*ABETMENT OF SUICIDE
MENTAL TORTURE AND ABETMENT OF SUICIDE
IN THE COURT OF ADDITIONAL SESSIONS JUDGE,
FAST TRACK COURT, 1st COURT, ASANSOL.
Present: Sri H. Singh, Additional Sessions Judge,
Dated, Asansol, the 16th day of August, 2002.
STATE v Ramjit Prasad and 2 others,
Sessions Case No. 96 of 2001 (Sessions Trial No. 4 of 2001)
under Secs.498A/306 I.P.C.
J U D G E M E N T
The complainant Baleswar Tanti of Simulgram P.S. Kulti on 06.06.1997 at 17.55 hours lodged an F.I.R. with the Kulti P.S. against the accused (1) Ram Kishor Prasad, (2) Smt. Basmoti Debi, (3) Ramjit Prasad and (4) Kumari Sakuntala Prasad in respect of an incident that took place on06.06.1997 at about 14.00 hours in the house of the accused persons at Baltoria, P.S. Kulti District: Burdwan and he in his F.I.R. alleged that his daughter Gayetri Tanti married Ramjit Prasad S/o Ram Kishan Prasad of Baltoria village on 16th day of April, 1996 and in the said marriage, he gave sufficient dowry according to his capacity. But, a few days after the marriage of his daughter, her daughter was subjected to mental torture. On 06.06.1997 during noon hours at about 2.00 P.M., the complainant along with his wife and daughter went to his daughter's village at Baltoria. On seeing them the father-in-law, mother-in-law and the unmarried sister-in-law and the unmarried sister-in-law of Gayetri started quarreling with them and they started assaulting the complainant and his wife with lathi in presence of their daughter Gayetri. The manner in which the accused persons had subjected her to mental torture in the past and now this insult of assaulting her parents in her presence proved too much for Gaitri Devi. She felt terribly insulted at such rude conduct on the part of her father-in-law, mother-in-law husband and sister-in-law towards her parents and she could take it no more. Therefore, she ran to the bed-room, poured kerosene oil on her body and then put herself on fire. Then the complainant, his wife and daughter put out the from the body of their daughter with the help of a blanket and brought her to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, IISCO under P.S. Kulti and there she was got admitted in the Hospital. In the Hospital, the doctor A. Das recorded her dying declaration in his presence and her daughter in her dying declaration made to the doctor, stated that her father-in-law, mother-in-law, husband and her sister-in-law did not use to speak to her in the past and this way they subjected her to mental torture. That day when they insulted her parents and assaulted them, she unable to bear the insult, attempted to commit suicide. The complainant believed that the insult inflicted upon parents in her presence coupled with the mental torture to which she was subjected by her father-in-law, mother-in-law, husband and sister-in-law in the past forced her to make an attempt to commit suicide. Therefore, the complainant prayed for necessary action against the accused persons. On the basis of this F.I.R. received by the I.O. B. Singh at the Hospital at 17.35 hours and who forwarded the F.I.R. to the O/C Kulti and in anticipation of kind approval by the O/C Kulti P.S., took up investigation of this case. One Kulti P.S. Case No.111 of 1997 dt. 06.06.1997 u/Secs.498A/323/306/511 I.P.C. was started against the F.I.R. named accused persons. After investigations, the I.O. submitted a Charge-sheet No.24 of 1999 u/Secs.498A/306 I.P.C. against the four F.I.R. named accused persons. During the pendency of the proceedings, the accused Basmati Devi expired on 02.08.1998 and the case against her was filed by the ld. S.D.J.M., Asansol on 15.11.2000. After commitment of this case, a Charge u/Secs.498A/306 I.P.C. was framed by this Court against the accused person on 16.08.2001. The accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges and claimed to be tried. The accused persons neither filed any W.S. as envisaged u/Sec.233 of the Cr.P.C. nor adduced any evidence in support of their defence case.
POINTS FOR DETERMINATION
1. Did the accused persons subject the deceased Gaitri Devi since after marriage to the accused Ramjit Prasad till her death to any mental torture sufficient enough to drive her to commit suicide as alleged?
2. Did the accused persons on 06.06.1997 subject the deceased to insults and humiliations to such an extent that she could no longer tolerate it and thereby abetted commission of by her as alleged?
3. Are the accused persons or any one or more of them guilty of having committed an offence u/Secs.498A and or u/Sec.306 I.P.C. or entitled to the benefit of doubt, if any?
