lal Singh Vs The State Of Jharkhand On May 8, 2007

CASE NO.:
Appeal (crl.) 513 of 2006

PETITIONER:
Raja Lal Singh

RESPONDENT:
The State of Jharkhand

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/05/2007

BENCH:
S. B. Sinha & Markandey Katju

JUDGMENT:
J U D G M E N T

WITH
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 514 OF 2006
Pradip Singh and another .. Appellant
-vs-
The State of Jharkhand .. Respondent

MARKANDEY KATJU, J.

1. These two appeals have been filed against the common judgment &
order dated 20.10.2005 of the Jharkahand High Court in Criminal Appeal
Nos. 769 and 974 of 2003.

2. Heard learned counsel for the parties and perused the record.

3. The facts of the case are that an FIR being Baghmare P.S. Case No.
229/2000 was registered under Sections 304-B/34 of the Indian Penal Code
against the three aforesaid appellants on the basis of the information given
by Dashrath Singh (PW5), wherein it was alleged that his daughter Gayatri
Devi (the deceased) aged about 19 years, was married to the appellant Raja
Lal Singh on 24.4.2000 and he had given dowry according to his capacity.
His daughter came back after three months of her stay at her in-laws’ place
and told him that her husband Raja Lal Singh, her brother-in-law Pradip
Singh and her sister-in-law (Gotni) used to harass her for the demand of a
‘Palang’ (Bed) and a Godrej Almirah. The informant assured his daughter to
fulfill those demands in January, and then his daughter went to her in-laws’
place. It was further alleged that subsequently when he went to see his
daughter at her in-laws’ place, she again told him about the aforesaid
demand of ‘Palang’ and ‘Godrej Almirah’ by the appellants and then the
informant talked to his son-in-law, and his brother as well as his wife had
promised them to fulfill the demand in January.

4. It is said that on 28.11.2000 one Dunia Lal Singh came to the village
of the informant and informed him that his daughter has died due to hanging.
On this information, the informant along with his sons Santosh Singh
(PW3), Bhola Singh and Bhagirath Singh went to village Behrakudar, i.e.
the village in which his daughter was married, and on reaching there he
found that the dead body of his daughter was lying on a Chauki kept in a
room at the upper floor of the building of the appellants. On being asked,
his son-in-law stated that the deceased had committed suicide by hanging
herself with a ceiling fan by tying a Sari around her neck. His son-in-law
also told that since he was sleeping in the room, he could see her hanging
only in the early morning when he woke up. On being further questioned by
the informant, his son-in-law could not give a satisfactory reply. The
informant suspected that his daughter was murdered by her husband, the
brother-in-law and sister-in-law, and a colour of suicide was given to the
whole occurrence of murder. The police after investigation submitted a
charge-sheet under Sections 304-B/34 IPC. The cognizance was taken and
the case was committed to the Court of Sessions.

5. The defence was of false implication.

6. In order to establish the charges, altogether eight witnesses were
examined on behalf of the prosecution and on behalf of the defence also two
witnesses were examined.
7. It appears that PW1 Ramesh Singh, PW2 Gobardhan Singh, PW3
Santosh Singh and PW4 Ashok Singh accompanied the informant PW5 to
the in-laws’ place of the deceased. PW6 is Shiv Pujan Singh, another son of
the informant, who is a witness of seizure and he also identified the
handwriting of the deceased written on her palm. PW7 is Dr. C.S. Prasad,
who held post mortem examination of the deceased and PW8 Kamta Singh,
is the Investigation Officer.

8. As stated earlier, on behalf of the defence also two witnesses were
examined. DW1 Bindeshwar Singh, was a co-villager and neighbour of the
appellants, who was examined to prove the cordial relationship between the
deceased and her husband. DW2 Mantu Singh, another co-villager of the
appellant has stated that the appellant Pradip Singh and Sanjana Devi were
separate in residence and mess with the appellant Raja Lal Singh, husband of
the deceased.

9. According to PW7 Dr. C.S. Prasad, who held the post mortem
examination of the dead body, the cause of death was due to asphyxia as a
result of hanging. The post mortem report was proved by him and was
marked as Ext.2. However, this witness in his cross-examination stated that
it was a case of suicidal death.
10. The learned trial court on consideration of the oral and documentary
evidence adduced on behalf of the prosecution held that the prosecution was
able to establish the charge under Sections 304-B/34 IPC against all the
three accused. Accordingly, the accused persons were convicted for the said
offence and were sentenced to undergo R.I. for a period of ten years each.

11. Against the aforesaid judgment of the trial court, the appellants filed
appeals before the High Court which were dismissed by the impugned
judgment. Hence, these two appeals.

