When the Offence of Dowry Death under Section 304B of the IPC can be Made Out?

When offence of dowry death under Section 304B of the IPC can be made out?

The Apex Court had made an observation in this regard. It has noted that the offence of dowry death under Section 304B of the IPC cannot be made out if the cause of death has not been established as unnatural. Further, it has to be shown that the deceased wife was subjected to cruelty or harassment in connection with the demand for dowry soon before her death.

Ingredients of the offence under Section 304B IPC

The Court elucidates the ingredients of the offence under Section 304B IPC as follows:

“The ingredients of the offence are well-settled. A marriage performed within seven years before the death of the wife. The death must be unnatural. Soon before the death, the deceased wife must have been at the receiving end of cruelty or harassment, on account of demand for dowry. It is described as dowry death. The relatives concerned, including husband, become liable. Section 113B of the Evidence Act comes to the rescue of the prosecutor by providing for a presumption that a person has caused dowry death if, it is shown that soon before her death, she was subjected by such person for cruelty or harassment for or in connection with demand for dowry”.

Observing that were not proved, the Supreme Court in Sandeep Kumar and others v State of Uttarakhand and others set aside the conviction and life sentence awarded by the Uttarakhand High Court to the husband, father-in-law and mother-in-law of the deceased wife under Section 304B IPC. The case of prosecution was that the deceased had died of poisoning.

The trial court had acquitted them noting that the offence of dowry death was not proved. Though, the High Court reversed the acquittal on an appeal filed by the father of the deceased woman.

Observation made by the Court

  • The Court held that unnatural death not established owing to following reasons
  • The autopsy report didn’t conclude that death was due to poisoning.
  1. No traces of poison were found in the body of the deceased or in the crime scene.
  2. The accused were not found in possession of poison
  3. In this regard, reliance was made to Sharad Birdhichand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra and Anant Chintamun Lagu v State of Bombay, wherein the Court laid down circumstances vital to establish death by poisoning. The Court, in this case, held that –
  4.  there is a clear motive for an accused to administer poison to the deceased,
  5.  that the deceased died of poison said to have been administered,
  6. that the accused had the poison in his possession,
  7. that he had an opportunity to administer the poison to the deceased
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  8. Thus, referring the precedent the Court after securitizing the present case, held that,

“As far as the facts of the present case is concerned, we have noticed that there is absolutely no evidence relating to poison in relation to the deceased. Were it a case of forcible poisoning, by using a corrosive poison, there would been some marks. There are none .If it were forcible poisoning by using any kind of poison, there would be struggle and resistance from the victim.

Even the material (wiper) recovered, according to prosecution, and which allegedly was used to clean vomit of the deceased, did not disclose any poison”

  • The Court also noted that there was an alternate cause of death suggested by the doctors as Tuberculosis. There was evidence of the victim undergoing treatment for Tuberculosis. That angle was not explored by the investigating officer.
  • The Apex Court noticed that the trial court had found the oral testimonies of the father, brother and a relative of the victim regarding the demand for dowry to be conflicting.

“It is to be noted that PW1 has admitted that there was no demand for dowry before or at the time of marriage. The marriage took place on 10.12.2009. The death was on 23.01.2011. ThoughPW1, PW3, PW4 and PW6 have spoken about harassment on account of dowry, the learned Sessions Judge did not find material reliable. It is to be noted that the version about the demand for Rs.10 lakhs is found wholly unacceptable. The Trial Court has the advantage of watching the demeanor of the witnesses”.

The presumption under Section 113B of the Evidence Act will not apply in the case

  • “Section 113B of Evidence Act may not apply in this case for the reason that in order that Section 113B applies, there must be evidence that soon before the death of the person, which proves that the person,who is alleged to have caused death,treated the deceased with cruelty or harassed her or in connection with a demand of dowry”.

Case name: Sandeep Kumar and others v State of Uttarakhand and others

Citation: SLP (Crl) No.1512-1513 of 2017

Coram: Justices R F Nariman, K M Joseph and Aniruddha Bose

When offence of dowry death under Section 304B of the IPC can be made out?

Also Read: Is It Permitted To Amend A Charge Under Section 149 Of The IPC To A Charge Under Section 34 IPC?

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