DECISION WITH REASONS
Points Nos.1, 2 and 3 :- All these points are taken up together for adjudication for the sake of convenience, continuity and brevity in discussions. The prosecution in this case examined 11 witnesses and proved several documents marked Exts.1 to 13 as per list, in support of their case. In this case, ld. Advocate for the accused persons submitted a written arguments on 08.08.2002. The specific defence case of the accused persons as per page 6 and 8 of the written arguments submitted in the Court, appears to be that the Complainant Baleswar Tanti went to the house of father-in-law of the deceased in drunk condition and tried to snatch away an amount of Rs.30,000/- from the father-in-law of the deceased but failed. As such, the deceased unable to withstand such a heinous act on the part of her father put her clothes on fire out of shame and disgrace. I must thank the defence Counsel for narrowing down the scope of the disputed facts by adopting a specific defence and by implication admitting at least the presence of the father and father-in-law of the deceased at the P.O. and also for admitting that something so shameful happened on that day that the deceased could no longer tolerate the same and decided to put an end to her own life.
But, unfortunately, the aforesaid defence case of the accused persons gets thrown out lock-stock and barrel by none else, but the accused Ram Kishan Prasad – the father-in-law of the deceased himself, who in his 313 Cr.P.C. statement when he was asked after the evidence of PW -6 (Savitry Tanti) in question No.25 was put to him that after Gaitri Devi put herself on fire and when her father-in-law and mother-in-law were also standing there, the accused told his son that whatever has happened, happened for the good and that now she should die, he in his reply stated that he can't say anything in this regard as because he was then not even present there. In reply to question No.5, this accused stated that at the time of incident he was on general shift duty from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. In answer to question No.35, this accused stated that at the time of incident, he was on duty and on return he learnt that Ranjit and his mother had taken their daughter-in-law for admission to the Hospital.
Therefore, when the main accused takes the alibi that at the time of incident, he was not in the house and doing shift duty from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M., the defence story that the father of the victim tried in vain to snatch away a sum of Rs.30,000/- from the father-in-law of the deceased and the deceased unable to tolerate such shameful and disgraceful act put herself on fire, dies a natural death.
P.W.1 (Baleswar Tanti) is the father of the victim girl and he in his evidence narrated the incident as follows:-
“ I am a R/o Simulgram P.S. Kulti. Gayetri Debi the deceased was my daughter. Gayetri Debi was married to Ramji Prasad S/o Ram Kishan Prasad of Baltoria P.S. Barakar. The main P.S. is Kulti. The marriage took place on 27.04.1996. after marriage the accused persons used to maltreat her and subject her to mental torture. This mental torture continued for about one year. She was subjected to mental torture by the husband Ranji Prasad, father-in-law Ram Kison Prasad and her sister-in-law (Nanad) Shakuntala Devi and also her mother-in-law Basmati Debi. Today only three accused persons are present (identified). The mother-in-law of my deceased daughter is not dead. On 6th June, 1997, I, my wife Anarkali and my daughter Sabitri Debi and Anardebi went to the house of my daughter n her father-in-law's house after 2.00 P.M. As soon as we reached there, the accused persons started quarreling with us. The accused Ram Kison Prasad started assaulting me and my wife with a lathi (Danda). When this quarrel was going on, we came out in the courtyard of the house, after a few minutes, we found our daughter coming out of the house of the accused persons in burning condition and fell down outside the courtyard. Then my wife Amarkali and Sabitri – my daughter – put-out the fire with the help of a blanket. After she burnt herself, the four accused persons namely Ramji Prasad, Ram Kison Prasad, Basmati Debi & Shakuntal Debi fled away from the house. Thereafter, we called a Tempo and took our daughter in burnt condition to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, Kulti and got her admitted there at 3.45 P.M. After admission, she was treated in the hospital and she expired on the same day at about 10.45 P.M. in the Hospital. The deceased daughter made a dying declaration before Dr. A. Das of Kulti Hospsital when she was in fully conscious condition.”
The aforesaid evidence fully corroborates the prosecution case as disclosed in the F.I.R. in all material particulars. The defence, in spite of a prolonged cross-examination of this witness, could not demolish any portion of the aforesaid evidence of this vital witness.
From the evidence of the I.O. B. Singh (PW11) we find that at about 16.35 hours he received a telephonic message from one Manu Prasad S/o Shivnath Shaw of Baltoria to the effect one house-wife at Barakar sustained burnt injuries and that police help was needed. He in his evidence further stated, “On arrival at the P.O., I learn t that the victim was taken to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital at Kulti for her medical treatment. I then went to the Hospital and recorded the statement of the victim u/S 161 of the Cr.P.C. She also gave a statement before the attending Dr. in presence of her father.”
