Civil Procedure Code (CPC)

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Sonu V. Sonu Yadav And Anr. (2021) – Dowry Death Case: Quality Of Reasons Matter, Order Without Reasons Is Fundamentally Contrary To The Norms Which Guide The Judicial Process

Pallavi Singh ,
  13 April 2021       Share Bookmark

Court :
Supreme Court of India
Brief :
The following judgement with the issue of granting of bail in case of serious circumstances of dowry death.
Citation :
LL 2021 SC 200

DATE: 5th April, 2021

JUDGES

  • Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud
  • M R Shah

PARTIES

  • Sonu (APPELLANT)
  • Sonu Yadav an Anr. (RESPONDENT)

SUBJECT: The following judgement with the issue of granting of bail in case of serious circumstances of dowry death. The question before the court was whether the bail granted to accused in such circumstances is justified or not.

AN OVERVIEW

1. In the present case the Supreme Court is dealing with an appeal against the order of Allahabad High Court by which the High Court granted bail to the accused. The brief facts of the case are as follows-

2. In the present case, the sister of the complainant was married to the respondent in July, 2018. An amount of Rs. 15 lakhs, a motor vehicle and household were given as dowry to the respondents.

3. The complainant alleged that the family of the respondent was not satisfied with the dowry and demanded 5lakh more. On 8th February 2019, the appellant received a call from the respondent demanding the said amount and on 9th February 2019 he received another call where the respondent told the appellant to take away the dead body of his sister.

4. When the appellant with his family went to his sister’s, they fund it locked and received the dead body at the district hospital. An FIR was registered on 9th February 2019 for offences under sections 498-A and 304-B of IPC and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act 186.

5. A bail application was filed before the sessions court which was rejected by the court. The respondent then approached the High Court seeking bail u/s 439 Cr.P.C. The High Court stated that “Considering the entire facts and circumstances of the case, submissions of learned counsel for the parties and keeping in view the nature of offence, evidence, complicity of accused and without expressing any opinion on the merits of the case, the Court is of the view that the applicant has made out a case for bail. The bail application is allowed”, and thus allowed the bail.

6. Aggrieved by this decision of high court, the present appeal has been filed before the Supreme Court.

7. The appellant has made the following contentions-

i. “the High Court has adduced absolutely no reasons for the grant of bail;

ii. the submission before the High Court that the deceased was suffering from a mental illness is patently false and the so called medical prescription dated 1 January 2019 was issued by an Ayurvedic doctor about a month before the date of the incident on 1 January 2019;

iii. ex facie, the medical prescription would indicate that the deceased was not undergoing treatment for a mental condition;

iv. the death has taken place within a year of the marriage; and

v. having regard to the provisions of Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code and the presumptions which arise under Sections 113-A and 113-B of the Evidence Act, there was no justification for the High Court to grant bail at the present stage”.

8. On the other hand the respondent while supporting the High Court’s order submitted that-

i. “the High Court has desisted from expressing any view on the merits which may impede the course of the trial;

ii. the statements which have been recorded during investigation would indicate that the death was as a result of hanging;

iii. there is no complicity whatsoever of the first respondent;

iv. hence, it would be appropriate for this Court not to interfere with the order granting bail to the first respondent”.

9. The counsel appearing on the behalf of state contended that the accused has attempted to make improvements in the case regarding the phone number through which the money was demanded from the complainant. It has been alleged that the said phone number was in no manner associated with the respondent and his family and has tried to show that his spouse had committed suicide.

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS

Prohibition Act 186Dowry-

  • Section 3- .Penalty for giving or taking dowry.—

(1) 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].]

(2) Nothing in sub-section (1) shall apply to, or in relation to,—

(a) presents which are given at the time of a marriage to the bride (without any demand having been made in that behalf):

Provided that such presents are entered in a list maintained in accordance with the rules made under this Act;

(b) presents which are given at the time of a marriage to the bridegroom (without any demand having been made in that behalf):

Provided that such presents are entered in a list maintained in accordance with the rules made under this Act:

  • 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: [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 judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than six months.]

