State of Karnataka vs. Dattaraj and Ors.
In The Supreme Court of India
Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction
Criminal Appeal No. 326 Of 2012
Declared on: February 15th, 2016
Jagdish Singh Khehar, J.
This case of the prosecution is about how Savita was tortured, harassed and ill- treated by her in- laws despite the fact that they met all the demands made by Dattaraj, as well as, by his family members. They, however, still remain unsatisfied and continued to pressurize Savita’s family for more dowry. Dattaraj married Savita in the year 2002. Before the marriage, it was agreed to give Rs. 21,000/- in cash & 3 tolas of gold to the groom. However, the family of Savita complied with the aforesaid commitment. Soon, Dattaraj left for Dubai after his marriage with Savita. At that point of time, Dattaraj required Rs. 20,000/- in cash from her parents, as his brother required to purchase some agricultural land. Accordingly, Savita too got the money from her parents. As soon as Dattaraj got back from Dubai he was invited to a ceremony wherein he agreed to attend only if he was given gold and wearing apparel. After some days, Savita conceived and gave birth to a baby girl. On yet another occasion, Savita and Dattaraj had been to stay at her parent’s house, wherein again Dattaraj made similar monetary demands. At this point of time, they informed him about their helplessness and they did not have adequate resources to meet the demand. So, Dattaraj picked up the quarrel. On another occasion, Savita & Dattaraj went back to her parent’s house where he demanded sewing machine and the need was met by her parents. When they both returned to his house, Savita was constantly taunted by her brother-in-law, mother-in-law and father-in-law for not getting adequate gifts from her house. Dattaraj used to ill-treat and harass Savita. However, in the year 2006, Savita died of burn injuries. Thereafter, Savita’s mother Tukkubai filed a complaint against Dattaraj as he and his family members had committed murder of Savita. ** The Sessions Judge (Fast Track Court) who tried the respondents arrived at the conclusion, that in the case, the gold and other gifts given by Savita’s parents were in the nature of dowry articles. Hence, the term “Dowry” is used. The term itself means and includes, property or valuable security which is given either directly or indirectly not only at the time of marriage but also at any time after marriage.
Reason for approaching the Supreme Court:
While arriving at the conclusion by the High Court that Dattaraj had played no role in the death, the evidence of Savita’s mother and brother did not attribute any kinds of over acts of cruelty or harassment to respondent no. 2 to 4(mother-in-law, father-in-law and brother-in-law) and as such, their conviction under Sec. 498A and 304B read with Sec. 34 of IPC was bad in law. For the same reason, respondent no.2 to 4 were found innocent, insofar as, the allegations under sec. 3,4 and 6 of the Dowry act are concerned and were accordingly acquitted for the offences punishable thereunder. Therefore, dissatisfied by the High Court, the appellant has approached this Court.
The Appellant’s Side:
The learned Counsel for the State vehemently contended, that the acquittal of the accused by the High Court, was in clear violation of the declaration of the law, with reference to the provisions under which the accused were charged. It was the vehement contention of the learned counsel for the appellant, that the demands made by the accused for the purchase of agricultural land, as also, with reference to a sewing machine, were liable to be treated as demands constituting dowry. The appellants too stated the fact, that Savita was left all by herself at the hospital and no one out of the respondents accused attended upon her during her pitiable condition, was alleged as sufficient to establish, that the relationship between Savita and the family of her in-laws was not cordial. However, Tukkubai confessed about several things which included giving off a sewing machine as a gift to Savita since Savita knew sewing clothes. And, she even agreed about the fact that giving gold and apparel were customary as the traditions.
The Respondent’s Side:
As Savita’s parents gifted Dattaraj with gold and other gifts it was defended by stating about the gold and the gifts were customary, and were given by the parents of Savita as their own will. Hence, it wasn’t a part of the dowry. Therefore, Savita had committed suicide on her over-sensitive nature and hence they did not commit her murder. They stated about the return gifts given to Savita’s family as a part of customs. They put forward that, Savita even asked Dattaraj to not to go Dubai, which eventually stated about the love and harmony between Savita and Dattaraj.
Approach of the Supreme Court:
The Court held that it was evident from Tukkubai’s statement that, it is apparent that the monetary gifts given to Dattaraj and his family were in the nature of customary gift exchanged during different ceremonies. But what is of significance is that even family of Dattaraj had given certain gifts during certain occasions. Therefore, it seems that both the families celebrated all festivities in the spirit of customary obligation. About rupees 20,000/- for the purchase of agricultural land is concerned, it is apparent that the same was allegedly made by Dattaraj in Dubai. However, the same demand was allegedly made by Savita’s father-in-law. Therefore, looking at certain evidence and circumstances, it was a demand made about two years before the occurrence. The same was too remote to the occurrence, and therefore, would not satisfy section 304B (1) of the IPC. Now, stating about the sewing machine, Tukkubai herself made a confession that Savita knew sewing, hence, it was a gift given to her by her family members. Hence, it cannot be considered as a part of the demand made by Dattaraj, for himself or for his family members. As there was no further attribution, as against the respondent no.2 to 4 it is impossible to accept that the prosecution was successful in establishing either harassment or violence towards Savita. However, the High Court was completely justified in acquitting respondent no. 2 to 4 for the offences.
Therefore, after analyzing the circumstances and reasons, the impugned order passed by the High Court, does not justify any interference. The appeal has no merit hence, it is dismissed.