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case comment required

Can someone please provide case comment on S. Gopal Reddy v/s. State of A.P. Its very urgent!!!!!



DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/07/1996
 1996 SCC  (4) 596  JT 1996 (6) 268
 1996 SCALE  (5)78
   Hon'ble Dr. Justice A.S.Anand
   Hon,ble Mr.Justice M.K.Mukherjee
P.P.Rao,  Sr.Adv.   A.Sudarshen Reddy,  B.Rajeshwar Rao,
Ramkrishna  Reddy,  Vimal  Dave,  Advs. with  him  for the
Guntur Prabhakar, Adv. for the Respondent
     J U D G M E N T
The following Judgment of the Court was delivered:
S.Gopal Reddy
State of Andhra Pradesh
     J U D G M E N T
     The appellant  alongwith  his  brother  was  tried for
offences under Section 420  IPC read  with Section  4 Dowry
Prohibition Act,  1961. The  trial Court convicted them both
and sentenced them to undergo 9 months R.I. and to a fine of
Rs. 500/-  each and  in default to undergo  S.I.  for four
months for the offence under Section 420 IPC and to R.I. for
6 months  and a fine of Rs. 1000/- each and in default S.I.
for six months for  the  offence  under  Section  4  Dowry
Prohibition Act,  1961 (hereinafter  the Act). In an appeal
against their sentence  and conviction,  the  Additional
Metropolitan Sessions  Judge  held  that  no  offence  under
Section 420  IPC was made out and set aside their conviction
and sentence  for the  said offence  while confirming  their
conviction and sentence for  the offence under Section 4 of
the  Act.  Both the  convicts unsuccessfully invoked the
revisional jurisdiction of the High Court.
     This appeal  by special leave filed by the appellant is
directed against  the order  of the  High  Court  of  Andhra
Pradesh dated  16.10.1990 dismissing  the Criminal  Revision
Petition filed by the convicts. The brother of the appellant
filed SLP  (Crl.) 2336 of 1990 against the revisional order
of the High Court  but that  S.L.P. was  dismissed by this
Court on 15.2.1991.
     The prosecution case is as follows :
     The appellant  (hereinafter the  first accused)  is the
younger brother of the petitioner (hereinafter  the second
accused) in  S.L.P. (Crl.) No.2336 of 1990, which as already
noticed was  dismissed on 15.2.1991 by this Court. The first
accused had  been selected for Indian Police Service and was
undergoing training  in the  year 1985 and on completion of
the training  was posted  as an Assistant Superintendent of
Police in  Jammu &  Kashmir Police  force. His brother, the
second accused, was at the relevant  time working with the
Osmania University  at Hyderabad.  P.W.1,  Shri  G.Narayana
Reddy, the  complainant,  was  practising  as  a  lawyer  at
Hyderabad. PW1 has four  daughters. Ms.Vani  is the  eldest
among the  four daughters. She was working as a cashier with
the State  Bank of  India at Hyderabad. PW 1 was looking for
marriage alliance  for his  daughter Ms. Vani. A proposal to
get Ms.Vani  married to the first accused was made by P.W.2,
Shri Lakshma  Reddy, a common friend  of the  appellant and
PW1. Lateron  P.W.2 introduced the second accused to P.W.1,
who later  on also  met Ms  Vani and  approved of the match.
After some  time, the  first accused also met Ms.Vani at the
Institute of  Public Enterprises  and both  of them approved
each other for marriage. It is alleged that on 6.5.1985, the
second accused accompanied by P.W.2 and some others went to
the house  of P.W.1  to pursue the talks regarding marriage.
There were  some talks regarding giving  of dowry  and the
terms were  finally agreed  between them  on 7.5.1985 at the
house of  the second  accused. The  first  accused  was not
present either on 6.5.1985  or on  7.5.1985. It  is alleged
that as per the  terms settled between the  parties, P.W.1
agreed to  give to  his daughter  (1) house at Hyderabad (2)
jewels, cash  and clothes worth about at rupees one lakh and
(3) a  sum of Rs 50,000/- in cash for purchase of a car. The
date of marriage, however, was to be fixed after consulting
the first  accused PW1, however, later on insisted on having
an engagement  ceremony and  contacted the first accused but
the first  accused persuaded  P.W.1 not to rush through the
same as it was not possible for him to intimate the date to
his friends  at a  short notice.  The first  accused came to
Hyderabad from Dehradun, where he was undergoing training,
on 6.8.1985  and stayed at Hyderabad  till  15.8.1985. The
first accused  attended the  birthday party  of the youngest
sister of  Ms.Vani on  15.8.1985 and  later on sent a bank
draft of  Rs.100/- as  the birthday gift for her to Ms.Vani.
In the letter Ex.P1  which accompanied the bank draft, some
reference was  allegedly made  regarding the  settlement  of
dowry. It  is alleged  that the first accused later on wrote
several letters including exhibits  P6,P7,P9 and P10 to Ms.
Vani It is the prosecution case that the second accused, on
being approached  by PW1  for fixing  the date of marriage,
demanded Rs.  1 lakh instead of Rs. 50,000/- for purchase of
car. The  second accused  also insisted that the said amount
should be  paid before marriage. The  'dowry' talks between
the second  accused and PW1, however, remained inconclusive.