Therefore, apart from the direct evidence of eye-witness to the occurrence, we also have the dying declaration of the deceased. We get the dying declaration of the deceased from four different sources. The first in point of time appears to be made before the I.O. (Ext13), the second one is made before the doctor in presence of her father by the deceased (Ext.2), the third one is stated in the F.I.R. by the complainant father and the fourth source is what the P.W.-1 heard and narrated in Court i.e. oral dying declaration of the deceased.
Therefore, let us begin with the F.I.R. (Ext.I). The complainant in his F.I.R. stated that his daughter made a dying declaration before the Dr. A. Das in his presence, in which she stated that her father-in-law, mother-in-law husband and sister-in-law never used to talk with her and subjected her to mental torture. Today when they insulted her parents and also assaulted them, she could not tolerate such insult towards her parents and therefore, she attempted to commit suicide. When an important fact is mentioned in F.I.R. and the same is corroborated by independent evidence in all material particulars, its credibility gets enhanced manifolds.
Ext.2 is the dying declaration that the deceased made before the doctor. The dying declaration is in indirect speech and a translated version into English by the doctor and the same reads as follows, “Gayetri Devi W/o Ramjit Prosad is giving the statement in presence of her fataher named B. Tanti and me named Dr. A. Das, that none of her family used to talk since after marriage. Today father and mother of Gayetri went to her house to meet her. The father-in-law, mother-in-law, sister-in-law and husband started a quarrel with them and told them to take away their daughter with them. Suddenly members of in-law's house as stated above assaulted her father, mother. This incident she could not bear and went to her bedroom and poured kerosene oil over her body and fire himself.” This dying declaration appears to be written on the same letter that the I.O. addressed to the Medical Officer requesting him to record the dying declaration of the deceased.
The dying declaration of the deceased recorded by the doctor is almost same in respect of all material particulars of the prosecution case and as narrated by the complainant father in the F.I.R.
Ext.13 is the statement of the deceased recorded by the I.O. that her mother-in-law Basmati Devi and sister-in-law Shakuntala Devi since after her marriage used to ostracized her. Then even her husband supported the aforesaid two women and ostracized her. None used to speak to her and they all subjected her to such mental torture that she sometimes wished to commit suicide. On 06.06.1997 at about 2 P.M. her father, mother and sister Savitri came to Baltoria to meet her. As soon as they came, her father-in-law, mother-in-law, husband and sister-in-law started quarreling with them and they also assaulted her mother and father with a 'danda'. She could not tolerate this and she then went to her bedroom, poured kerosene oil on her body and put herself on fire by igniting a match-stick. She was compelled to commit suicide on account of torture inflicted upon her by her father-in-law, mother-in-law, husband and her sister-in-law. She requested the I.O. to arrest them and ensure their punishment.
If we go through the different mediums through which the dying declaration of the deceased gets revealed, we find that none of them contradict each other and in each one the basic theme of the dying declaration remains the same i.e. boycott or ostracism of the deceased in the past, arrival of complainant with his wife and daughter in the house of the accused persons, a quarrel between the accused persons and the complainant party followed by assault upon her parents by the accused persons leading to the unfortunate incident of the deceased committing suicide by putting herself on fire. Therefore, I see no reason as to why the dying declaration of the deceased made to the doctor, I.O. and as recorded in the F.I.R. itself should not be believed, particularly when the same fully corroborates the eye-witness account of the prosecution witnesses.
Ld. Advocate for the accused persons pointed out that the dying declaration (Ext.2) is not signed by the victim. He also pointed out that the doctor in his cross examination stated, “I recorded the dying declaration at about 1.30 to 2.00 P.M. on the request of the Police Officer.” Therefore, since the incident did not even take place then, the said dying declaration can not be believed. There is no mention of time, date or place in the dying declaration recorded by the doctor. The patient as per Ext.6 was admitted in Hospital at 3.30 P.M. The F.I.R. (Ext.1) in which there is mention of dying declaration was received by the doctor was received by the I.O. at 17.35 hours. As such, obviously, the dying declaration was recorded by the doctor between 3.30 P.M. to 5.35 P.M. and not between 1.30 to 2 P.M. as deposed by him. Therefore, the doctor deposed erroneously on the basis of guess and not on the basis of any records. But this can not be any ground to reject the dying declaration (Ext.2). Hon'ble
Hon'ble SC in Bhoginbhai v. State of Gujarat, AIR 1988 SC 753 = 1983 Cri.L.J. 1096 pointed out how discrepancies creep in the evidence of even truthful witnesses and advised, “Overmuch importance cannot be attached to minor discrepancies. The reasons are obvious—
1. By and large a witness cannot be expected to possess a photographic memory and to recall the details of an incident. It is not as if a video tape is replayed on the mental screen.
