Prosecution has failed to prove the guilt of the appellant beyond all reasonable doubt and he is entitled to the benefit of doubt. This was said in the case of Boddupally Venkanna vs The State Of Telangana [CRIMINAL APPEAL No.36 of 2020] by Justice G. Sri Devi in Telangana High Court.
The facts of the case date back to 30.12.2019 when the appellant along with two others, were charged for the offences punishable under Sections 498 A, 302, 304-B of I.P.C. and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. The trial judge while acquitting the other two accused, convicted and sentenced the appellant under all the above sections. Assailing the judgment of the Trial Court, the appellant moved the High Court.
The appellant contended that the words used in Section 304-B I.P.C. are that ‘soon before her death’ the deceased was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband. In the present case, the deceased suffered a breathing problem on the alleged date of the incident and died while shifting her to the hospital. Therefore, he contended that the appellant is not liable to be convicted under Section 304-B I.P.C. In respect of the other charge for dowry harassment, they contended that there is no clinching evidence that would establish that there was any physical or mental harassment by the appellant for dowry.
On the contrary, the respondent contended that the evidence on record would establish the case against the appellant. He also points out that according to Section 113-B of I.P.C. if a woman dies within seven years of her marriage, a presumption under Section 113-B of I.P.C. has to be drawn and if the events as spoken to by the prosecution witnesses are taken into consideration, it clearly satisfies the ingredients of Section 304-B I.P.C.
The Court after analyzing the facts of the case and the settled position of law on the subject opined that “The expression ‘soon before’ is very relevant where Section 113-B of the Evidence Act and Section 304-B IPC are pressed into service. The prosecution is obliged to show that soon before the occurrence there was cruelty or harassment and only in that case presumption operates. To indicate that the expression ‘soon before’ would normally be implied that the interval should not be much between the concerned cruelty or harassment and the death in question. There must be the existence of a proximate and live-link between the affect of cruelty based on dowry demand and the concerned death. If the alleged incident of cruelty is remote in time and has become stale enough not to disturb mental equilibrium of the woman concerned, it would be of no consequence”.
Furthermore, the Court said that the evidence is not wholly reliable with regard to the demand of dowry soon before the death of the deceased. If that evidence is eschewed from consideration, the appellant cannot be convicted for the offences punishable under Sections 498-A and 304-B of I.P.C. and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. Hence, the appeal is allowed.