Lateron the  date of  marriage was  fixed as  2.11.1985.  On
1.10.1985, the first  accused allegedly  wrote  a  letter,
exhibit P6,  to Ms.Vani asking her  to cancel the date  of
marriage or  to fulfil the demands  made by his elders. The
first accused  came to Hyderabad on  20.10.1985 when  P.W.1
told  him   about  the demand of  additional payment  of
Rs.50,000/- made  by the  second accused for the purchase of
car. The  first accused told P.W.1 that he would consult his
brother and  inform him about it  and left  for his  native
place. lt  is alleged  that on his return from the village,
the first accused asked P.W.1 to give Rs.75,000/- instead of
Rs.50,000/- as agreed upon earlier instead of Rs. 1 lakh as
demanded by the second accused. According to the prosecution
case this  talk took place in the presence of Shri Narasinga
Rao (not  examined) The first accused suggested that P.W.1
should give  Rs.50,000/- immediately towards the purchase of
the car and the balance of Rs.25,000/- should be paid within
one year  after the  marriage but  PW1 did  not accept the
suggestion. According to the prosecution case `Varapuja' was
performed by PW1 and his other relatives at the house of the
second accused on 31.10.1985  At that time P.W.1 allegedly
handed over  to the  first accused,  a document Exhabit P-13
dated 12.10.1985,  purporting to  settle a house in the name
of his daughter Ms.Vani alongwith a bank pass book, Exhibit
P-12 showing  a cash  balance of  Rs.50,881/- in the name of
Ms.Vani. The  first  accused  is  reported  to have,  after
examining the  document Exhibit P-13, flared up saying that
the settlement was for a Double  Storeyed  House  and the
document Exhibit  P-13 purporting to settle the house in the
name of Ms.Vanl was  only  a  single  storey  building.  He
threatened to  get the marriage cancelled if P.W.1 failed to
comply with  the settlement  as arrived at on the  earlier
occasions. The efforts of  P.W.1  to persuade  the  first
accused not to cancel the marriage did not yield any results
and ultimately the marriage  did not  take place. The first
accused then  returned all  the articles that had been given
to him at the time of `Varapuja'. Aggrieved, by the failure
of the marriage negotiations, P.W.1 on  22.1.1986  sent  a
complaint to  the Director  of National Police Academy where
the first  accused was undergoing training Subsequently, PW1
also went to the Academy to meet the Director when he learnt
from the  personal assistant  to the Director of the Academy
that the  first accused was getting married to another girl
on 30th of March,  1986 at  Bolaram and  showed to  him the
wedding invitation  card.  P.W.1,  thereupon,  gave  another
complaint  to  the  director  on  26.3.1986,  who,  however,
advised him  to approach  the concerned police for necessary
action. P.W.1 filed a report Ex.P20 at Chikkadapalli Police
Station on   28.3.1986.  The  Inspector  of  Police  P.W.7,
registered the complaint as Crime Case No.109/1986 and took
up the investigation. During the  investigation,  various
letters purported  to have been written by the first accused
to Ms.Vani  were sent  to the  handwriting expert P.W.3, who
gave his  opinion regarding  the existence  of similarities
between the  specimen writings of the first accused and the
disputed writings.  Both the  first accused and his brother,
the second  accused, were thereafter chargesheeted and tried
for offences  punishable under section 420 I.P.C. read with
an offence  punishable under  section 4  of  the  Act and
convicted and sentenced as noticed above.
     Mr. P.P.Rao  the learned  senior counsel  appearing for
the appellant  submitted that the courts below had committed
an error  in not  correctly interpreting the ambit and scope
of section  4 of  the Dowry  Prohibition Act, 1961 read with
the definition of `dowry'  under section 2 of the said Act.
According to  the learned  counsel, for "demand" of dowry to
become an  offence under  Section 4  of the  Act, it must be
made at the time of marriage and not during the negotiations
for marriage.  Reliance in  this behalf is placed on the use
of the expressions `bride' and `bridegroom' in Section 4 to
emphasise that at the stage of  pre-marriage negotiations,
the boy and the  girl are  not `bridegroom' and `bride' and
therefore  the `demand'  made at  that  stage  cannot  be
construed as  a `demand' of dowry punishable under Section 4
of the Act. On merits, counsel argued that reliance placed
by the trial  court  as  well as  the appellate  and the
revisional court  on various letters purporting to have been
written by  the  first accused  was  erroneous  since the
appellant had  denied their  authorship and  there  was  no
satisfactory evidence on the record to connect the appellant
with   those   letters except  the "inconclusive" and
uncorroborated evidence of the handwriting expert.  Mr.Rao
further argued that  in  the  present case  there  was  no
unimpeachable evidence available on the record to bring home
the  guilt   of the   appellant  and  the  failure  of the
prosecution to examine Ms.Vani and Shri Narsinga Rao was a
serious lacuna in the prosecution case. Argued Mr. Rao that
the evidence  of PW1,  the complainant had not received any
corroboration at  all and  since the evidence of PW1 was not
wholly reliable,  conviction of the appellant without any
corroboration of  the evidence of PW1 was not justified. Mr.
Rao urged  that the complainant had exaggerated the case and
roped in  the appellant,  whose elder brother alone had made
the demand  for dowry, out of anger and frustration and that
let alone  `demanding dowry', the first accused was not even
a privy to the demand of  dowry  as  made  by the  second
accused, his elder brother.
     Learned  counsel  for  the respondent-State,  however,
supported the judgment of the trial court and the High Court
and argued  that the  case against  the appellant  had been
established beyond  a reasonable  doubt and  that this court
need not  interfere in exercise of  its jurisdiction  under
Article 136  of the  Constitution of  India with findings of
fact arrived at after appreciation of evidence by the courts
below. According to Mr. Prabhakar, the interpretation sought
to be placed by Mr. Rao on Section 4 of the Act would defeat
the very  object of  the Act,  which was enacted to curb the
practice of "demand" or acceptance and receipt of dowry" and
that the  definition of `dowry' as contained in Section 2 of
the Act included the demand of dowry `at or before or after
the marriage'.
