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Smt. Shanti v. State of Haryana (1991) - S. 304B & 498A IPC not Mutually Exclusive

Apoorva ,
  03 October 2020       Share Bookmark

Court :
Apex Court
Brief :
The Apex Court observed that the view of the High Court that Sections 304-B and 498-A Indian Penal Code are mutually exclusive is not correct. Sections 304-Band 498-A cannot be held to be mutually exclusive.
Citation :
Appellants:Smt. Shanti Respondents: State of Haryana Citation: 1991 AIR 1226

Bench:

Reddy, K. Jayachandra (J)

Issue:

Whether a person charged and acquitted under section 304-B can be convicted under Section 498-A without charge being there, if such a case, is made out?

Facts:

  • The appellants, along with three other co-accused,were charged of committing a dowry death. They  were  prosecuted under  Section 201, 304-B and 498-A of  the  Indian  Penal Code.
  •  The Trial Court convicted the appellants on all the counts but acquitted the other three co-accused.
  • The appellants preferred an appeal before the High Court which set aside their conviction under section 498-A holding that  Sections304-B and 498-A are mutually  exclusive and that when once the cruelty envisaged in section 498-A culminates in dowry death of the victim Section 304-B  alone was attracted.
  • Accordingly, the High Court acquitted the appellants under section 498-A. But their convictions under section 304-B and 201 were affirmed.
 

Appellant's contentions:

  • In/span>the appeal to this Court, it was contended on  behalf of the appellants:  that the acquittal of the  appellants under  section 498-A indicates that cruelty on the  part  ofthe accused was not proved and consequently the death cannotbe  one of "dowry death",
  • No directevidence in this case and that all the ingredients ofsection 304-B of Indian Penal Code were not made out.

Judgement:

The Apex Court observed that the view of the High Court that Sections 304-B and 498-A Indian Penal Code are mutually exclusive is not correct. Sections 304-Band 498-A cannot be held to be mutually exclusive. These provisions deal with two distinct offences. Under Section 304-B, it is the "dowry death" that is punishable and such death should have occurred within seven years of the marriage. No such period is mentioned in Section 498-A and the husband or his relative would be liable for subjecting the woman to “cruelty" any time after the marriage. Further a person charged and acquitted under section 304-B can be convicted under Section 498-A without charge being there, if such a case, is   made out.  But from the point of view of practice  and  procedure and to avoid technical defects it is necessary in such cases to  frame charges under both the Section and if the case  is established  they can be convicted under both  the  Sections but no separate sentence need be awarded under Section 498-A in  view of the substantive sentence being awarded  for the major offence under Section 304-B. In the instant case, the High Court had not established cruelty on the part of the appellants but on the other hand it considered the entire evidence and held that the element of cruelty which is also an essential of Section 304-B Indian Penal Code had been established. In these circumstances, therefore, the mere acquittal of the appellants under Section 498-A Indian Penal Code made no difference for the purpose of this case. o:p>

 In the instant case, there was absolutely no material to indicate even remotely that it was a case of natural death.  In the result it was an unnatural death; either homicidal or suicidal.  But even assuming that it was a case of suicide even then it would be death which had occurred in unnatural circumstances. Even in such a case, Section 304-B was attracted. Therefore, the prosecution had established that the appellants had committed an offence punishable under Section 304-B beyond all reasonable doubt.

 
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