SC ruling on prosecution’s burden to prove dowry death

New Delhi, Jan 08: The Supreme Court has ruled that in dowry death cases it is not necessary that the prosecution should prove with mathematical precision that the victim was subjected to harassment soon before her death.

Whether or not the cruelty or harassment meted out to the victim for or in connection with the demand of dowry was soon before her death and the proximate cause of her death, under abnormal circumstances, would depend upon the facts of each case. There can be no fixed period of time in this regard,” the apex court observed.

A bench of Justices L S Panta and Aftab Alam in a judgement said that the words ‘soon before her death’ occurring in section 304 B of the Penal Code are to be understood in a relative and flexible sense.

“Those words cannot be construed as laying down a rigid period of time to be mechanically applied in each case,” the apex court said while dismissing the appeal filed by a man and his parents sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in a dowry death case.

Amar Singh and his parents. Deen Dayal and Sukhrani, were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for murdering the former’s wife Asha Devi for dowry by the High Court in UP which had reversed the acquittal order passed by a sessions court.

Aggrieved by the High Court’s judgement, the accused filed the appeal in the apex court taking a stand that before any presumption is drawn it must be proved that they had made the demand for dowry, and in that connection subjected Asha Devi to cruelty and harassment ‘soon before her death’ as mandated by section 304B IPC (dowry death).

The apex court rejected the argument and noted that medical evidence clearly revealed the deceased was killed and thrown into a well and was not drowned as claimed by the husband and in-laws.

“Thus on the evidence on record we find it fully established that only after 15 months of her marriage and while she was living with the appellants, Asha Devi died under circumstances that were not only far from normal but also plainly indicated homicide,” the apex court observed.

It further said that evidence of brother and the mother of the deceased leave no room for doubt with regard to the demand of dowry by the appellants and their subjecting Asha Devi to cruelty and harassment in connection with the demand.

Accordingly, it upheld the High Court’s sentence and dismissed the convict’s appeal.

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