2013 ALL MR (Cri) 2374
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY (PANAJI BENCH)
R.P. SONDURBALDOTA, J.
State Of Goa Through P.I. Vs. Ramakrishna Prabhu & Ors.
Criminal Appeal No. 14 of 2010
19th March, 2013
Petitioner Counsel: Ms. M. PINTO
Respondent Counsel: Shri A. PALEKAR
Penal Code (1860), Ss.306, 498A, 304B, 34 - Abetment to suicide - Proof - Allegations in dying declarations cannot be said to drive a person to commit suicide - Evidence of all witnesses seen to be extensive exaggeration riddled with contradictions and omissions - Accused did not call deceased on their first wedding anniversary, can hardly be said to be cause which would drive to suicide - Nothing on record to indicate that any of respondent did directly or indirectly any act of incitement to commission of suicide - Mere fact that deceased ill treated by respondent, when she was staying in her matrimonial house, not sufficient either to attract the definition of cruelty as per S.498A or to prove that respondent abated commission of suicide - Marital life of deceased not happy, which may led her to commit suicide, but respondent cannot be held to be responsible for that - Acquittal would be proper. (Para 9)
JUDGMENT :- This appeal is by the State to challenge the correctness and legality of the judgment and order dated 10/09/2009 by which the Sessions Court acquitted the respondents of the offences punishable under Section 304-B, 498-A and 306 read with Section 34 Indian Penal Code.
2. Rachana, the deceased, was married to respondent no.1 on 21/04/2003. Barely one year thereafter i.e. on 28/04/2004 she set herself on fire with petrol and died in the hospital on 5/05/2004. PW5, the brother of Rachana by his letter dated 18/05/2004 addressed to Sub-Divisional Magistrate (PW11) complained that Rachana had committed suicide on account of the harassment meted out to her by the respondents i.e. her husband, parents-in-law, brother-in-law and sister-in-law. On 23/08/2004, PW11 addressed an order to the Police Inspector, Old Goa Police Station, Panaji-Goa that on perusal of the statements recorded by the police and the dying declaration of Rachana it was seen that Rachana had committed suicide on account of the harassment from her husband and her family, therefore, the dying declaration should be treated as FIR and appropriate action in the manner be initiated. Based on this order, the Police registered FIR on 25/08/2004 and proceeded with the investigation, which ultimately resulted into Sessions Case No.16/2006.
3. The prosecution examined in all 15 witnesses to bring home the guilt of the accused, out of which 9 are formal witnesses being the Panchas, Executive Magistrate, Medical Expert, Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Police Inspectors and a handwriting expert. The remaining 5 witnesses, who would be material witnesses are the brothers of Rachana her mother, her relative i.e. husband of her sister and an acquaintance through whom marriage of Rachana had been settled. The Sessions Court found that the evidence of the material witnesses was not sufficient to establish that Rachana had been driven to commit suicide on account of harassment by the respondents. It acquitted the respondents of all the offences charged against them.
4. The fact that Rachana committed suicide is an undisputed fact. Therefore, any evidence relating thereto needs no consideration. The question before the trial Court and before this Court in the present appeal is whether Rachana was driven to suicide by the acts of the respondents herein. The evidence on this aspect consists of the deposition of five of the witnesses, PW5 brother Vithal, PW6 mother Bhavana, PW7 brother Vijay, PW8 an acquaintance Anjani, PW12 brother-in-law Baburao, dying declaration of Rachana recorded on 28/04/2004 and the five notes (Exhibit 25-A, 25-B, 25-C, 30 and 31) written by Rachana.
5. I will first deal with the dying declaration of Rachana which would throw light on the relationship between her and the respondents. This declaration was recorded on the very date of the incident i.e. 28/04/2004 by PW9, the Executive Magistrate. There were in all 10 questions put to her, the first five of which are preliminary questions and the subsequent 5 are material questions. Rachana alleged in the dying declaration that her mother-in-law harassed her because Rachana was given a gold ornament "Bhajuband" of lighter weight. The sister-in-law also harassed her. The harassment was of complaining against Rachana to her husband and her brother-in-law. Once both tried to beat her. The allegation against the father-in-law is that he never questioned the other family members. The allegations made against her husband are that he used to beat her and he did not care for Rachana. Even when she had an abortion he never made any inquiries. The husband was more interested in gold than in her. He did not call her to wish her on the wedding anniversary. Though Rachana had desired to reside separately in a rented room, the husband did not care for the same. The husband also did not take her side whenever the mother-in-law harassed her. She stated that she was troubled and had tension by the thought that she may have to depend upon her brothers. Considering the nature of the allegations made in the dying declaration they cannot be said to be such as to drive a person to commit suicide. It is to be remembered that Rachana had been residing with her mother for ten days prior to the incident and had committed suicide in the house of the mother. The complaints made by Rechana in her dying declaration are more or less the teething troubles or the process of adjustment required to be undergone by any couple after the marriage.