2. Ordinarily it so happens that a witness is overtaken by events. The witness could not have anticipated the occurrence which so often has an element of surprise. The mental faculties therefore cannot be expected to be attuned to absorb the details.
3. The power of observation differ from person to person. What one may notice, another may not. An object or movement might emboss its image on one person’s mind, whereas it might go unnoticed on the part of another.
4. By and large people cannot accurately recall a conversation and reproduce the very words used by them or heard by them. They can only recall the main the main purport of the conversation. It is unrealistic to expect a witness to be a human tape recorder.
5. In regard to exact time of an incident, usually people make their estimates by guesswork on the spur of the moment at the time of interrogation. And one cannot expect people to make very precise or reliable estimates in such matters. Again it depends on the time sense of individuals which varies from person to person.
6. Ordinarily, a witness cannot be expected to recall accurately the sequence of events which take pace in rapid succession or in a short time span. A witness is liable to get confused, or mixed up when interrogated later on.
7. A witness though wholly truthful, is liable to be overawed by the Court atmosphere and the piercing cross-examination made by the counsel and out of nervousness mix up facts, get confused regarding sequence of events, or fill up details from imagination on the spur of the moment. The sub-conscious mind of the witness sometimes so operates on account of the fear of looking foolish or being disbelieved though the witness is giving a truthful and honest account of the occurrence witnessed by him – perhaps it is a sort of psychological defence mechanism activated on the spur of the moment.
Discrepancies which do not go to the root of the matter and shake the basic version of the witness, therefore, cannot be annexed with undue importance. More so when the all important “probabilities-factor” echoes in favour of the witness.”
In Syamkesh v. The State of W.B. (1989) I Crime 550 (Cal), there were four dying declarations and in all the same facts were stated as we find in this case and therefore, the Court accepted the dying declarations and convicted the accused. In Surendra Nath v. State of Bihar, A.I.R. 1979 SC 1497, even an oral and unrecorded dying declaration was accepted. So, merely because Ext.2 does not contain the signature of the deceased, the same can't be rejected as because, I find no reason to disbelieve the evidence of a responsible impartial public servant like doctor when he has no enemity against any of the accused persons.
In Bakshish Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1957 S.C. 904 a dying declaration in Punjabi language recorded in Urdu was held valid. Therefore, merely because in this case the doctor recorded the same in English cannot make it unacceptable. In Jagannath Krishna Dedage v. State of Maharashtra (1990) 1 Crimes 305 (307) (Bom) where a housewife with 75 % burn injuries having been brought to hospital, her dying declaration was recorded immediately after administration of pethidine injection. It was held her extreme pain militated against the theory of her being unconscious immediately after injection. Further details of matrimonial estrangement in the dying declaration is a guarantee of its genuineness. Dying declaration was accepted and accused convicted.
Even if we leave aside the dying declaratiuons recorded by the doctor. Ext.2 and the I.O. (Ext.13), yet we find that there is ample direct oral evidence of close relatives of the deceased who narrated the incident before this Court and one such person – apart from the Complainant - is his daughter Sabitri Tanti (PW-6) who in her evidence stated, “I am a resident of Kulti L.C. More. The deceased Gayetri Tanti was my elder sister. My sister Gayetri got married to accused Ranajit Prosad of Baltoria on 27th April, 1996. After marriage she went to reside in the house of her in-laws. Her husband, father-in-law and sister-in-law. Her husband, father-in-law, mother-in-law did not love my elder sister. She was subjected to mental torture by them. Today the husband, father-in-law and sister-in-law of my deceased sister are present on dock (identifies) the 3 accused persons on the dock). The accused persons did not speak to my sister. Whenever her husband, mother-in-law, sister-in-law used to go out, they never used to tell her about their visits at that time. She was subjected to such degree of torture that she out of sadness did not reveal her sorrows to us. On 06.06.1997 myself, my father and my mother went to see my elder sister. On seeing us to come, the accused persons started quarreling with us and they even did not allow us to enter the house. They started abusing us. Thereafter the father of Ramjit Prosad, Ramkrishna Prosad and Ram Prosad came out with a danda in their hands and they started assaulting my father and mother. When they assaulted my father on his head, he sustained a swollen injury. They also assaulted my mother. Then I went to save my parents and at that time, I saw my elder sister was standing there and she saw the matter in which her parents were being humiliated. My leder sister could not withstand such humiliation and insult. On seeing all these, she could not stand there any more and rushed towards her room. When I was busy trying to save my parents, I saw my sister came there with her body on fire. Thereafter, myself and my parents tried to put off the fire with the help of a blanket and at that time her father-in-law and mother-in-law were standing and were saying what has happened, is good and that as a result of happening she should die. Her father-in-law stated that since his daughter was dying, let him alone save her. Why should they come forward to save her? Thereafter, my father went out and called a Tempo and thereafter, myself, my father, mother took my sister in the Tempo. We got her admitted in Kulti Hospital.”
