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Mere evidence of cruelty and harassment is not sufficient to bring in application of Section 304-B IPC: Chhattisgarh High Court

The mere presence of cruelty and harassment is insufficient to invoke Section 304-B of the IPC. It must also be demonstrated that the cruelty or harassment was motivated by or related to the desire for dowry. The judgment was passed by The High Court of Chhattisgarh in the case of Sheshuraj Marian & Ors. V. State of Chhattisgarh [Criminal Appeal No.455 of 2011] by a Single Bench consisting of Hon’ble Shri Arvind Singh Chandel.

The facts of the case are that after a few days of the marriage, the deceased was subjected to cruelty by the Appellants for demand of Rs.1,00,000 for the purchase of a car. With the further event, the deceased was died due to a fire burn at her matrimonial house. Statements of the Appellants were also recorded under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in which they denied the guilt, pleaded innocence and false implication. Witnesses were examined in defence. On completion of the trial, the Trial Court convicted and sentenced the Appellants. Hence, this appeal.

Learned Counsel for the Appellants submitted that the Trial Court convicted the Appellants without there being clinching and sufficient evidence on record. It was further submitted that at the time of the inquest proceeding, the family members of the deceased, i.e., her father and sister were present, but at that time and thereafter also, they did not make any complaint regarding subjection of the deceased to harassment for the demand of dowry.

It was further submitted that the father of the deceased made a written submission to the concerned Station House Officer which does not contain any complaint that the deceased was ever subjected to cruelty for the demand of dowry. But, the Trial Court has not appreciated this fact and convicted the Appellants. According to Learned Counsel since “soon before her death” the deceased was subjected to cruelty is not established, the conviction of the Appellants is not sustainable.

Learned Counsel for the State, supported the impugned judgment of conviction and sentence.

While hearing the state counsel question the court referred to Rajeev Kumar v. the State of Haryana, “one of the essential ingredients of dowry death under Section 304B of the Code is that the accused must have subjected the woman to cruelty in connection with demand for dowry soon before her death and that this ingredient has to be proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt and only then the Court will presume that the accused has committed the offence of dowry death under Section 113B of the Act.”

The Learned Court while allowing the petition opined, in this case, that“there is practically no evidence to show that there was any cruelty or harassment for or in connection with the demand of dowry. There is also no finding in that regard. This deficiency in evidence proves fatal for the prosecution case. Even otherwise mere evidence of cruelty and harassment is not sufficient to bring in application of Section 304-B IPC. It has to be shown in addition that such cruelty or harassment was for or in connection with the demand for dowry.”

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