     The curse of dowry has been raising its ugly head every
now and then but  the evil  has  been flourishing  beyond
imaginable proportions. It was to curb this evil, that led
the Parliament to enact  The Dowry Prohibition Act in 1961.
The Act is intended  to prohibit  the giving  or taking  of
dowry end makes its `demand' by itself also an offence under
Section 4 of the Act. Even the abetment of giving, taking or
demanding dowry has been  made an offence. Further, the Act
provides that  any agreement  for giving  or taking of dowry
shall be  void and the offences under the Act have also been
made non-compoundable  vide Section 8 of the Act. Keeping in
view the  object which is sought  to be achieved by the Act
and the evil it attempts to stamp out, a three Judges Bench
of this court in L.V. Jadhav vs. Shankar Rao Abasaheb Pawar
& Others (1983 4 SCC 231) opined that the expression "Dowry"
wherever used in the Act must be liberally construed.
     Before proceeding further, we consider it desirable to
notice some   of  the relevant  provisions  of  the  Dowry
Prohibition Act,1961.
     "Section  2-   `dowry'  means   any
     property or valuable security given
     or agreed  to  be   given  either
     directly or indirectly-
     (a) by  one party to a marriage to
     the other party to the marriage; or
     (b) by  the parents of either party
     to a  marriage  or  by  any  other
     person,  to  either  party to  the
     marriage or to any other person;
     at or  before or after the marriage
     as consideration  for the marriage
     of the  said parties,  but does not
     include dower  or mahr  in case  of
     person to whom the Muslim Personal
     (Shariat) applies.
     . . . . . . . . .
     . . . . . . . . .
     Section  3-Penalty for  giving  or
     taking dowry-  If any person, after
     the commencement of this Act, gives
     or takes  or abets the  giving  or
     taking  of  dowry,  he   shall  be
     punishable with  imprisonment for a
     term which shall not  be less than
     five years,  and  with  fine  which
     shall  not be  less  than fifteen
     thousand rupees  or the  amount  of
     the value of such dowry, whichever
     is more.
 Provided that the Court  may,
     for adequate and special reasons to
     be recorded in the judgment, impose
     a sentence of imprisonment  for  a
     term    of    less    than    five
     years(Substituted for   the  words
     "six months"  w.e.f. 19th November,
     Section-4: Penalty  for  demanding
     dowry-if any    person demands
     directly or  indirectly,  from  the
     parents  or   other  relatives   or
     guardian of  a bride  or bridegroom
     as the  case may  be, any dowry, he
     shall    be     punishable    with
     imprisonment for a term which shall
     not be  less than six  months  but
     which may extend to  two years and
     with fine which may  extend to ten
     thousand rupees.
 Provided that the Court  may,
     for adequate and special reasons to
     be mentioned   in the   judgments
     impose a  sentence of  imprisonment
     for  a   term  of less  than  six
     The definition  of the  term 'dowry' under Section 2 of
the Act shows that  any property or valuable security given
or "agreed to be given" either directly or indirectly by one
party to the marriage to the other party to the marriage "at
or before or after the marriage" as a "consideration for the
marriage  of   the  said   parties"  would   become  'dowry'
punishable under  the Act.  Property or valuable security so
as to  constitute 'dowry' within the meaning of the Act must
therefore be  given or demanded "as  consideration for the
     Section 4 of the Act aims  at discouraging  the very
"demand" of  "dowry" as a 'Consideration  for the marriage'
between the parties thereto and lays down that if any person
after the  commencement of  the Act,  "demands", directly or
indirectly, from  the parents  or guardians  of a 'bride' or
'bridegroom', as  the case  may be, any 'dowry', he shall be
punishable with imprisonment which may extend to six months
or with fine which  may extend to Rs.5,000/- or with both.
Thus, it  would be  seen that section 4 makes punishable the
very  demand   of  property   or  valuable   security  as  a
consideration for  marriage,  which  demand,  if  satisfied,
would constitute  the graver  offence under section a of the
Act punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not
be less than five  years and  with fine  which shall not be
less than fifteen thousand rupees or the amount of the value
of such dowry whichever is more.
     The definition  of the  expression 'dowry' contained in
Section 2  of the  Act cannot  be  confined  merely  to the
'demand' of money, property or valuable security 'made at or
after the  performance of  marriage' as is urged by Mr. Rao.
The legislature has in its wisdom  while providing for the
definition of 'dowry' emphasised that any money, property or
valuable security  given, as  a consideration  for marriage,
'before, at  or after  the marriage  would be covered by the
expression 'dowry'  and this  definition  as  contained  in
Section 2  has to  be read  wherever the  expression 'dowry'
occurs in  the Act.  Meaning  of  the  expression  'dowry'as
commonly used  and understood is different than the peculiar
definition thereof  under the  Act. Under  Section 4  of the
Act, mere  demand of 'dowry' is sufficient to bring home the
offence to an accused. Thus, any "demand" of money, property
or valuable  security made  from the bride or her parents or
other relatives by the bridegroom or his parents or other
relatives or  vice-versa would fall within  the mischief of
'dowry' under  the Act where such  demand is  not  properly
referable  to any  legally   recognised   claim   and  is
consideration of  marriage. Marriage  in this  context would
include a proposed marriage also more particularly where the
non-fulfilment of  the "demand of dowry"  leads to the ugly
consequence of the marriage  not taking  place at  all. The
expression 'dowry'  under the Act must be interpreted in the
sense which  the Statute  wishes to  attribute to  it. Mr.
