CRIMINAL APPEAL No. 1080 of 2019
Surendran Vs State of Kerala
N.V. RAMANA, CJI
Justice A.S. BOPANNA
Justice HIMA KOHLI
Appellant – Surendran
Respondent – State of Kerala
An appeal was filed by the appellant against the judgment passed by the High Court of Kerala stating that the statements made by the deceased cannot be used for convicting him under 498A as it does not directly relate to charge pertaining to death.
Section 32(1) – “dying declaration” – statement made by a person relating to the cause of his/her death.
Section 304B – Death of a woman caused due to issues regarding dowry
Section 498A – “domestic violence” - Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.
- The appellant had married the deceased on 09.04.1995. the deceased was residing with appellant and his family.
- The appellant and his family were alleged to harass the deceased for additional dowry.
- The deceased had first attempted suicide on 11.02.1996 by intaking Benzyl Hexa Cholride and later recovered after treatment.
- A mediation had taken place between the parties and came to an agreement to not ask for any additional dowry.
- The harassment took place even after the agreement resulting in the deceased committing suicide by hanging at her own home on 21.10.1996
- The appellant and his parents and two brother were charged under sections 304B and 498A of IPC, wherein later the appellants brothers were acquitted.
- The appellant and his mother had filed a Criminal Revision Petition before the High Court of Kerala wherein the appellant and his mother were acquitted under Section 304B of IPC and confirmed their conviction under Section 498A of IPC.
- This appeal before the Supreme Court was by way of special leave directed against the judgment passed by the High Court of Kerala on 12.09.2018.
Whether the statements made by the deceased could be relied upon by court for convicting him under Section 498A of IPC if they do not fall under the ambit of Section 32(1) of the Indian Evidence Act?
- The court at first made an analysis of Section 32(1) of the Indian Evidence Act referred to as the “dying declaration” and stated that the statements made by a deceased person are relevant, where whatever may be the nature of the proceeding in which the cause of the death comes into question.
- The test for admissibility of Section 32(1) of the Indian Evidence Act was not that the evidence submitted should directly relate to a charge pertaining to death rather the cause of death must come into question in that case.
- The court referred to the case of Lalji Dusadh v. King Emperor, it was stated that where one directly relates to the death of a declarant and the other does not, the Court had admitted the evidence of the declarant even if the prosecution failed to prove the charge relating to death.
- In Parmanand Ganga Prasad v. Emperor, AIR 194 Nag 340 it was held that mere fact that a charge of murder failed and was not brought home to the accused would not make the statement inadmissible for the purposes of other offences which were committed in the course of the same transaction.
- Through the above-mentioned cases it was seen that the test for admissibility under section 32(1) of the Indian Evidence Act should not directly relate to charge pertaining to death rather there must be a question as to the cause of death.
- The judgments made by the court in cases Gananath Pattnaik (supra), Inderpal (supra), Bhairon Singh (supra) and Kantilal Martaji Pandor (supra) where it was held that the statements and evidence of the deceased cannot be admitted to prove charge under Section 498A of the IPC was overruled.
- The evidence pertaining to harassment had been clearly pointed out through the evidence given by the deceased’s mother and it is a well-established rule that testimonies of related witness can be taken into consideration.
Thereby the court concluded that the statements provided by the deceased can be taken as evidence under Section 32(1) even if it does not directly relate to charge pertaining to death. The court rejected the appeal and confirmed with the conviction of appellant under Section 498A of IPC and sentencing him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for one year.
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