The societal evil of dowry is unbreakable. The heinous crime of dowry gives rise
to the even more heinous crime of dowry death. To combat the threat of dowry
death, the legislature introduced section 304 B, which deals with dowry death,
although the language "soon before her death" in this provision presents a
loophole. Nonetheless, the accused bears the burden of proof. Because the burden
of proof is on the accused, courts have a greater responsibility to ensure that
the concept of Audi Alteram Partem is implemented. In this instance, the court
clarified the term 'soon before' and provided standards for trial courts to
follow when recording the accused's statement.
Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana
2021 SCC Online SC 404
Decided On: 28th May 2021
Bench: Hon'ble Cji Nv Ramana, Hon'ble Justice Aniruddha Bose
About the Case
The deceased committed suicide one year after her marriage by lighting herself
on fire after being subjected to mistreatment, according to the prosecution.
Both the Trial Court and the High Court found the appellant guilty of an offence
under Sections 304 B and 306 of the IPC 1860. The appellant was found guilty of
an offence under Section 304 B but acquitted of an infraction under Section 306
owing to a lack of evidence, according to the Supreme Court.
Facts of the case:
Issues Raised in the Case:
- The accused (appellant 01) married the deceased on July 1, 1994, according to the circumstances of the case. On July 31, 1995, about 1600 hours, the deceased's father received word that his daughter had been admitted to the hospital. When he and his son arrived at the hospital, they discovered that the deceased had died of burn injuries.
- The doctor discovered Kerosene traces on the deceased's body. Due to burn injuries, the deceased's body was injured to the extent of 85 percent. There were numerous incidents of harassment and brutality, according to witnesses.
- The prosecution stated that the deceased committed suicide by setting herself on fire one year after her marriage, and that she was abused and harassed by both defendants soon before her death because she brought less money.
- The accused was found guilty under sections 304 B and 306 of the Penal Code on December 11, 1997 by the trial court.
- The current appeals are based on the impugned judgement of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana in Chandigarh, dated 06.11.2008, in which the High Court refused the appellants' appeals and confirmed the Trial Court's decision of conviction and sentence on 11.12.1997.
Provisions Used In the Case:
- Whether the Trial Court and the High Court were correct in convicting
the accused of violating Indian Penal Code Section 304B?
- Whether the Trial Court and the High Court were correct in convicting
the defendant on the allegation of violating Section 306 of the Indian Penal
Contentions of Parties
Section 304 B of Indian Penal Code 1860:
According to Section 304 B of the Indian Penal Code, a woman's death will be considered a dowry death if she dies within seven years of marriage from any burns or bodily injury, or if it is revealed that before her marriage she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any other relative of the husband in connection with the demand for dowry.
Section 306 of Indian Penal Code 1860:
The Indian Penal Code defines 'Abetment of suicide' as a crime punishable under section 306. If a person commits suicide, anyone who aids or abets the suicide will be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of either sort, which may exceed to ten years, as well as a fine.
Section 113-A of Evidence Act 1872:
When a woman commits suicide within seven years of her marriage and it is proven that her husband or any relative of her husband subjected her to cruelty as described in Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code, the court may conclude that the suicide was aided by the husband or relative.
Section 113-B of Evidence Act 1872:
When the question is whether a person caused a woman's dowry death and it is established that such woman was exposed to cruelty or harassment by such person shortly before her death for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, the Court would presume that such person caused the dowry death.
Section 232 of Criminal Procedure Code 1973:
If the Judge determines that there is no evidence that the accused committed the crime after taking the prosecution's evidence, questioning the accused, and hearing the prosecution and defense on the point, the Judge should issue an order of acquittal.
Section 2 of Dowry Prohibition Act 1961:
Any property or valued security given or agreed to be given, either directly or indirectly, is referred to as "dowry" in this Act.
- By one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage, or (b) By
the parent 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 any time after
the marriage in connection with the marriage of the said parties, but
excludes dower or mahr
in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applied.
Appellant: The appellants' skilled counsel argued that in this case, the
potential of an unintentional fire has not been ruled out. The prosecution was
also unable to establish the existence of a dowry demand, which was perhaps the
most relevant factor. Finally, the prosecution has failed to show that the
demand, if there was one, was made just before the victim died.
