2013 ALL MR (Cri) 2187
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY (AURANGABAD BENCH)
K.U. CHANDIWAL, J.
Shaikh Mohmad Javed Shaikh & Anr. Vs. State Of Maharashtra
Criminal Appeal No. 222 of 2012,Criminal Appeal No. 572 of 2012
30th January, 2013
Petitioner Counsel: Mr. S.H. JAGIASI
Respondent Counsel: Mrs. R.K. LADDA
Penal Code (1860), Ss.498A, 306 - Evidence Act (1872), S.3 - Cruelty and abetment of suicide - Husband or relative of woman subjected her to 'cruelty' - Appreciation of evidence - No communication to any of the witnesses with deceased before a month of incident - Behaviour of accused with deceased not 'cruelty' within the meaning of term as per S.498A and cannot be termed as instigation to abet the deceased to commit suicide - Live fetus in her womb suggest normal situation of couple - Spot panchanama proves accused did not need financial assistance - No explanation from the prosecution as to why neighbours not examined - No evidence of any torture by accused to victim in close proximity of her sad demise to compel her to commit suicide - Nothing on record that shows accused provoked deceased - Acquittal of accused would be proper. (Paras 11, 13)
JUDGMENT :- The appellants question conviction recorded by the learned Additional Sessions Judge at Ambejogai in Sessions Case No.220/2010 dated 16th March, 2012, convicting the accused Shaikh Mohmad Javed Shaikh, for the offense under Section 498-A of IPC to suffer rigorous imprisonment for one year and to pay fine of Rs. 1,000/-; in default, rigorous imprisonment for three months; for the offense under Section 306 of IPC to suffer for five years rigorous imprisonment and to pay fine of Rs.1000/-; in default, three months rigorous imprisonment. Appellant No.2 (original accused no.3) Smt. Shaikh Nazimubee Shaikh Yakub is convicted for the offense under Section 498-A of IPC, to suffer imprisonment for six months and to pay fine of Rs.1000/-; in default, to suffer imprisonment for three months.
2. The State has also preferred Appeal No. 572/2012, challenging acquittal of accused no.2 Shaikh Yakub Shaikh Chagan under Sections 498-A and 306 of IPC and of accused No.3 Smt.Shaikh Nazimubee Shaikh Yakub for the offense under Section 306 of IPC.
Deceased Sharifabee was married to accused no.1 Shaikh Mohmad Javed Shaikh ( for short Javed) prior to three years of the incident. Original accused nos. 2 and 3 are her parents in law. It is alleged that, accused were demanding Rs.50,000/- through deceased Sharifabee, to her parents for construction of their house. Resultantly, she was mentally and physically tortured. Due to intolerable ill-treatment, on 29.4.2010, Sharifabee committed suicide by setting herself on fire. Inspite of taking her to Government hospital at Kaij, she succumbed to burn injuries without any dying declaration. However, while in transit, she had made oral declarations to few witnesses.
The prosecution has put in eight witnesses. The defense of the accused is: They never demanded Rs.50,000/- to parents of Sharifabee as they are financially well of. Sharifabee was loved by all family members; she never grumbled of so called ill-treatment to anybody. Her death was sad but it was an accidental fire as she was cooking and suffered burn injuries.
(1) PW No.1 Hamidkhan Rasulkhan Pathan, father of deceased Sharifabee.
(2) PW No.2 Rashidabee w/o Sk.Khaja, paternal aunt of Sharifabee.
(3) Sk.Gaffar Sk.Khududdin, son-in-law of Rashidabee and residing in the nearby area where the accused are residing.
(4) PW No.4 Sk.Hashmatbee w/o Sk.Yashin, is paternal aunt of deceased Sharifabee.
(5) PW No.5 Mohmad M.Khatib and PW No.6 Sayad Ajim are the panch witnesses for inquest and spot, respectively.
(6) PW No.7 Dr.Nandkumar Neharkar performed post mortem on the dead body of Sharifabee.
(7) PW no.8 PSI Tulshiram Dhumal carried the investigation.
6. PW No.7 Dr. Nandkumar confirmed of carrying the post mortem on the dead body of Sharifabee who suffered hundred per cent burn injuries. She had uterus gravid with contents of fetus around 18 to 20 weeks. The uterus was also sent for histo-pathological examination. According to him, she could have expired 12 hours before post mortem. According to him, the death was due to cardio respiratory arrest consequent to hundred per cent burns. In the cross examination, he accepted, he is unable to give exact timing of death of said Sharifabee. Thee was normal growth of fetus in the womb of deceased Sharifabee.
7. The spot panchnama coupled with evidence of PW No.5 Khatib, PW No.7 Dr.Neharkar shows that death of Sharifabee was unnatural; whether it was accidental or suicidal, needs to be scanned. The spot is a 10'x 10' tin shed room in a courtyard established PW No.6 Syed Azim. He had seen the articles like kerosene can, match box, cooking stove at the spot of the incident ( Panchnama Exh.33). There were cooking articles near the spot. The kitchen was only one for all the accused. It is curious, this witnesses has coordinated while removing Sharifabee to the hospital at Kaij and at that time, his sister-in-law Nazma asked Sharifabee as to how she suffered the injuries and Sharifabee told that it was due to fire of stove, she got the burns. Apart from Sharifabee saying so to Nazma, he confirms, Sharifabee also conveyed him similarly. He accepted, whenever Sharifabee had been to his house, she never grumbled about matrimonial controversies or ill-treatment. However, PW No.8 Dhumal, investigating officer, though accepted presence of Art. 1 to 3 at the spot, disputed that there were cooking articles lying at the spot. He denied the suggestion, he purposely did not seize it. On this ground, the evidence of suicide by Sharifabee tilts and doubt creeps in; it more leans to accept that it was an accidental death.