P.P.Rao,  learned   senior  counsel   referred to   various
dictionaries  for   the meaning  of  'dowry', 'bride' and
'bridegroom' and  on the  basis of  those meanings submitted
that 'dowry'  must be construed only as such property, goods
or valuable  security which  is given to a husband by and on
behalf of  the wife at marriage and any demand made prior to
marriage would not amount  to dowry. We cannot agree. Where
definition has been given in a statute itself, it is neither
proper nor  desirable to  look to  the dictionaries  etc. to
find out the meaning of the expression. The definition given
in the statute is  the determinative- factor. The Act is a
piece of  social legislation which aims to check the growing
menace of  the social  evil of dowry and it makes punishable
not only  the actual  receiving of  dowry but  also the very
demand of  dowry made  before or  at the  time or  after the
marriage where such demand is referable to the consideration
of marriage.  Dowry as a quid pro for marriage is prohibited
and not the giving  of traditional presents to the bride or
the bride  groom by  friends and  relatives. Thus, voluntary
presents given at or  before or  after the  marriage to the
bride  or   the bridegroom,  as  the  case  may  be,  of  a
traditional nature,  which are given not as a consideration
for marriage but out of love, affection on regard, would not
fall within  the mischief  of the  expression  'dowry' mare
punishable under the Act.
     It is  a well  known rule of interpretation of statutes
that the  text and  the context of the entire Act  must be
looked into  while interpreting any of the expressions used
in a  statute. The  courts must look to the object which the
statute seeks  to achieve  while  interpreting any  of the
provisions of the Act. A purposive approach for interpreting
the Act is necessary. We are unable to persuade ourselves to
agree with  Mr. Rao that it is only the property or valuable
security given at the time of marriage which would bring the
same within  the definition  of 'dowry' punishable under the
Act, as such an  interpretation would be defeating the very
object for  which the  Act was enacted. Keeping in view the
object of  the Act, "demand of dowry" as a consideration for
a proposed  marriage would  also come  within the meaning of
the expression dowry under the Act. If we were to agree with
Mr. Rao that it is only the demand made at or after marriage
which is punishable under Section 4 of the Act, Some serious
consequences, which  the legislature  wanted to avoid, are
bound  to   follow.  Take  for example a  case  where the
bridegroom or his parents or other relatives make a 'demand'
of dowry  during marriage  negotiations and  lateron  after
bringing the bridal party to the bride's house find that the
bride or  her parents  or relative  have not met the earlier
'demand' and call off the marriage and leave the bride house
should they  escape the punishment under the Act. The answer
has to be an  emphatic 'no'.  It would be adding insult to
injury if we were to countenance that their action would not
attract the  provisions of  Section 4  of the  Act. Such  an
interpretation would  frustrate the  very object  of the Act
and would  also run  contrary  to  the accepted  principles
relating to the interpretation of statutes.
     In Reserve Bank  of  India  Etc. Etc..  vs.  Peerless
General Finance And Investment Co. Ltd. & Others Etc.. Etc..
(1987) 1  SCC 424  while  dealing  with  the question  of
interpretation of a statute, this court observed:
     "Interpretation must  depend on the
     text and  the context. They are the
     bases of  interpretation. One  may
     well  say if  the   text is  the
     texture, context  is what gives the
     colour.  Neither  can  be ignored.
     Both    are     important.    That
     interpretation is best which makes
     the  textual  interpretation  match
     the contextual.  A statute is best
     interpreted when we know why it was
     enacted. With  this knowledge,  the
     statute must  be read,  first as  a
     whole and then section by section,
     clause by clause, phrase by phrase
     and word  by word. If a statute is
     looked at, in the context of  its
     enactment, with  the glasses of the
     statutemaker,  provided   by   such
     context, its  scheme, the sections,
     clauses, phrases and words may take
     colour and appear different  than
     when  the statute  is  looked  at
     without the glasses provided by the
     context. With these glasses we must
     look at  the Act  as  a  whole  and
     discover what  each  section,  each
     clause, each  phrase and  each word
     is meant  and designed to say as to
     fit into  the scheme  of the entire
     Act. No  part of  a statute  and no
     word of  a statute can be construed
     in isolation.  Statutes have  to be
     construed so  that every word has a
     place  and everything  is in  its
     Again, in N.K.Jain & Others vs. C.K.Shah & Others(1991)
2 SCC 495 it was observed that in gathering the meaning of a
word used in the statute, the context in which that word has
been used  has significance and the legislative purpose must
be noted  by reading  the statute  as a whole and bearing in
mind the  context in  which the word has  been used  in the
     In Seaford Court Estates Ltd. vs. Asher, (1949) 2 All
ER 155(CA), Lord Denning advised a purposive approach to the
interpretation of a word used in a statute and observed:
     "The English  language  is not  an
     instrument    of    mathematical
     precision. Our  literature would be
     much the poorer if it were. This is
     where  the draftsmen  of Acts  of
     Parliament have often been unfairly
     criticised.  A   judge,   believing
     himself  to   be  fettered by  the
     supposed rule  that he must look to
     the  language   and  nothing  else,
     laments  that  the draftsmen  have
     note, provided for this or that, or
     have been guilty of  some or other
     ambiguity. It would certainly Leave
     the  judges   trouble  if Acts  of
     Parliament were drafted with divine
     prescience and  perfect clarity. In
     the absence  of it,  when a  defect
     appears, a judge cannot simply fold
     his hands and blame the draftsman.
     He must set  to  work on   the
     constructive task of  finding  the
     intention of  Parliament, and  he
     must do  this  not only  from  the
     language of  the statute, but also
     from a  consideration of the social
     conditions which  gave rise  to  it
     and of  the mischief  which it  was
     passed to remedy, and then he must
     supplement the  written word  so as
     to give  'force and  life' to  the
     intention of   the  legislature  A
     judge  should   ask   himself   the
     question how,  if the makers of the
     Act had themselves come across this
     ruck in  the texture  of  it,  they
     would have straightened it out? He
     must then do so as they would have
     done. A  judge must  not alter  the
     material of which the Act is woven,
     but he  can and should iron out the
    (emphasis supplied)
     An argument,  similar to  the one As raised by Mr. Rao
regarding the use of the expressions 'bride'and 'bridegroom'
occurring in  Section 4 of the Act to urge that "demand" of
property or  valuable security would not be "dowry" if it is
made during  the negotiations for marriage until the boy and
the girl  acquire the status of 'bridegroom' and 'bride', at
or immediately after the  marriage, was raised and repelled
by this court in L.V. Jadhav's case (supra).
