Conviction cannot be based on surmises and conjectures: Supreme Court 2007

CASE NO.:
Appeal (crl.) 585 of 2001

PETITIONER:
Hazarilal

RESPONDENT:
State of M.P.

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 20/06/2007

BENCH:
Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT & D.K. JAIN

JUDGMENT:
J U D G M E N T

Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT, J.
1. Appellant calls in question legality of the judgment
rendered by a learned Single Judge of the Madhya Pradesh
High Court, Jabalpur. Appellant along with his mother Smt.
Sumatrani faced trial for alleged commission of offence
punishable under Sections 304-B and 498A of the Indian
Penal Code, 1860 (in short the ‘IPC’). The learned second
Additional Sessions Judge, Sagar, in Sessions Case No.125 of
1990, held the accused persons guilty and convicted each for
offence punishable under Sections 304B and 498A IPC and
imposed sentence of 10 years and 3 years respectively with
fine of the second offence.

2. Dashoda Bai (hereinafter called as ‘deceased’) was the
daughter of Asha Ram (PW-1) and Parvati Bai (PW-2).
According to the prosecution she committed suicide by
burning herself on 28.8.1989 in the house of her husband.
About 10 days before the occurrence she was blessed with a
son.

3. Prosecution version in a nutshell is as follows:

In January, 1989 Dashoda Bai came to the house of her
parents and told them that now she would not go to the place
of her in-laws because she was being harassed by her mother-
in-law and being beaten by her husband. She had also shown
the marks of the injuries to them. According to her the they
were demanding a golden ring, golden chain and a fan as
dowry. They were threatening that accused-appellant Hajarilal
would re-marry. The parents of the deceased complained to
Motilal, father of Hajarilal that their daughter was being
harassed and beaten by the mother-in-law and the husband.
Motilal promised that there would be no such complaint in
future. On this assurance the parents of the girl sent her with
Motilal. On the birth of the male child the parents of the girl
sent certain gifts which have been described as “Panch”. On
that occasion accused Hazarilal had expressed that he was not
happy with the deceased and her father should take her away.
He also expressed that he does not want to keep her. On
22.9.1989 Motilal lodged the F.I.R. (Ex.P/10) at Garhakota
Police Station that Dashoda Bai had sustained burn injuries.
She died on account of those injuries. The accused pleaded
not guilty. Their defence was that Dashoda Bai died on
account of bursting of the stove. It was further stated that the
father of the deceased asked Motilal to make a gift of eight
acres of land in favour of the child left by the deceased and on
his refusal to do so he has given a false statement to the
police.

4. The trial court held the accused person guilty and as
noted above sentenced them.

5. In the appeal before the High Court it was urged that
there was no evidence to establish the demand of dowry and
also there was no evidence that the deceased was being
harassed and subjected to cruelty. The High Court found that
there was no evidence of demand of dowry. The prosecution
version relating to demand of dowry of golden ring, golden
chain and a fan did not appear to be true. It noted that the
father of the deceased had been financed by the appellant for
purchase of some articles and in fact the appellant had taken
a loan in his name for the purpose. The amount was far in
excess of the cost of the golden ring. Therefore, the High
Court noted that he was not demanding any dowry.
Accordingly, the convictions so far as related to Section 304-B
was set aside in respect of both the accused persons. So far
as the accusation under Section 498A was concerned, the
High Court came to hold that after giving birth to a child in the
normal course she could not have entertained the idea to
commit suicide unless she was being harassed by the
appellant. Accordingly conviction under Section 498A was
maintained only so far as it related to appellant but the co-
accused was acquitted.

6. In support of the appeal, learned counsel for the
appellant submitted that after having recorded a positive
finding that there was no question of any dowry demand the
conviction in terms of Section 498A was clearly untenable.

7. Leaned counsel for the State on the other hand
submitted that though there was no evidence of any demand
for dowry, the harassment and cruelty could be for special
reasons.

8. The evidence of PWs 1 and 2 show that they spoke about
the dowry to be the basis for suicide. The High Court came to
the conclusion that because the deceased had given birth to a
child there was no reason for her to commit suicide. The
evidence of the parents of the deceased PWs 1 and 2 was only
relatable to dowry. The High Court held that there was no
question of demand of dowry, and in fact, appellant was
financing the father of the deceased PW1. There being no other
material to show as to how the deceased was being harassed
or subjected to cruelty, the conclusion of the High Court that
because the deceased committed suicide there must be some
harassment and cruelty is insupportable and indefensible.
There was no material to substantiate this conclusion. Merely
on surmises and conjectures the conviction could not have
recorded. There is a vast difference between “could have been”,
“must have been” and “has been”. In the absence of any
material, the case falls to the first category. In such a case
conviction is impermissible.

9. That being so, the conviction as recorded by the High
Court cannot be maintained and the order of the High Court is
unsustainable and indefensible.

10. The appeal is allowed. The bail bonds executed for the
purpose of bail stand discharged.