LE Correspondent

Mumbai, June 22, 2022: The Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court has recently clarified that in cases under under Section 498-A of the IPC, the acts amounting to harassment, ill-treatment or cruelty must be stated in the First Information Report and must be proved.

By observing that that the accused persons had,not in any way, subjected Surekha(wife of the first accused) to cruelty and abetted commission of her suicide by putting alleged illegal demands, the Bench of Justice Vibha Kankanwadi allowed the appeal preferred by the appellant against the judgment and conviction order passed by the Sessions Court whereby all the accused persons were convicted for committing the offence punishable under Sections 306 and 498-A read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code. 

The case of the prosecution was that the original accused- Ram Digamber got married to Surekha, who was the sister of informant Sonibuwa Babubuwa Bharati. Surekha came to her parental  home after marriage and confessed to her brother and mother that her husband and her in-laws were demanding a gold ring, cot and mattress and on account of the same she was being harassed mentally and physically.  Thereafter, in 1997 the informant received the message that Surekha went missing. In pursuance of the same, search was undertaken and on the next day her dead body was found in a well in the said village, where her matrimonial home was located. In respect of the same, an FIR was lodged. After recording the evidence on record , the Sessions Court convicted all the accused persons. Thus, the same was assailed by way of present appeal. 

This Court observed that it could be inferred from the postmortem report that the probable cause of death was drowning.In order to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt, the prosecution ought to have eliminated the evidence or possibility of accidental death, noted the Bench.

On the issue whether the prosecution had brought on record those circumstances which prompted the deceased Surekha to take up the last step,the Court took into account Section 498-A of the IPC. It was also observed that in the instant matter neither prosecution nor the trial Court had canvassed for Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code. When the charge itself was not framed,  that Section cannot be considered in this appeal, added the Bench.  

Mere use of word “harassment” and / or “ill-treatment” cannot amount to “cruelty” as contemplated under Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code. Those acts amounting to harassment, ill-treatment or cruelty will have to be stated in First Information Report as well as those will have to be proved”, said the Bench.

After taking into consideration the testimony of the witnesses, the Bench opined  that it could not be stated that the accused persons had, in any way, subjected Surekha to cruelty and abetted commission of her suicide by putting those alleged illegal demands. Additionally, the Court stated that no one saw Surekha jumping into the well.  Therefore, keeping in view the  aforesaid materials available on record together with the contents the spot panchnama and the postmortem report, the Bench held that it couldnot be said that it was a case of suicide andthe prosecution had ruled out the possibility of accidental death.

Thus, the Court observed that the conviction awarded to the second appellant deserved to be set aside by allowing the instant appeal. 

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