     In L.V.  Jadhav's case  (supra) while  interpreting the
meaning of  'dowry' under  Section 2  of  the  Act  and co-
relating it to the requirements of Section 4 of the Act, the
Bench observed:
     "........ Section 4 which Lays down
     "if   any  person    after    the
     commencement of  this Act, demands,
     directly  or  indirectly  from  the
     parents or guardian of  a bride or
     bridegroom, as the case may be, any
     dowry, he shall be punishable with
     imprisonment which may  extend  to
     six months or with  fine which may
     extend to five thousand  rupees or
     with both".  According to Webster's
     New  World Dictionary,  1962  edn.
     bride means  a woman  who has  just
     been married  or  is  about  to  be
     married, and bridegroom means a man
     who has  just been married  or  is
     about to  be married.  If we  give
     this  meaning   of a  bride  or  a
     bridegroom to  the word  bride  or
     bridegroom used in Section 4 of the
     Act, property  or valuable security
     demanded and  consented to be given
     prior to  the time when the  woman
     had become a bride  or the man had
     become a  bridegroom,  may not  be
     "dowry" within  the meaning  of the
     Act.   Act.  We  are  also of  the
     opinion that  the object of Section
     4 of  the Act  is to discourage the
     very   demand   for   property   or
     valuable security as consideration
     for a  marriage between the parties
     thereto. Section  4  prohibits  the
     demand  for  'giving'  property  or
     valuable security which demand, if
     satisfied, would constitute   an
     offence under  Section 3  read with
     Section 2 of the Act.
 There is no warrant for taking
     the view  that the initial  demand
     for giving of property or valuable
     security would  not  constitute  an
     offence......... "
     Therefore, interpreting the  expression 'dowry and
'demand' in  the context of the scheme of the Act, we are of
the opinion  that any  'demand of  'dowry' made before at or
after  the   marriage, where  such  demand  is made  as  a
consideration for  marriage would  attract the provisions of
Section 4 of the Act.
     The alarming  increase in cases relating to harassment,
torture, abetted suicides and dowry deaths of young innocent
brides has  always sent stock waves to the civilized society
but unfortunately the evil has continued unabated. Awakening
of the collective consciousness  is the  need of  the day.
Change of  heart and  attitude is  needed.  A  wider  social
movement not only of educating women of their rights but all
of the men folk  to respect  and recognise  the basic human
values is  essentially needed to bury this pernicious social
evil. The  role of  the courts,  under the  circumstances,
assumes a  great importance. The courts are expected to deal
with such  cases in  a realistic manner so as to further the
object of the legislation. However, the courts must not lose
right of  the fact  that the  Act, though  a piece of social
legislation, is a penal  statute. One of the cardinal rules
of interpretation in such cases is that a penal statute must
be strictly construed. The courts have, thus, to be watchful
to see that emotions  or  sentiments  are  not allowed  to
influence their judgment, one way or the other and that they
do not ignore the  golden thread  passing through  criminal
jurisprudence that  an accused is presumed  to be  innocent
till proved  guilty and that the guilt of an accused must be
established beyond  a reasonable  doubt. They must carefully
assess the  evidence  and  not allow  either  suspicion  or
surmise or  conjectures to state the place of proof in their
zeal to stamp out  the evil  from the society while at the
same  time   not  adopting   the  easy course of  letting
technicalities or minor discrepancies in the evidence result
in acquitting  an accused. They must critically analyses the
evidence and decide the case in a realistic manner.
     It is  in the  light of  the scheme  of the Act and the
above principles  that we  shall now  consider the merits of
the present  case. This Court, generally speaking, does not
interfere with the findings  recorded on  appreciation  of
evidence by  the courts below except where there appears to
have occurred  gross miscarriage  of justice  or there exist
sufficient reasons  which justify the examination of some of
the relevant evidence by this court itself.
     There is  no dispute that the marriage of the appellant
was settled with Ms. Vani, daughter of PW1 and ultimately it
did not  take place and  broke down. According to PW1, the
reason for  the brake  down of the marriage was his refusal
and inability  to comply with the "demand" for enhancing the
'dowry' as made by the appellant and his brother, the second
accused. The  High Court  considered  the  evidence  on the
record and observed"
     "From the evidence of  PW1  it  is
     clear  that  it  is  only the  2nd
     petitioner that  initially demanded
     the dowry in connection  with  the
     marriage of  his  younger brother,
     the first petitioner. He alone was
     present when  PW1 agreed  to give a
     cash of  Rs. 50,000/-  for purchase
     of car,  a house, jewels, clothing
     and cash valued at rupees one lakh.
     This took place in  the  month  of
     June, 1985 when PW1 approached the
     second petitioner for fixation  of
     date for  marriage some time in the
     month of September, 1985. According
     to PW1, the  second   petitioner
     demanded  rupees one   lakh   for
     purchase of  car. But, however, PW1
     persuaded the  second petitioner to
     fix the  date leaving  that  matter
     open to  be decided in consultation
     with the first petitioner. When the
     first petitioner  came to Hyderabad
     in October,  1985 PW1 complained to
     him about the demand for additional
     dowry and that the first petitioner
     would appear  to have told PW1 that
     he would  discuss with  his brother
     and  inform  him. Then  the  first
     petitioner went to his native place
     and return to Hyderabad  and asked
     PW1  to   give  Rs.   75,000/-  for
     purchase of car.