"Section 306. Abetment of suicide
If any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine."
9. Evidence of father PW No.1 Hamidkhan, or PW No.2, mother Smt.Rashidabee, uncle PW No.3 Sk.Gaffar, PW No.4 Sk.Hashmatbee if read together, it is indicated by Hamidkhan that there was persistent demand of Rs.50,000/- by the accused no.1 and his mother ( accused No.3 Nazimubee). Such demand was specifically made one and half month before the incident when Sharifabee came with Smt. Nazma (accused no.3) to Dharur in presence of Hashmatbee and Yasin Shaikh Lal. At such time, Sharifabee in confidence conveyed to her father that since last six months, her in-laws were harassing her and it was impossible for her to return to matrimonial house. He pacified his daughter and in-laws and sent them back to the matrimonial home. Though PW No.1 refers of such grievance in presence of two independent witnesses, however, they are not examined. PW No.2 Rashidabee says accused nos. 1 to 3 were beating Sharifabee; they were not giving her meals and were sending her to her parents for bringing money and that she had learnt it from Sharifabee. According to her, due to ill-treatment, Sharifabee had committed suicide. There is no specific reference as to when she saw the event, what role she has played. All events are sweeping and general. Evidence of PW No.2 on this score is doubtful to be accepted for several reasons. She was instrumental in arranging marriage of Sharifabee with accused no. 1. She knew accused no.1 from birth. She is residing separate from her husband since last 25 years. She accepts that there was controversy between her son in law Gafarkhan and the accused persons over ice factory. She accepted, she does not have any knowledge how Sharifabee burnt in the fire. However, in her statement under Section 161 Cr.P.C., there is no reference of accused persons beating or torturing Sharifabee persistently. Thus, evidence of PW No.2, basically, does not inspire confidence on above counts; she was more instrumental in magnifying the events than reality.
10. It has transpired in the evidence of witnesses that accused are well of financially. Sharifabee was the eldest. She was fairly good looking and all inmates the brothers were respecting her. All throughout the day, she was engaged in cooking. The evidence illustrate, for one and half month prior to her death, she had no communication with any of the witness. Before a month, it was suggested, she had met PW No.1 in an adoption function (Chilla), however, PW No.1 has disputed the same. Thus, the resultant is, soon before death of Sharifabee, there was no communication to any of the witness. There is nothing to suggest that on account of so called demand of Rs.50,000/-, made before one and half month, Sharifabee was so tortured, purturbed to the effect that her life was made miserable. The evidence of PW No.1 and PW No.2 is almost replica of one another.
11. On analysis of the evidence, the question that arises before this Court is, whether behaviour of the accused with deceased was "cruelty" within the meaning of term appearing in Explanation A to Section 498-A of IPC and whether facts proved by the prosecution constitute an instigation to abet the deceased to commit suicide.
12. The cumulative effect of the evidence is, there is nothing before this Court to suggest which treatment in particular of the accused/appellants was abrasive, humiliating or amounting to goading, making life of Sharifabee a miserable event. The live fetus in her womb certainly suggest that in normal situation, she would not have ventured to commit suicide since she was also conscious of well being of her one and half year old son.
13. In the spot panchnama (Exh.32), the situation emerges that the appellant did not need any financial assistance as already there was a shed to the house. One of the brother had a well placed garage. Accused no.1, her husband was Maulana ( a priest) and had handsome earning of Rs.8,000/- to Rs.10,000/- per month. Consequently, it appears to be an exaggeration of facts by the parents to ensure implication of the accused in a false prosecution. It is not that every harassment would amount to cruelty within the meaning of clause (a) or clause (b) of explanation to Section 498-A of IPC. Under Section 113-A of the Evidence Act, the prosecution has first to establish that the woman concerned committed suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage and that she was subjected to cruelty. However, the Court has to consider other circumstances of the case; naturally, the nature of cruelty to which the woman was subjected must be in terms of Section 498-A of IPC. It is settled position, that mere fact of a woman committing suicide within seven years of her marriage or that she was subject to cruelty by her husband, does not, ipso facto give rise to a presumption of abetting suicide by her husband or relations.
There is no explanation from the prosecution as to why the neighbours are not examined. There is no evidence of any previous torture by the accused/appellants to the victim in close proximity of her sad demise to compel her to commit suicide. There is nothing on record that appellants have provoked or instigated deceased. Each person has different mental status of endurance. Idea of self esteem also has different shades and varies on condition of life style. There is no clear mens rea for the accused to commit offence. There is no direct or active act soon before the death to push the deceased to end her precious life obliterating future of the child and fetus in womb.
14. Taking survey of all the facts, Appeal No.222/2012 moved by the appellants/accused succeeds. The accused/appellant no.1 Shaikh Mohmad Javed Shaikh be released forthwith, if not required in any other case.
Criminal Appeal No.572/2012 moved by the State fails, dismissed.
The conviction against both appellants is set aside.