12. As regards the appeal of Pradip Singh and his wife Sanjana Devi
being Criminal Appeal No. 514/2006, we are of the opinion that the said
appeal deserves to be allowed and the appellants therein deserve to be
acquitted by giving them the benefit of doubt.

13. It has come in evidence that Raja Lal Singh, appellant in Criminal
Appeal No. 513/2006 used to live on the first floor of the building along
with his wife, deceased Gayatri, whereas Pradip Singh and his wife Sanjana
Devi were living in the ground floor. Admittedly, the deceased Gayatri was
found dead due to hanging on the first floor in the room of her husband.
There is no evidence to show that the appellant Pradip Singh and Sanjana
Devi had any hand in the incident which led to her death, and at any event
we are of the opinion that benefit of doubt has to be given to them, as they
were living on the ground floor of the building in question.

14. No doubt, some of the witnesses e.g. PW5 Dashrath Singh, who is the
father of the deceased Gayatri, and PW3 Santosh Kr. Singh, brother of the
deceased, have stated that the deceased Gayatri told them that dowry was
demanded by not only Raja Lal Singh, but also the appellants Pradip Singh
and his wife Sanjana Devi, but we are of the opinion that it is possible that
the names of Pradip Singh and Sanjana Devi have been introduced only to
spread the net wide as often happens in cases like 498-A and 394 IPC, as has
been observed in several decisions of this Court, e.g. in Kamesh Panjiyar
@ Kamlesh Panjiyar vs. State of Bihar  (2005) 2 SCC 388 etc. Hence,
we allow the appeal of Pradip Singh and Sanjana Devi and set aside the
impugned judgments of the High Court and trial court in so far as it relates
to them and we direct that they be released forthwith unless required in
connection with some other case.

15. However, we are of the opinion that the appeal of Raja Lal Singh has
to be dismissed. Raja Lal Singh is the husband of the deceased Gayatri and
he used to live with her on the first floor of the building in question. Hence,
it was for him to explain how Gayatri met with her death. She was found
hanging by a Sari on a ceiling fan in the very room where she used to live
with her husband Raja Lal Singh. Raja Lal Singh, however, did not enter
into the witness box to depose in this connection.

16. It is settled by a series of decisions of this Court that so far as Section
304-B is concerned, it is not relevant whether it is case of homicide or
suicide vide Satvir Singh and others vs. State of Punjab and another 
(2001) 8 SCC 633, para 18.

17. It has been held in Satvir Singh (supra) that the essential components
of Section 304-B are : (i) Death of a woman occurring otherwise than under
normal circumstances, within 7 years of marriage. (ii) Soon before her
death she should have been subjected to cruelty and harassment in
connection with any demand for dowry. In the present case, Gayatri died
about 7 months after her marriage in April, 2000. Also, it has come in
evidence that she had been harassed for dowry 10 or 15 days before her
death. This has come in the evidence of her father PW5 and brother PW3
and we see no reason to disbelieve them. She had earlier also been subjected
to harassment on account of demand for dowry when she had gone to her
parents’ house in August, 2000, as has come in the evidence of PW5
Dashrath Singh. Thus, in our opinion, the ingredients of Section 304-B IPC
are satisfied in this case [see also in this connection T. Aruntperunjothi vs.
State (2006) 9 SCC 467] .

18. It may be mentioned that the words "soon before her death" do not
necessarily mean immediately before her death. As explained in Satvir
Singh (supra), this phrase is an elastic expression and can refer to a period
either immediately before death of the deceased or within a few days or few
weeks before death. In other words, there should be a perceptible nexus
between the death of the deceased and the dowry related harassment or
cruelty inflicted on her.

19. In the present case, we are of the opinion that there is a clear nexus
between the death of Gayatri and the dowry related harassment inflicted on
her. As mentioned earlier, even if Gayatri committed suicide, S. 304-B can
still be attracted. A person commits suicide in a fit of depression due to
extreme unhappiness. Thus, even if Gayatri committed suicide, it was
obviously because she was extremely unhappy, and unless her husband gave
a satisfactory alternative explanation for the suicide we have to take it that it
was the persistent demand for dowry which led to her suicide. It is evident
from the evidence that Gayatri’s father was a poor man and he did not have
the money to give the dowry immediately and he wanted time up to January,
2001 so that he could collect some funds from somewhere, but the appellant,
Raja Lal Singh was heartless and he wanted immediate compliance of his
demand. Since that was not fulfilled, he either killed Gayatri or harassed her
so much that she was driven to suicide on account of the said dowry
demand. The writing on Gayatri’s palm is, in our opinion, not very relevant.
In view of the above, we dismiss the appeal of Raja Lal Singh.

20. Resultantly, Criminal Appeal No. 513/2006 filed by Raja Lal Singh is
dismissed while Criminal Appeal No. 514/2006 filed by Pradip Singh and
Sanjana Devi is allowed.

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