The High Court further observed :
     " Thus  the demand for dowry either
     initially or at later emanated only
     from  the second petitioner,  the
     elder   brother   for   the   first
     petitioner. From  the  evidence  it
     would appear  that the  petitioners
     come  from a  lower  middle  class
     family and fortunately  the  first
     petitioner was  selected for I.P.S.
     and  from the  tone   of letters
     written by the first petitioner to
     Kum. Vani particularly from Ex. P-6
     letter it would appear that he was
     more interested in acting according
     to the  wishes respondent who  he
     probably felt  was responsible  for
     his coming up in life. The recitals
     in Ex.P-6 would show  that he  did
     not like  to hurt the feelings  of
     the second petitioner and probably
     for that  reason he  could not  say
     anything  when  his  elder brother
     demanded for  more dowry. We cannot
     say how  the first petitioner would
     have acted if only  he had freedom
     to act according to his wishes. But
     the first petitioner was obliged to
     act according  to the wishes of his
     elder brother  in asking  for  more
     dowry. However,  I feel  that  this
     cannot  be  a   circumstances   to
     exonerate him  from  his  liability
     from demand  of dowry under Section
     4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.
    (Emphasis supplied)
     From the  above noted observations, it appears that the
High Court  felt that  the appellant  was perhaps  acting as
"His Master's  Voice" of  his elder  brother. The High Court
accepted the  evidence of PW1 to hold that the appellant had
demanded enhanced  dowry of Rs 75000/ for purchase of car on
his return  from the  native village  and had  repeated his
demand at  the him;  of "Varapuja" and lateron did not marry
Ms Vani as PW1 was unable to meet the demands as projected
by the appellant and  his elder  brother.  The High  Court
appears to  have too  readily accepted the version  of PW1
without properly analyzing and appreciating the same.
     Since, PW1 is the sole witness, we have considered it
proper to examine his evidence with caution.
     From our  critical analysis  of the  evidence of PW1,it
emerges that  at the  time of  initial demand  of dowry as a
consideration for  marriage of the appellant it was only the
brother of  the appellant,  the  second  accused,  who was
present and  it was  the second accused alone with whom the
negotiations took place in presence of PW2 According to PW1,
the brother  of the  appellant later  on demanded rupees one
lakh  for  the purchase  of  car  as  against the  initial
agreement of  rupees fifty  thousand or the  said  purpose.
Admittedly, the first accused was not present at either of
the two occasions. According to PW1 when the appellant came
to Hyderabad  in October,  1985 he  (PW1) complained  to him
about the  demand for a additional dowry made by his brother
and the appellant told him that he would discuss the matter
with  his  brother  and inform him.  It  was, thereafter.
According  to  PW1  that  then the  appellant returned  to
Hyderabad  from  his  native place  that   he  asked the
complainant (PW1)  to give  Rs.75,000/- for  purchase of the
car. Shri  Narsingh Rao is stated  to have  been present at
that time,  but he  has not  been examined at the trial. The
above statement of PW1 has, however, surfaced for the first
time at the trial  only. These is no mention of it in the
first  information  report,  Ex.P-20  or  even in  the two
complaints which  had been  sent by  PW1  to  the  Director,
National Police Academy prior to the lodging of Ex. P-20.
PW1 admitted  in his evidence "I have not stated in Ex. P-20
and in my 161 statement that A-1 on return from his native
place demanded rupees seventy five  thousand instead  of
rupees one  lakh for  purchase of  car and  that I said that
what was  the agreed  for  purchase  of car  was  only Rs.
50,000/- and  not Rs.  75,000/- .  This  story,  therefore,
appears to  be an  after  thought,  made  with a  view  to
implicate the  appellant with  the commission  af an offence
under Section  4 of  the Act.  Had this been the  state  of
affairs, we  see no reason as to why the fact would not have
found mention  at least in  the  complaints  made  to 'the
Director of  the Academy where the appellant was under-going
training. PW1, being a lawyer, must be presumed to be aware
of the importance and relevance of the statement attributed
to the appellant to incorporate it in the complaints and the
FIR. We find this  part  of  the  evidence  of PW1  rather
difficult to  accept without  any independent corroboration.
There is  no corroboration  available on  the record as even
Shri Narsingh Rao has not been examined.
     According to  PW1, the  demand of dowry was repeated by
the appellant  at the time of "Varapuja" which was performed
on 31.10.1985  at the  house of the second accused also. PW1
stated that  he handed over the documents pertaining to the
house, rupees  fifty thousand  in cash and pass book showing
the deposit  of about  rupees fifty  thousand in the bank in
the  name  of  Ms.Vani to  the appellant  alongwith  other
articles  of  'varapuje'and  on seeing the  documents the
appellant flared  up and  said that since the settlement was
for a  two storeyed  house and not a single storey house, as
reflected in Ex.P13, he would cancel the marriage unless the
'demands' as  made earlier  were  fulfilled.  The  story  of
"varapuja" which has been too readily accepted by the courts
below, again  appears to  us to be of a doubtful nature and
does not  inspire confidence. The following admission of PW1
in his evidence, in the context of "varapuja" allegedly held
on 31.10.1985 has significance :
     "It is  not true  that Varapuja  is
     puja of  brideroom according  to my
     understanding. I  did not take any
     prohit for Varapuja. I did not take
     any photograph  on that occasion. I
     did get  any Lagna Patrika prepared
     for the  marriage. It  is not  true
     that I  am deposing  falsely   that
     there was Varapuja and that offered
     money on that occasion.
