Author: Ashwini Vernekar Student, Mumbai University
Case Summary of Deen Dayal vs State of UP – “Dowry Death”
It is a one of the severe cases of “dowry death”, which has been increasing even with changing and developing societies. As per the NCRB reports, the state of Uttar Pradesh has reported highest number of dowry deaths in India in year 2019. In the matter of Deen Dayal & Others vs State of U.P. (Criminal Appeal No. 67 of 2006), the appeal has been filed before the Hon’ble Supreme Court under section 379 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 which is read with section 2(A) of the Supreme Court (Enlargement of Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction) Act, 1970 by the appellants/accused.
Asha Devi, the deceased in the matter was married to Appellant No. 3 in June 1997. After fifteen months to her marriage, she died on September 6, 1998. At the time of her death, she was living with her in laws i.e., the Appellants in the case and her body were taken out of a well situated about four hundred paces from the house of the Appellants.
Amar Singh the Appellant no. 3 in the matter is the son of Deen Dayal, the Appellant no. 1 and Smt. Sukhrani, Appellant no. 2. Asha Devi wife of Appellant no.3, for non-fulfillment of their demand for dowry, the Appellants tried to kill her and were charged under Section 498A (Women subjected to cruelty) and 304B (Dowry death), alternatively section 302 (Punishment for murder) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. By the judgment and order dated 30.04.2001 by the Additional Session Judge of Agra the accused/appellants were acquitted. Later against such judgement and order, an appeal was filed before the Hon’ble High Court of Allahabad which was registered as Govt Appeal no. 2998 of 2001. The Hon’ble High Court then allowed the Appeal stating that the conclusion arrived by the trial court was wholly untenable. By the order of the Hon’ble High Court of Allahabad dated 21.09.2005 set aside the acquittal and convicted all the three Appellants under section 498A and 304B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and sentenced them to undergo Rigorous Imprisonment for three years and ten years respectively which would run concurrently.
Submissions by the Appellant and Observation by the Hon’ble Supreme Court
The counsel for the Appellant, Dr. J.N. Dubey laid down brief submission in support of the Appeal. The Appellant pointed out that the Hon’ble High Court of Allahabad was in the error by interfering in the judgement and order of the Trial Court and substituting its own view without considering the view of the Trial court. The counsel further stated that several ingredients of the offence of dowry death were unproved by the Prosecution and no presumption can be taken as the conditions for Section 304B of Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 were not satisfied. As per the facts and circumstances on the side of the Appellants, the deceased went to fetch water and while pulling the pail of the water she accidentally fell down into the well and died.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court took a look in the medical evidence submitted by the prosecution. The PW-3, the doctor responsible for the post-mortem of the deceased submitted that the deceased had two injuries in her body.
Swelling mark 5 x 5 cm on top and middle of head
Swelling 3 x 3 cm in front upper part of nose
On internal examination he found the following injuries:
“Left parietal bone of head was fractured. Membrane was soiled in blood. There was blood in brain. Bone of nose was fractured. There was two-ounce clotted blood in nose. There was two-ounce watery fluid in stomach”.
The PW-3 stated before the Hon’ble Supreme Court that the death of the victim was caused by coma due to head injury and no water was found in the lungs or the wind pipe of the victim. So, the medical evidence thus fully corroborates the case of the prosecution that the victim was thrown in the well when she was already dead or was dying, at any rate she had stopped breathing as indicated by the absence of any water in her lungs or windpipe.
The Appellant for the matter came up with an explanation with regard to the incident wherein the Appellant stated that the victim might have smashed her head against the wall of the well which resulted in coma and later death of the victim, so the water thus then couldn’t be found in her lungs and wind pipe.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court felt the explanation was unacceptable and as per the investigation officer the well was half covered by wooden plank and the chances to slip was low. The inner walls were not brick lined and the doctor was quite definite about the injuries which were the result of separate blows by some hard and blunt substances.
The Counsel for the Appellants said that the victim was kept with great love and affection by all the appellants. It appeared before the Hon’ble Supreme Court that the eye witness presented by the Appellants were belonging to the same caste as the Appellants and they tried to conceal the facts and were not prepared to give statements against the Appellants.
Thus, by the evidence on record, it was clear and fully established that her death was far from normal and also plainly indicated homicide.
The Appellants denied the demand of dowry stated by the Prosecution and stated that they never demanded dowry from the deceased’s family. The victim’s family reiterated that she was beaten and abused by the Appellants and they did demand dowry worth Rs. 10,000/- and a gold chain addition to what has been received by them during the marriage.
The evidences of PW 2 and PW5, the brother and the mother respectively of the deceased, leave no room for doubt in regard to demand of dowry by the appellants and subjecting the victim to cruelty and harassment. The PW 2 and 5 stated that two months before the death of the victim, she was forcefully taken by her father-in-law even when she was not prepared to go back.
The Hon’ble Court stated that the words “soon before her death” occurring in Section 304 B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 are to be understood in a relative and flexible sense. 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 the abnormal circumstances, would depend upon the facts of each case. There can be no fixed period of time in this regard.
In the facts and circumstances of the case, the Hon’ble Court is satisfied that in connection with the Appellants in demand for dowry, the victim was subjected to cruelty and that was proximate cause of her homicidal death. The Hon’ble Supreme Court further reiterated that all the ingredients of Section 304 B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and no other view is possible but to hold all the three appellants guilty of committing dowry death.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the Appeal filed by the Appellants stands dismissed as it finds no merit in the submissions made by the Appellants in the matter and states that the order and judgement passed by the Hon’ble High Court of Allahabad that reversed the order and judgement of the trial court is justified as it was completely untenable.
The Trial Court failed in understanding the gravity of this case and ignored the medical evidences presented before the court, also the facts and circumstances of the case which undoubtedly pointed out the guilt of the Appellants. Recently, the deaths of two women in Kerala alleged dowry harassment provoked outrage and urgent need of changes in the law which shall prevent such incidents.
It is necessary to educate every individual about the dowry and the provisions for prohibitions of it and punishment and penalties involved. Every daughter should be made aware about her rights and should train them in taking steps against such demand or behaviour or action by any such person.
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