When an accused is booked under section 304B IPC, for an acquittal it is pertinent for them to rebut the statutory presumption created against the accused after the prosecution sufficiently proved the ingredients of Section 304B IPC. This judgment was passed in the case of Gurmeet Singh vs. State of Punjab [Cr.A.No.1731/2010], by a Bench consisting of the Hon’ble The Chief Justice, Hon’ble Justice Surya Kant, and Hon’ble Justice Aniruddha Bose.
The present appeal was preferred against the order of the High Court which dismissed the appeal of the appellants and upheld the order of the High Court of conviction under section 304B IPC with rigorous imprisonment for seven years and a fine of Rs. 5000/-. It was the prosecution’s case that the deceased – daughter of the complainant was engaged to the appellant in 2004. Subsequently, the complainant left for Abu Dhabi, and in his absences, the marriage b/w the appellant and the deceased was solemnized. In 2006, a child was born out of wedlock and in 2007 when the complainant returned, the deceased revealed that her in-laws and husband -appellant physically assaulted her for dowry. It was alleged that the complainant had given the appellant a gold chain and returned to India later in 2008. The appellants made a demand for the car but the same was not fulfilled this time. In 2008 within a month of the appellant returning the deceased consumed poison and died on the same day.
The Trial Court convicted the appellant, father-in-law, and mother-in-law for the offense under section 304B and sentenced them to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 7 years each and a fine of Rs.5000/- each. The High Court upheld the verdict of the Trial Court and challenging the same decision the appellants approached the Supreme Court.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court after hearing both the parties and after reading sections 304B IPC and 113B Evidence Act, along with the recent judgment of Satbir Singh vs. the State of Haryana held that all the ingredients of section 304B IPC were satisfied, namely, the death happened due to demand for dowry within 7 years of marriage and the deceased was subjected to harassment by husband and in-laws soon before her death. Thus, a presumption of causation arises against the accused under section 113B Evidence Act and the accused-appellant has to rebut this statutory presumption.
The defense of the accused that the deceased and they were in a cordial relationship and the deceased even helped in the mother-in-law’s treatment of cancer was found to be forged by the trial court on a thorough examination of records and witnesses therefore the supreme court held, such a decision did not require interference. The supreme court further held that the defendants failed to prove their contention that the deceased was suffering from depression. Therefore, the appellant failed to make out a case for us to interfere in the concurrent opinions of the Courts below, convicting the accused-appellant under Section 304B, IPC.
The appellant also argued that without a conviction under section 498A IPC a conviction under section 304B cannot be sustained. The Supreme court held that, although cruelty is a common thread existing in both the offenses, however, the ingredients of each offense are distinct and must be proved separately by the prosecution. If a case is made out, there can be a conviction under both sections.
The Supreme Court held by Concluding, “we find that the High Court and Trial Court have not committed any error in convicting the appellant under Section 304-B, IPC as the appellant failed to discharge the burden under Section 113- B, Evidence Act.”