 I started marriage preparation
     probably in the month of September,
     or October,  I cannot  say on  what
     date  I   booked hall   for   the
     marriage. Ex. P.8   is    only
     cancellation   receipt    of    the
     marriage  hall.   I  have not  got
     invitation cards printed. I did not
     write  any  letters   to anybody
     informing them  of the  marriage or
     inviting them  to the marriage as I
     received letter  from A-1 to cancel
     the  marriage   in the   month  of
     October,itself cancellation  of the
     date  of marriage  was  prior  to
(emphasis ours)
     The above admission creates  a lot  of doubt about the
performance of 'varapuja.' According to PW1, he had received
a letter  from the appellant to the marriage in the month of
October itself. Therefore, if the marriage had been it does
not stand  to reason  as to  why 'vrapuja' should have take?
place at all. The holding of 'Varapuja' appears to be highly
improbable. No corroboration of  any nature to support this
part of the evidence of PW1 is forthcoming on the record.
     That the  marriage between the parties  did  not take
place is  not  in  dispute  but these is  no satisfactory
evidence on  the record to show that the appellant cancelled
the marriage  on account  of non-fulfilment  of dowry demand
allegedly made by him. The letter which PW1 claims to have
himself received  from the  appellant regarding cancellation
of marriage  prior  to 'varapuja'  ceremony  has  not been
produced.  Reliance   instead  has   been  placed   by the
prosecution on letter Ex  P-6 allegedly  written  by the
appellant to  Ms.Vani cancelling  the date  of marriage.  We
shall refer  to the  documentary evidence in the latter part
of the judgment. The  failure of  PW1 to produce the letter
allegedly received  by him from the first accused invites an
adverse presumption  against him  that had  he produced the
letter, the  same  would  have belied his  evidence. The
evidence of  PW1, who  is the  sole  witness,  suffers from
serious inconsistencies and exaggerations. He admittedly is
the most  interested person to establish his case. He is the
complainant an the  case.  It was  he who  had  made two
complaints  to the  Director  of  National  Police  Academy
against the  appellant before lodging the FIR, Ex.P20. He is
a lawyer  by profession.  He would  be presumed to know the
importance of  the 'demand  made by the appellant on the two
occasions. He, however, has offered no explanation as to why
those facts  are conspicuous  by their absence from the FIR
and the two complaints made to the Director of the Academy.
PW1, does  not appear to us to be a wholly reliable witness.
He has made conscious improvements at the trial to implicate
the  appellant by  indulging in  exaggerations  and that
detracts  materially   from   his   reliability.   Prudence,
therefore,  requires   that  the   Court  should   look for
corroboration of his evidence in material particulars before
accepting the same. Neither Ms Vani nor Shri Narsingh Rao in
whose presence the appellant is said to have demanded dowry
have been examined as Witnesses. The failure to examine them
is a serious lacuna in the prosecution case. It was Ms. Vani
who could  have deposed about the circumstances which led to
the breakdown  of the  metrimonial negotiations,  before its
maturity. Various  letter which PW1 produced  at the  trial
were allegedly written by  the appellant to the handwriting
expert prosecution has sought to corroborate the evidence of
PW1 regarding  the authorship  of those letters. The opinion
of PW3,the  Assistant  Director in  the  State Forensic  &
Science Laboratory,  Hyderabad, in  our view can not be said
to be  of inching  type to attribute the authorship of those
letters to the appellant. PW3 during his statement deposed :
     "In  my   opinion (1)   there  are
     similarities   indicating  common
     authorship between the red enclosed
     writings marked as S-12 to S-23 and
     the red enclosed writings marked as
     Q.4 to  Q.7. But  definite present
     standards.(2)  No opinion can  be
     given on  the authorship of the red
     enclosed  signatures  and writings
     marked as Q-1 to Q-3 and Q-8 to Q-
     15 on   the   basis   of present
    (emphasis supplied)
The expert further opined :
     "When     all the writing
     characteristics   are    considered
     collectively,  they   led to   the
     conclusion   that    there    are
     similarities   indicating  common
     authorship between the standard
     writings marked  S-12 to  S-25  and
     the questioned  writings marked Q-4
     to Q-7. But no definite opinion can
     be given on  the  basis of  the
     present standards     Extensive
     admitted writings are required for
     offering definite opinion.
    (emphasis supplied)
During his cross-examination PW3 admitted :
 "Q. From the    available
     standards you  cannot say that the
     signatures of  Exs. P.7  and P.9 is
     the same  person who wrote Exs. P.7
     and P.9.
     Ans:  we  can  compare  truly  like
     live,  signatures with  signatures
     and writings  with writings and not
     a signature  with a writing."
     Thus, the evidence of  PW3, is not definite and cannot
be said to be of a clinching nature to connect the appellant
with the  disputed letters.  The evidence  of an  expert  is
rather weak type of evidence and the courts do not generally
consider it  as offering  'conclusive' proof  and  therefore
safe to rely upon the same without seeking, independent and
reliable corroboration. In Magan  Bihari Lal  Vs. State  of
Punjab (AIR  1977 SC 1091), while dealing with evidence of a
handwriting expert, this Court opined:
 "We think it   would   be
     extremely hazardous  to condemn the
     appellant merely on the strength of
     opinion evidence  of a  handwriting
     expert. It is now well settled that
     expert  opinion   must  always   be
     received  with  great  caution  and
     perhaps none  so with  mare caution
     than the  opinion of  a handwriting
     expert. There  is a  profusion  of
     precedential authority  which holds
     that  it is  unsafe   to base  a
     conviction solely on expert opinion
     without substantial  corroboration.
     This  rule  has  been  universally
     acted upon and it has almost become
     a rule  of law. It was held by this
     Court in  Ram Chandra  Vs. State of
     U.P. AIR  1957 SC 381 that  it  is
     unsafe to treat expert handwriting
     opinion  as  sufficient  basis  for
     conviction, but  it may  be  relied
     upon when supported by other items
     of internal and external  evidence.