If we go through the evidence of P.W.-1 (Baleshwar Tanti) – the Complainant, P.W. 2 (Anar Devi ) the w/o the complainant and P.W.-6 (Sabitri Tanti) – the daughter of the complainant, we find that the basic sub-stratum of their evidence is almost the same except that as per P.W.-1 ( Baleshwar Tanti ) it was only the accused Ram Kishan Prasad who assaulted him and his wife with danda while as per P.W.-6 (Sabtri Tanti ) both ram Krishna Prosad and Ranjit Prosad assaulted her parents while as per P..W.-2 (Anar Devi) all the three accused persons assaulted them. Obviously, there is embellishment in the evidence of these witnesses regarding the incident. But such discrepancy cannot lead to the oer throwing of the entire prosecution case. Hon’ble S.C. in State of U.P. v Anil Singh, 1989 Cri.L.J. 88 = AIR 1988 S.C. 1998 observed, “....With regard to falsehood stated or embellishments added by the prosecution witnesses, it is well to remember that there is tendency amongst witnesses in our country to back up a good case by false or exaggerated version. It is also experienced that invariably the witnesses add embroidery to prosecution story, perhaps for the fear of being disbelieved. But that is no ground to throw the case overboard, if true in the main. If there is a ring of truth in the main, the case should not be rejected. It is the duty of the Court to cull out the nuggets of truth from the evidence unless there is reasons to believe that the inconsistencies of falsehood are so glaring as utterly to destroy confidence in the witnesses. It is necessary to remember that a Judge does not preside a criminal trial merely to see that no innocent man is punished. A Judge also presides over to see that a guilty does not escape. One is as important as the other. Both are public duties which the Judge has to perform....”
Therefore, I tend to believe the evidence of P.W.-1 (Balwshwar Tanti) regarding involvement of accused Ram Kishan Prasad alone in the assault by Danda as because in case more than one persons were involved in the assault, I see no reason why should he screen them though, it is quite possible that being busy to defend himself, he failed to notice how the other accused persons assaulted his wife. When two views are possible of any incident, the accused persons are entitled to that view which is most favorable to them. Therefore, may be all the accused persons were involved in the incident of assault, I hold only Ram Kishan Prosad alone as the person who assaulted the complainant and his wife with Danda as because, so far as his involvement is concerned, all the witnesses are unanimous in their evidence regarding his involvement.
Ld. Advocate for the accused persons submitted that there is no allegation or any evidence regarding dowry demand nor any allegation or evidence regarding any physical assault at any point of time upon the deceased Gayetri Devi and therefore, the offence cannot fall within the purview of either Sec.498A I.P.C. or u/Sec.306 I.P.C. I disagree, as because explanation a) to Sec.498A I.P.C. is wide enough to cover any type of cruelty which is capable of driving a woman to commit suicide or cause grave injury or danger to life , limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman. Mental cruelty alone may sometimes be worst than the physical assault in as much as physical wounds may heal up after a few days, but the scars of a mental cruelty may leave behind a permanent effect. In the F.I.R. it is alleged that the accused persons stopped talking to the deceased and this way for one long year she was subjected to torture. The deceased in her dying declaration to Doctor (Ext.2) stated that none of her family (members) used to talk (to her) since after marriage. P.W.-2 ( Anar Debi ) also in her evidence stated, “Since after her marriage, none of the accused persons spoke to her. She was subjected to mental pressure.” P.W.-6 ( Sabitri Tanti ) in her evidence stated, “The accused persons did not speak to my sister. Whenever her husband, mother-in-law etc. used to go out, they never used to tell her about their visits at that time….”
In other words, we have before us a credible piece of evidence that the deceased was completely isolated, segregated and ostracized within the family for about one long year. It is difficult to conceive of any mental torture worst than this type of torture. It is well said,
“Stone walls do no a prison make,
nor iron bars a cage;
Mind innocent and quiet take
that for hermitage”. ( AIR 1947 Mad 381).