The respondent State's lawyer argued that the appellants had failed
to produce any evidence that would justify this Court intervening in the
concurrent rulings of the lower courts. The odd death of the deceased victim
occurred within a year of their marriage, according to the attorney.
Furthermore, the witnesses have described the specific incidents of dowry demand
on numerous occasions.
- In Kans Raj v. State of Punjab the court held that the phrase "soon before" in
section 304B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, cannot be read to mean "exactly
before." The prosecution must establish a "direct and live relationship" between
the dowry death and the violence or abuse of the dowry demand by the spouse or
- ISSUE 1:
The prosecution appears to have been successful in proving that the deceased
died of burn injuries within one year of her marriage. It has also been
shown that she was harassed and treated cruelly just before her death as a
result of dowry demands. Because the components of Section 304 B of the IPC 1860
have been met, the presumption under Section 113 B of the Evidence Act works
against the appellants, who are presumed to have caused the offence stated under
Section 304 B of the IPC. The defendants in this case failed to present any
evidence that the death was unrelated to them or occurred by an accident.
- ISSUE 2:
The presumption under Section 113 A of the Evidence Act is of little value
to the prosecution because there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate
the fact of suicide beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution has not shown
sufficient evidence to establish the requisite factor of the deceased's
suicide. As a result, we believe this Court should intervene in the
appellants' convictions under Section 306 of the IPC by the lower courts.
The Supreme Court of India affirmed the Trial Court's and High Court's judgments
up to the point of convicted the appellants under section 304-B of the Indian
Penal Code,1860 and stepping down the part of the conviction under section 306
of the Indian Penal Code,1860.
Other Guidelines Given By Hon'ble Supreme Court:
Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana
- When reading Section 304B I.P.C., trial courts must keep in mind that the legislature intended for this section to be included in order to combat the societal evils of bride burning and dowry demand.
- The application of rebuttable presumption under Section 113B places a larger burden on judges, defense attorneys, and prosecutors. In the case of dowry death, judges must exercise additional caution when conducting criminal proceedings.
- According to Justice Bhatnagar, Provision 313 Cr.P.C. should not be recorded in a casual or superficial manner, and the examination of the accused under this section cannot be viewed as a formality. The audi alteram partem principle is incorporated into this rule, which allows the accused to explain the incriminatory evidence brought against him.
- The court must provide the accused with incriminating circumstances and demand an explanation from him.
- Other crucial factors, such as the right to a speedy trial, must be balanced as well. The Court admonished the trial courts not to allow the aforementioned clauses to be utilized as a delay tactic.
- If the offender is not acquitted under Section 232 CrPC., the court will schedule hearings for "defense evidence." The accused will be required to present his evidence in accordance with the method outlined in Section 233 of the Criminal Procedure Code. This is a crucial right that the accused has.
- When sentencing and inflicting appropriate punishment, this Court's guidelines must be observed.
- In circumstances where family members who had no active role in the commission of the crime and who live in different locations are wrongly implicated, the courts must exercise caution.
was decided on May 28, 2021, and it concerns
the extremely important subject of Dowry Death.
In this case, the Supreme Court of India upheld the judgments of the Trial Court
and the High Court up to the point of convicting the appellants under section
304-B of the Indian Penal Code,1860 and stepped down the part of the conviction
under section 306 of the Indian Penal Code,1860.
In my opinion, the Supreme Court of India's decision was quite satisfactory and
justifiable because it precisely construed the clause, setting a precedent for
future instances of similar nature. In Section 304B of the IPC, the phrase "soon
before" cannot be read to mean "immediately before." The prosecution must
demonstrate a "direct and live relationship" between the dowry death and the
husband's or relatives' dowry demand maltreatment or harassment.
- Indian Penal Code 1860, 304B, No.45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India)
- Indian Penal Code 1860, 306, No.45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India)
- Evidence Act 1872, 113-A, No. 1, Acts of Parliament 1872 (India)
- Indian Evidence Act 1872, 113-B, No. 1, Acts of Parliament 1872 (India)
- Criminal Procedure Code 1973, 232, No.2, Acts of Parliament 1973 (India)
- Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, 2, No.28, Acts of Parliament 1961 (India)
- Kans Raj v. State of Punjab, (2000) 5 SCC 207
- Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana, 2021 SCC Online SC 404
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Arunadhita
Authentication No: OT365828733552-19-1023