NATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH DESK
BansiLal v State of Haryana – Citation: AIR2011 SC691 – Supreme Court of India
In each case, the court has to analyse the facts and circumstances leading to the death of the victim and decide if there is any proximate connection between the demand of dowry and act of cruelty or harassment and the death.
The SC in this case approved the conviction and sentence of the accused husband for offences under Sections 498A, 304B and 306 of IPC and award of sentence to undergo rigorous imprisonment for two years and to pay a fine of Rs. 500/-. However, for the offence under Section 304B IPC sentence to undergo for 10 years had been reduced to 7 years RI and pay a fine of Rs. 2,000/-.
The Appellant was married to the deceased on 4th April, 1988. On 25th June, 1991 the Appellant, his mother, brother and sister-in-law had consistently harassed deceased by making dowry demand i.e. a scooter. She had been maltreated by them. After one year of marriage, deceased came and stayed with her family for about 14 months. It was only after convening a panchayat of close relatives, she had returned to her matrimonial home. Again they maltreated and insisted for the demand of a scooter, thus, she had been subjected to cruelty, harassment by demand of dowry to the extent that she committed suicide on 25th June, 1991, at her matrimonial home.
The demand of scooter had been consistent and persistent as witnesses had specifically deposed that the demand was only in respect of scooter and nothing else.
In the instant case, the conduct of the accused forced the deceased to leave her matrimonial home just after one year of marriage and stay with her parents for 14 months continuously. It was only at the assurance given by the panchayat that the accused or his family members would not humiliate or subject the deceased with cruelty, that she re-joined her matrimonial home. Court stated that presumption should be made in this case under S. 113B Indian Evidence Act.
The Supreme Court observed that in Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 the legislature in its wisdom has used the word “shall” thus, making a mandatory application on the part of the court to presume that death had been committed by the person who had subjected her to cruelty or harassment in connection with or demand of dowry. It is unlike the provisions of Section 113A of the Evidence Act where a discretion has been conferred upon the court wherein it had been provided that court may presume to abatement of suicide by a married woman. Therefore, in view of the above, onus lies on the accused to rebut the presumption and in case of Section 113B relatable to Section 304 IPC, the onus to prove shifts exclusively and heavily on the accused.
Further, the SC stated that, in each case, the court has to analyse the facts and circumstances leading to the death of the victim and decide if there is any proximate connection between the demand ofdowry and act of cruelty or harassment and the death. Reference made to T. Aruntperunjothi v. State through S.H.O., Pondicherry AIR 2006 SC 2475; Devi Lal v. State of Rajasthan AIR 2008 SC 332; etc.