The deceased, it appears was subjected to conditions worst than that of a prisoner condemned to solitary imprisonment. Under Sec.73 of the I.P.C. no convict can be sentenced to solitary confinement for a total period of three months and u/Sec.74 of the I.P.C. none can be allowed to suffer solitary confinement for a period exceeding 14 days at a time and when the imprisonment awarded exceeds 3 months, the solitary confinement shall not exceed 3 months and the solitary confinement shall not exceed seven days in any one month. There is no exception to this rule even in the case of hardened criminals guilty of having committed most brutal and heinous crimes as because the devastating bad effects of such solitary confinement on human mind, when solitary confinement exceeds a period of 14 days, is very well known. When subjected to such conditions, even a normal person would tend to go crazy. Hon’ble S.C. in Sunil Batra v. Delhi Admn. 1978 S.C. 1675 held that to read solitary confinement permissible u/Sec.30(2) of Prisons Act would render the provision ultra vires and violative of fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19 20 and 21 of the Constitution. No doubt, such mental torture resulting from isolation and boycott of the deceased had adverse effect on the mind and health of the deceased as even the Post-Mortem report Ext.7 states that the deceased was of poor built. The deceased, as per evidence was kept incommunicado for about one year or more at a stretch for reasons best known to the accused persons. Her uterus as per Ext.7 was non-gravid ( i.e. she was not pregnant ) in spite of a married life from 27.04.1996 to 06.06.1997, suggesting that the husband probably did not even share bed with her.
By such ostracism, rejection and keeping a person incommunicado, the accused persons irrefutably conveyed to the deceased :-
1) That the deceased was so inferior and an object of such hatred that none wanted to speak to her.
2) That she was a persona non grata and the earlier she vanishes, the better it would be for them.
No doubt, such intensions of the accused Ram Kishan Prasad got exposed, as we find from the evidence of P.W.-6 (Sabitri Tanti ), who in her evidence stated, “Thereafter, myself and my parents tried to put off the fire with the help of a blanket and at that time her father-in-law and mother-in-law were standing and they were saying that what has happened is good .and by that happening, she should die. Her father-in-law stated that since his (complainant’s) daughter was dying, let him alone save her. Why should they (accused persons) come forward to save her?”
Can such brutality, cruelty and heartlessness be excused. The answer is an emphatic ‘No’. A married woman does not destroy herself in hope of thereby achieving noble post mortem reputation or a place amongst the eternally blessed. Instead she wishes to subtract herself from a life whose quality seems a worst evil than death. In Poolakkal Kunchu v. State, 1986(2) Crimes 225, it was held that the feeling of unhappiness in future life and a gloomy future are factors which can prompt a lady to do the extreme.
In Shanti v. State of Haryana, 1991 (1)DMC 187 (SC) = AIR 1991 SC 1226 (Para 5) where the accused persons did not send the deceased to her parents house and drove out the brother as well as the father of deceased on account of not meeting the dowry demand, it was held that such an act squarely comes within the meaning of cruelty which is essential under Sec.304B I.P.C. In this case, though there is no evidence regarding dowry demand, yet at least the accused Ramkrishan Prasad went a step further in committing mental cruelty by assaulting the parents of the deceased with a danda in her presence, thus triggering a thought of helplessness, anger, immense insult, guilt etc.etc forcing her to decide that probably her elimination from this world may at least relieve her parents from such insults, humiliations in future.
Therefore, so far as the accused Ram Kishan Prosad is concerned, I have no doubts left in my mind that he is guilty of having committed both the offences of subjecting the deceased to extreme mental cruelty and of abetment of suicide by the deceased by inflicting such cruelty. Therefore, both these offences u/Secs. 498A/306 IPC are proved beyond reasonable doubt against him.
Therefore, now it is time to apportion the guilt of the other two accused persons. Hon’ble S.C. in Dastane vs. Dastane, AIR 1975 1534 observed, “Acts of a spouse which are calculated to impair the integrity of a marital union have a social significance. To marry or not to marry and if so whom, may be a private affair but the freedom to break a matrimonial tie is not. The society has a stake in the institution of marriage and therefore, the erring spouse is treated not as a mere defaulter but as an offender.”
