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Case Reviews, The Law

State of U.P. V. Santosh Kumar (2009)

Sections 304-B and 498-A IPC are both distinct and separate offenses. The demand for dowry is an essential ingredient in section 304-B IPC, whereas under section 498-A IPC the demand for dowry is not the essential ingredient. Thus, even if there is acquittal under section 304-B IPC, a conviction under section 498A can be made.

By: Himanshi Jain, Final Year LL.B. Student at Balaji Law College, Pune.

Facts of the Case:

  • Deceased was the daughter of Dhani Ram who was married to Ram Chandra. At the time of marriage, Dhani Ram gave dowry beyond his capacity but the in-laws were not satisfied and they harassed Sunita by regularly demanding dowry in the form of articles and money. Dhani Ram agreed to give dowry throughout his life on the condition that they should not harass his daughter. 
  • The deceased’s husband poured kerosene oil and lit the fire. Sunita cried for help and jumped into a water pond to save her life. On hearing her cry people took her out of the pond. She was alive at that time. 

Sunita’s father, Dhani Ram reached the spot of occurrence and she told him she had a fight with Santosh Kumar, he and others had beaten her, poured kerosene and set her on fire. 

  • The investigating officer reached the spot and the dying declaration was recorded under S. 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in the case diary by the Investigating Officer where Sunita said that earlier that day, she had a quarrel with her mother-in-law over 20Rs. Immediately after that her brother in law Santosh Kumar came and asked her what she has been doing in Bombay to which she replied ask from Bombay itself. Hearing this Santosh Kumar started beating her with fists and kicks. Deceased Sunita said to him that instead of killing her every day, why not to finish her at once. Then Santosh Kumar poured kerosene and set her on fire. She rushed towards her mother-in-law for help but she ignored her and thus she rushed and jumped into the pond to save her life. The officer also seized the container of kerosene oil, a piece of burnt dhoti, and broken bangles. He completed the necessary formalities and prepared a charge sheet.
  • The third dying declaration was given to Tehsildar/Magistrate Rajesh Kumar Shrivastava wherein deceased Sunita said that she had a quarrel with her mother-in-law. Immediately after that her brother in law Santosh Kumar came and asked her what she has been doing in Bombay to which she replied go and inquire from Bombay itself. Hearing this Santosh Kumar started beating him with fists and kicks. On exhortation by Prem Narain, Santosh Kumar brought a container of kerosene oil, poured on her, and set her on fire. 
  • Thus there were three dying declarations at different times having a considerable difference.
  • The trial court after analysis held that Santosh Kumar is not guilty under Section 304-B of IPC but is guilty under Section 302 & 498-A of IPC and 3,4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. And respondents Shiv Pyari and Prem Narain were convicted by the trial court under S. 498-A of IPC and S. 3 and of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
  • The appeal for Trial Court’s decision went to the High court.
  • The High Court acquitted all the respondents stating that when the charge under section 304-B IPC failed, then the appellants could not be convicted for offenses punishable under sections 3 and of the Dowry Prohibition Act as well as under section 498-A Indian Penal Code. 
  • The appeal for the High Court’s decision was filed. 

Issues:

  • Would three different dying declarations be considered valid?
  • Is there any interrelation between S. 304-B of IPC and Section 3,4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961? 

Rules:

  • Section 302/34, 304-B and 498-A of Indian Penal Code, 1860 
  • Section 3,4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 read with S. 34 of IPC. 

Judgment:

The Supreme Court held that the decision of the High Court was palpably wrong and unsustainable. The ingredients of Section 498-A IPC and S. 3 and of the Dowry Prohibition Act are different from the ingredients of S. 304-B of IPC.

The court held that even if there were three different dying declarations, all of them lead to one conclusion that respondent Santosh Kumar had beaten deceased Sunita, poured kerosene oil on her, and set her on fire because of which she sustained burn injuries and died. All three declarations were recorded during different time periods thus minor inconsistencies are expected to occur.  

Sections 304-B and 498-A IPC are both distinct and separate offenses. The demand for dowry is an essential ingredient in section 304-B IPC, whereas under section 498-A IPC the demand for dowry is not the essential ingredient. Thus, even if there is acquittal under section 304-B IPC, a conviction under section 498A can be made.

Further, the ambit and scope of S.3 and of the Dowry Prohibition Act are different from the ambit and scope of section 498- A IPC. Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act deals with punishment for giving or taking dowry whereas Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act deals with penalty for demanding dowry either in a direct or indirect manner.  Section 4 prohibits the demand for `giving’ property or valuable security, of which demand if satisfied would be an offense under section 3 read with section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.  

This appeal was thus allowed and was accordingly disposed of.

Precedent Cited:

State of Karnataka v. Balappa, the court has dealt with in great detail that even if the charge under section 304-B IPC is not made out, the conviction under section 498-A IPC can be recorded.

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