INDIAN PENAL CODE

  • Section 498A- Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty—Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be pun­ished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine. Explanation.—For the purpose of this section, “cruelty” means—

(a) any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or

(b) harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.
• Section 304B.-Dowry death.—

(1) Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or har­assment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, such death shall be called “dowry death”, and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death. Explanation.—For the purpose of this sub-section, “dowry” shall have the same meaning as in section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (28 of 1961).

(2) Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprison­ment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE CODE

  • Section 439- Special powers of High Court or Court of Session regarding bail.

(1) A High Court or Court of Session may direct-

(a) that any person accused of an offence and in custody be released on bail, and if the offence is of the nature specified in subsection (3) of section 437, may impose any condition which it considers necessary for the purposes mentioned in that sub- section;

(b) that any condition imposed by a Magistrate when releasing an person on bail be set aside or modified: Provided that the High Court or the Court of Session shall, before granting bail to a person who is accused of an offence which is triable exclusively by the Court of Session or which, though not so triable, is punishable with imprisonment for life, give notice of the application for bail to the Public Prosecutor unless it is, for reasons to be recorded in writing, of opinion that it is not practicable to give such notice.

(2) A High Court or Court of Session may direct that any person who has been released on bail under this Chapter be arrested and commit him to custody.

ISSUES: The issue before the court in the present case was whether the High Court was right in its decision of granting bail or not?

ANALYSIS OF THE JUDGMENT

  • While hearing to the contentions of both the parties, the court looked into the facts and records presented before it very carefully, and was of the observation that the decision of the High Court was not justified.
  • The court noted that the respondent in his bail application has submitted about his wife that “she was suffering from severe headache and was mentally disturbed since the past nine months”. The court further noted that prima facie the medical prescription does not indicate that there was any such serious ailment.
  • Apart from that, serious allegations have been made against the respondent in the FIR regarding the harassment that the decease suffered. The court thus opined that – “in view of the provisions of Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code, as well as the presumption which arises under Section 113-B of the Evidence Act, the High Court was clearly not justified in granting bail”.
  • It was the Supreme Court’s observation that the high court’s order contains no reasons at all. Referring to the judgment given in Brij Nandan Jaiswal vs. Munna alias Munna Jaiswal, the court stated that-
  • “The sentence which we have extracted earlier contains an omnibus amalgam of (i) “the entire facts and circumstances of the case”; (ii) “submissions of learned Counsel for the parties”; (iii) “the nature of offence”; (iv) “evidence”; and (v) “complicity of accused”. This is followed by an observation that the “applicant has made out a case for bail”, “without expressing any opinion on the merits of the case”
  • The court further noted that the cases where the seriousness of the allegations is of the extent that a woman has suffered an unnatural death within a year of her marriage, the High Court cannot be oblivious.
  • The court further stated that “An order without reasons is fundamentally contrary to the norms which guide the judicial process. The administration of criminal justice by the High Court cannot be reduced to a mantra containing a recitation of general observations. That there has been a judicious application of mind by the judge who is deciding an application under Section 439 of the CrPC must emerge from the quality of the reasoning which is embodied in the order granting bail”.
  • Thus, the court setting aside the bail granted by the Allahabad High Court allowed the appeal.

CONCLUSION

  • The Apex Court has in Brij Nandan Jaiswal’s case held that-

“It is now a settled law that the complainant can always question the order granting bail if the said order is not validly passed. It is not as if once a bail is granted by any court, the only way is to get it cancelled on account of its misuse. The bail order can be tested on merit also. In our opinion, therefore, the complainant could question the merits of the order granting bail. However, we find from the order that no reasons were given by the learned Judge while granting the bail and it seems to have been granted almost mechanically without considering the pros and cons of the matter. While granting bail, particularly in serious cases like murder some reasons justifying the grant are necessary.”

  • The above decision gives a quite clear picture as to why a proper reasoning shall be provided while granting a bail. Orders granting bail comport with a judicial process which brings credibility to the administration of criminal justice.
  • Therefore, the decision of the court is plaudible.

Click here to download the original copy of the judgement

 
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