6. Next is the oral evidence of the family members of Rachana. Perusal of the evidence of each of the witnesses i.e. PW5 to PW8 and PW12 shows that each has strayed extensively beyond their statements made before the police. The substantial part of their evidence is hearsay evidence. PW5, the brother who had sent the letter dated 18/05/2004 stated in evidence that about a month after the marriage the respondents started harassing Rachana on the ground that the dowry given was not enough. They allegedly abused Rachana and her mother and threatened to get respondent no.1 remarried since insufficient dowry had been given. He alleged that Rachana was not allowed to eat by the mother-in-law for days together and the father-in-law would kick the door of the room and had assaulted her on two occasions. The brother-in-law is alleged to have threatened to kill her if she did not leave the matrimonial home to bring enough money in dowry. The sister-in-law allegedly threatened not to step into the house as long as Rachana was there. He further stated that respondent no.1 had demanded a sum of Rs.1 lac to buy a flat if Rachana desired to live separately. All these allegations made are without any particulars. The allegations against the father-in-law are not found in the complaint dated 18/05/2004. The particulars stated are in respect of only one incident i.e. of 13/04/2004 when the mother-in-law, brother-in-law and the sister-in-law are alleged to have abused her and called her outside the room since they wanted to assault her. The husband, respondent no.1 at the relevant time was inside the room with her. It is not the allegation that any assault had actually taken place on 13/04/2004. This incident has been repeated by the other three witnesses also but none of them stated as to how they learnt about the incident. They do not state that after 13/04/2004 Rachana had told them about the incident. As has been found by the learned Sessions Judge the other brother Vijay has in fact in his evidence admitted that there was no demand for dowry by the respondents at any time. In his cross-examination the other brother Vijay clearly stated that "the gold ornaments and other articles as stated by me above were given to Vinavi on her marriage as per our choice and there was no demand from the accused about the same". The fourth witness Anjani, an acquaintance through whom the marriage of Rachana was settled with respondent no.1 has deposed that whenever Rachana came to her mother's house she would meet her and tell her about the harassment at the hands of the family members. However, there are no details of the incidents of harassment mentioned by her. Besides, it is not her evidence that there was any demand for dowry at the time or after the marriage. In her cross-examination she admitted that she was unaware of the particulars of the gold ornaments given to Rachana in her marriage by her parents. She further admitted that she had stated to the police that when Rachana came to her mother's house few days prior to the incident she had brought all the gold ornaments with her. She further admitted that mother-in-law of Rachana had once come to her house along with one lady and Rachana's sister-in-law to complain that off late Rachana used to have frequent fights at home. She used to go away to her maternal home often. Twice respondent no.1 had to visit her to bring her back. All these witnesses have admitted that respondent no.1 had taken a house on rent and had been residing there with Rachana, though none of the witnesses had personally seen the rented premises. Thus, the evidence of all the witnesses is seen to be extensive exaggeration as also riddled with contradictions and omissions. There are several sweeping statements made by them without any particulars. Considering the nature of the deposition the trial Court has rightly not relied upon the same.
7. The third set of evidence is of 'suicide notes' allegedly written by Rachana. These notes had been produced by PW5 on 27/08/2004 i.e. about four months after the death of Rachana. PW5 stated that he had found the same in the purse of Rachana. His deposition however, is silent about when and how was the discovery made and why the same was not immediately produced before the police. There is nothing to indicate as to when were those five notes of suicide written. Therefore, it would be difficult to connect the same to the incident of suicide that took place on 28/04/2004.
8. Since Rachana had been residing at her maternal home for a substantially long time prior to the incident of suicide it was necessary for the prosecution to establish some act on the part of the respondents herein which could be said to be the proximate cause for Rachana taking the step of suicide. It is not the prosecution case that during this period of ten years there was any contact between Rachana and the respondents.
9. Ms. M. Pinto, learned Additional Public Prosecutor appearing for the appellant submitted that the proximate cause could be the act on the part of respondent no.1 not even giving a call to Rachana on 24/04/2004, the first marriage anniversary. The learned Counsel submits that the evidence of PW5, PW6 and PW7 shows that Rachana was waiting for the call and had felt extremely disappointed on not receiving the call. Since the incident of suicide had not taken on the same day but four days thereafter that cannot be said to be a proximate cause. Besides, act of not calling up Rachana on the date of marriage anniversary can hardly be said to be an act which would drive a person to suicide. In these circumstances, in my opinion, the Sessions Court has correctly appreciated the evidence to acquit the respondents. It has observed that there is nothing on record to indicate that any of the respondents did directly or indirectly any act of incitement to commission of suicide or a conspiracy or any act facilitating the commission of suicide. The mere fact that Rachana was ill treated by the respondents when she was staying in her matrimonial home is not sufficient either to attract the definition of 'cruelty' as defined under Section 498-A IPC or is seen to prove that respondents abated commission of suicide by Rachana. The marital life of Rachana was apparently not happy. It may have led to Rachana committing suicide but the respondents cannot be held to be responsible for that. I am in complete agreement with the observations by the learned Sessions Judge. The appeal is therefore dismissed.