In other words, stopping talks with the deceased may be condoned in the case of Smt. Sakuntala Devi, the sister-in-law of the deceased, yet, such an act amounts to an offence so far as the accused Ramjit Prasad is concerned as he is the husband of the deceased Gayetri. The husband and wife constitute a unit of which wife is considered the better half. The sacrosanct nature of the Hindu marriage, though diluted by Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 by introduction of the concept of divorce, continues to be considered a life-long union of the body with the body and the Soul with the Soul. The husband is called Swami and occupies a place next only to God in the life of a majority of religious minded women. Many an orthodox women still believe, after marriage only their dead body alone can voluntarily come out of the house of their husbands. Therefore, rejection of the wife by the husband – who is the centre of all her activities after marriage – invariably affects such a wife deeply. Therefore, the factum of stopping all types of communications by the husband with the wife for such a long period of one year and thus turning the matrimonial home of the deceased into a kind of an open jail coupled with showering insults and quarreling with her parents on arrival, in my opinion constitutes mental torture/ cruelty within the meaning of Sec.498A IPC. I am convinced, had the accused Ramjit Prasad shared the sorrows of the deceased wife, communicated with her properly, the act of stoppage of talks by other members of the family with the deceased would not have caused effect it did. The deceased being the legally married wife of the accused Ramjit Prosa, she was entitled to his company and all other related conjugal rights. Such denial was an intentional insult to her womanhood. Therefore, though his sister Shakuntala Devi may not on account of default to talk with the deceased come within the purview of Sec.498A IPC, but, so far as accused Ramjit Prasad is concerned, he cannot escape his liability in creating adverse and unbearable circumstances against his wife, which were akin to a solitary confinement and operated as an extreme type of mental torture.
Now I would like to meet some other points raised by the defence at the time of arguments. The defence cited a Ruling of Hon’ble S.C. in Dalip Singh v State of Punjab, 1979 Cri.L.J. 700 and submitted that dying declaration recorded by the police officer may be relied upon only if there was no time or facility available to the prosecution for a better method. The said ruling does not negate a dying declaration recorded by the Police. Besides, in this case, as I have already pointed out, there is also a dying declaration recorded by the doctor as well (Ext.2) and in addition also the direct evidence of best witnesses who are close relatives of the deceased and as such as per Dalip Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1953 S.C. 394, they would be the last persons to screen the real culprit and falsely implicate an innocent person. The defence also cited Tapan Pal v State of West Bengal, 1992 Cri.L.J. 1017 and submitted the evidence does not disclose any overt act to drive the deceased to commit suicide. I think I have already discussed this aspect elaborately in my judgment and I am convinced that the overt act to keep the deceased perpetually incommunicado, her segregation for one year by stopping talks with her, assault upon her parents at the time they came to pay her a visit et. Etc. together make out a very sold case of extreme mental cruelty.
Ld. Advocate for the defence also cited Sunil Bajaj v. State of M.P., 2001 Cri.L.J. 4700 and submitted that there is no evidence that the deceased was subjected to mental cruelty for dowry. In my opinion, the said Ruling in respect of an offence u/Sec.304B IPC, where cruelty in relation to dowry is an essential ingredient of the offence, has no application to the facts and circumstances of this Case u/Sec.498A/306 I.P.C. The defence in their written arguments submitted that P.W.-7 (Umesh Lal ) and P.W.-8 (Paresh Ch. Thakur ) id not speak of any physical or mental torture. In my opinion, this is insignificant as because there was no physical torture of the deceased and the mental torture was not in the form of abuses or shouting, but it assumed the form of a silent torture whose ingredients were stopping talks, rejection and isolation of the deceased. A gun fitted with a silencer may often be more deadly than a gun without silencer, absence of noise notwithstanding.
As regards defects in the recording of dying declaration by the doctor, I tend to ignore the defects of the doctor as he appeared to be a novice as he (P.W.-3) in his evidence stated, “Prior to this, I never recorded any dying declaration of any patient.” Besides, there is nothing to show that he was inimically disposed towards the accused persons or partial in favour of the complainant. Moreover, the dying declaration (Ext.2) is merely a corroborative piece of evidence to the direct evidence of at least three eye-witnesses to the occurrence. The defence, after pointing out the discrepancies as to the time, place and manner in which F.I.R. reached Police Station submitted that these discrepancies are vital. I do not agree as because the basic question before this Court is to decide whether the accused persons committed the offence or not and not where, when and in what manner the F.I.R. was recorded, when there is nothing to doubt the veracity and genuineness of the same. When a person witnesses a horrible scene of her daughter aflame, his focus normally is mainly towards how to save her and to arrange for medical treatment as fast as possible. The other minor details as to where he met the scribe and where the F.I.R. was written may not leave a deep imprint in his mind and, therefore, discrepancies in this regard are bound to occur. But the same can’t lead to the over throw of the entire prosecution case.
