NATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH DESK
Baldev Singh v State of Punjab – Citation: AIR 2009 SC 913 – Supreme Court of India
SS. 304B and 498A IPC; SS. 2, 3 and 4 Dowry Prohibition Act, 196; and SS. 113B Indian Evidence Act
The Trial Court in this case relied upon the evidence of deceased’s brother and another person and found that their evidence was clear and cogent to the effect that the deceased was being harassed for not bringing adequate dowry and though some of the demands were satisfied by the relatives, the demands persisted. On account of such persistent demands, the deceased felt harassed and consumed poison and had ultimately died as a result thereof. The high court also upheld the conviction of the appellant accused persons.
Upholding the conviction the Supreme Court in this case held that, “The offence alleged against the accused is under Section 304B IPC which makes “demand of dowry” itself punishable. Demand neither conceives nor would conceive of any agreement. If for convicting any offender, agreement for dowry is to be proved, hardly any offenders would come under the clutches of law.” Further, the Supreme Court observed that “when Section 304B refers to “demand of dowry”, it refers to the demand of property or valuable security as referred to in the definition of “dowry” under the Act. The argument that there is no demand of dowry, in the present case, has no force.”
Further commenting on the importance of circumstantial evidence the Court stated that, “In cases of dowry deaths and suicides, circumstantial evidence plays an important role and inferences can be drawn on the basis of such evidence. That could be either direct or indirect.”
It further pointed out the significance of amendment to Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 as amended by means of Act 63 of 1984, under which “it is an offence to demand dowry directly or indirectly from the parents or other relatives or guardian of a bride.” It also stated that the word “agreement” referred to in Section 2 has to be inferred on the basis of the facts and circumstances of each case.
Lastly it observed on definition of “dowry” that “demanding of her share in the ancestral property will not amount to a dowry demand, but the evidence … shows that the demands were in addition to the demand for her share in the ancestral property.” Though, the Court reduced the imprisonment from ten years to seven years finding the first one on “higher side”.