When allegations under Dowry Prohibition Act cannot be proven, benefit of doubt to be given to accused: High Court

Since most dowry and domestic violence cases take place privately at home, it is often just one person’s word against another’s and solid evidence is difficult to come by. A single-member bench consisting of Justice Anubha Rawat Choudhary of the High Court of Jharkhand adjudged in the case of Durga Prasad v State of Jharkhand [Criminal Revision No. 955 of 2012] on 4th June 2021, that in cases where allegations of unlawful demand of dowry could not be proven, the benefit of the doubt would have to be given to the accused.

The petitioner, Durga Prasad along with his mother, sisters and two friends, Vishwanath Yadav and Gopal Sharma were accused of extreme acts of violence and abuse against his wife, Jayanti Devi while attempting to extract dowry from her. The petitioner’s family allegedly demanded a motorcycle and Rs 40,000 a few months after the marriage between the petitioner and the informant, upon her refusal she was allegedly slapped, punched and driven out of matrimonial home. The informant also stated that she was constantly called offensive words by the petitioner’s family and that on one occasion, the petitioner even burned her private parts using an agarbatti.

The trial court convicted the petitioner under 498(A) of the IPC for cruelty with regards to physical violence and verbal abuse as well as the unlawful demand of dowry. The appellate court upheld the conviction for the abuse and assault under section 498(A) of the IPC, adding that it was sufficient to cause any women to commit any act dangerous to her life and therefore punishable as cruelty. However the appellate court did not accept the allegations of unlawful demand of property and torture through burning the informant’s private parts due to the lack of evidence. Therefore the petitioner was not convicted for offences under Section 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. The petitioner’s pleaded before this court that the his conviction by the trial court was what caused his conviction by the appellate court.

This Court considered the two previous judgements, evidences, medical reports and witnesses before arriving at a judgement. A judgement reported in (2003) 2 SCC 401 (supra) of the Supreme Court of India was cited, where it was held that it’s almost impossible to sift the grains of truth from out of the mass of chaff of falsehood and exaggerations in many cases. The High Court of Jharkhand came to the decision to uphold the judgement of the appellate court in this case as it could be established that the verbal abuse and physical abuse from the petitioner was enough to constitute of cruelty, however there was not enough evidence to establish unlawful demand of dowry or burning of the informant’s private parts. Additionally any bail bonds furnished by the petitioner were also cancelled.

Justice Anubha Rawat Choudhary can be quoted as saying “As a cumulative effect of the aforesaid findings and considering the scope of the revisional jurisdiction, this court is not inclined to interfere with the impugned judgement of conviction of the petitioner under section 498(A) of Indian Penal Code and accordingly the present revision petition is dismissed”.

Click here for the judgement

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