PW-5 (Sailaja Singh ) is a formal witness who submitted a charge sheet in this case. PW.-7 (Ranjit Gorai) is a formal witness who wrote the F.I.R. on the dictation of the complainant. P.W.-10 (Bhabani Shankar Pal) is again a formal witness who conducted inquest over the dead-body. The evidence of all other witnesses has already been discussed in detail by me earlier. In a nutshell, I am of the view that the prosecution been able to establish the guilt of the accused Ram Krishan Prasad for the offence u/Sec.498A/306 I.P.C. and that of accused Ramjit Prasad for the offence u/Sec.498A I.P.C. beyond all reasonable doubts. The accused Smt. Sakuntala Devi, however, deserves to be acquitted from the offences u/Secs. 498A/306 I.P.C. As such, all the three points are decided accordingly. Hene, it is,
O R D E R E D
THAT THE ACCUSED Ram Krishan Prasad is found guilty and convicted for both the offences u/Secs.498A/306 I.P.C. and taken into J/C. His bail-bond stands cancelled. Fix 17.08.2002 for his examination u/Sec.235(2) of the Cr.P.C. on the question of sentence. Issue custody warrant accordingly.
The accused Ramjit Prasad is found guilty and convicted for the offence 498A I.P.C. but acquitted from the offence u/Sec.306 I.P.C. To date, for his 235(2) Cr.P.C. examination. He is allowed to continue with his old bail-bond till that date.
The accused Smt. Sakuntal Devi is acquitted from the offences u/Secs.498A/306 I.P.C. and discharged from her bail-bonds.
( H. Singh)
Additional Sessions Judge,
Fast Track 1st Court, Asansol.
Examination of the accused Ram Krishan Prasad and Ramjeet Prasad u/Sec.235(2) of the Cr.P.C.:-The accused Ram Krishan Prasad is produced from Judicial Custody and he on being asked if he has to say anything on the question of sentence submits that he has nothing to say. He submits that he is innocent.
The accused Ramjit Prasad who is on Court bail on being asked on the question of sentence submits that he is innocent. He says that he has nothing more to say. Keeping in view the fact that the victim of crime was a helpless weaker section of the society on the one hand and keeping in view the fact that crime against a married woman at the hands of their in-laws should be dealt with sternly, I am of opinion that in this case the benefit of the Provisions of the Probation of Offender’s Ac should not be extended to the accused persons. The victim, it appears was subjected to a prolonged mental torture in a cool and planned manner. Keeping in view the act of the accused Ram Krishan Prasad in assaulting the parents of the deceased precipitated the commission of suicide by the deceased, in my opinion a sentence of 5 years of R.I. and a fine of Rs.5,000/- in default to suffer additional R.I. for 5 months would suffice the ends of Justice for the offence under Sec.306 I.P.C. So far as the offence u/Sec.498A I.P.C. is concerned, I am of opinion that keeping in view the nature and circumstances of the offence a sentence of R.I. for 2 years and a fine of Rs.2,000/- in default to suffer additional R.I. for 2 months to both the convict accused persons would suffice the ends of justice. Hence, it is
O R D E R E D
that the accused Ram Krishan Prasad who was found guilty and convicted for the offences u/Secs. 306 I.P.C. and 498A I.P.C. on 16.08.2002 is hereby sentenced to suffer R.I. for 5 years and to pay a fine of Rs.5,000/- for the offence u/Sec.306 I.P.C. in default to suffer additional R.I. for 5 months. He is also sentenced to suffer R.I. for two years for the offence u/Sec.498A I.P.C. and to pay a fine of Rs.2000/- in default to suffer additional R.I. for two months. Both the sentences shall run concurrently. The accused Ramjit Prasad who was found guilty for the offence u/Sec. 498A I.P.C. is hereby sentenced to suffer R.I. for two years and to pay a fine of Rs.2,000/- for the aforesaid offence in default to suffer additional R.I. for two months. Their detention in Judicial Custody, if any, shall be set-off from the period of sentence imposed. Seized alamats, if any, shall be destroyed after expiry of the period of appeal. Let a certified copy of this Judgement be given free of costs to the accused persons at once. Issue warrant of imprisonment accordingly.
Let a copy of this Judgement be also sent to the District Magistrate Burdwan u/Sec.365 of the Cr.P.C. Half of the fine, if paid, shall be given as compensation under Sec.357 of the Cr.P.C. to the complainant. Inform the complainant accordingly at once.
( H. Singh)
Additional Sessions Judge,
Fast Track 1st Court, Asansol.