     This Court again pointed out  in
     Ishwari Prasad  Vs.  Md.  Isa,  AIR
     1963 SC  1728 that expert evidence
     of  handwriting can   never   be
     conclusive because  it  is,  after
     all,  opinion  evidence,  and  this
     view  was reiterated  in  Shashi
     Kumar Vs. Subodh Kumar, AIR 1964 SC
     529 where it was pointed out  by
     this Court that expert's evidence
     as to  handwriting  being opinion
     evidence can  rarely, if ever, take
     the place of substantive evidence
     and   before    acting   on    such
     evidence, it  would be desirable to
     consider whether it is corroborated
     either by clear direct evidence or
     by circumstantial evidence.  This
     Court   had   again   occasion   to
     consider the  evidentiary value  of
     expert   opinion in   regard   to
     handwriting in Fakhruddin Vs. State
     of M.P.  AIR 1967 SC 1326 and  it
     uttered a note of caution pointing
     out that  it   would  be  risky  to
     found a  conviction solely on  the
     evidence of  a  handwriting  expert
     before acting  upon such  evidence,
     the court must always  try to  see
     whether it is corroborated by other
     evidence,       direct      or
     We are  unable to agree, in  the established facts and
circumstanced of  this case,  with the view expressed by the
courts below  that PW1 is a competent witness to speak about
the handwriting of the appellant and that the opinion of PW3
has received  corroboration from  the evidence of PW1. PW1
admittedly did not receive  any of those letters. He had no
occasion  to   be  familiar  with  the handwriting  of the
appellant.  He is  not  a  handwriting  expert.  The bald
assertion of PW1 that he was "familiar" with the handwriting
of the appellant and fully "acquainted" with the contents of
the  letters,  admittedly  not addressed  to  him,  without
disclosing how he was familiar with the handwriting of the
appellant,  is difficult  to  accept. Section 67  of the
Evidence Act  enjoins that  before a  document can be looked
into, it  has to  be proved. Section 67, of course, does not
prescribe any  particular mode of proof.  Section 47 of the
Evidence  Act  which  occurs  in  the  chapter relating  to
'relevancy of  facts' provides that the opinion of a person
who is acquainted with the  handwriting  of  a  particular
person is   a relevant   fact.  Similarly,  opinion  of  a
handwriting expert  is also  a relevant fact for identifying
any handwriting.  The ordinary method of proving a document
is by  calling as  a witness the person who had executed the
document or  saw it being executed or signed or is otherwise
qualified and  competent to  express his  opinion as  to the
handwriting.  There   are  some other modes  of  proof  of
documents also as  by comparison  of the  handwriting  as
envisaged under Section 73  of the  Evidence Act or through
the evidence of a handwriting expert under Section 45 of the
Act, besides by the admission of the person against whom the
document is  intended  to  be  used.  The  receiver  of the
document,  on establishing  his   acquaintance  with the
handwriting of the person  and competence  to identify the
writing with  which  he  is  familiar, may  also  prove  a
document. These modes are  legitimate methods of  proving
documents but  before they  can be  accepted they  must bear
sufficient strength to carry conviction. Keeping in view the
in-conclusive and  indefinite nature  of the evidence of the
handwriting expert  PW3 and  the lack  of competence  on the
part of PW1 to be familiar  with the handwriting  of the
appellant, the approach adopted  by  the  courts  below  to
arrive at  the conclusion  that the  disputed  letters were
written by  the appellant  to Ms.Vani  on the  basis of the
evidence of  PW1  and  PW3  was not  proper.  The  doubtful
evidence of PW1 could neither offer any corroboration to the
inconclusive  and  indefinite  opinion of  the handwriting
expert PW3  nor could  it receive any corroboration from the
opinion of  PW3. We  are not  satisfied, in  the established
facts and  circumstances of  this case, that the prosecution
has established either the genuineness or the authorship of
the disputed letters allegedly written by the appellant from
the evidence  of PW1 or PW3. The courts below appear to have
taken a rather superficial view of the matter while relying
upon the  evidence of  PW1 and PW3 to hold  the  appellant
guilty. We  find it  unsafe to base the  conviction of the
appellant on  the basis of the evidence of PW1 or PW3 in the
absence of  substantial independent corroboration,internally
or externally, of their  evidence, which  in this  case  is
totally wanting.
     To us it appears that the demand of dowry in connection
with and  as consideration for the marriage of the appellant
with Ms.Vani  was made by  the second accused  the  elder
brother of  the  appellant  and  that no  such  demand  is
established to have been directly made by the appellant. The
High Court  rightly found  the second  accused, guilty of an
offence under  Section 4  of the  Act against  which  S.L.P.
(Criminal)  No.2336  of 1990, as  earlier  noticed  stands
dismissed by  this court  on 15.2.1991. The evidence on the
record does not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that any
demand of  dowry within the meaning  of Section 2 read with
Section 4  of the  Act was made by the appellant. May be the
appellant was  in agreement with his elder brother regarding
'demand' of  'dowry' but convictions cannot be based on such
assumptions  without  the  offence  being  proved  beyond  a
reasonable doubt.  The courts  below  appear to have allowed
emotions and  sentiments, rather than legally admissible and
trustworthy  evidence, to  influence  their  judgment. The
evidence on  the record does not establish the case against
the appellant  beyond a reasonable doubt. He is, therefore,
entitled to the benefit of doubt. This appeal, thus,succeeds
and is allowed. The conviction and sentence of the appellant
is hereby  set aside.  The appellant  is on  bail. His bail
bonds shall stand discharged.



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