Dowry demand even by rich persons against poor family members of wife is rampant: Bombay High Court

The High Court set aside orders acquitting the husband and his family members after noting that the testimony of the deceased woman's parents was disregarded on a flimsy ground.
Justice BP Deshpande
Justice BP Deshpande

The Bombay High Court at Aurangabad recently observed that the social menace of dowry continues in our society and that even so-called rich persons demand dowry from the poor parents of a bride. [Vasant s/o Nagnath Amilkantwar v. State of Maharashtra]

Justice Bharat Deshpande recorded in his judgment,

"The aspect of dowry in our society is clearly a social menace. Inspite of strict legislation and punishments imposed by the courts from time to time, many cases are coming in the courts of law. A greed is not dependent upon the status of persons. Demand of dowry even by rich persons against poor family members of the wife is rampant..."

While quashing the acquittal orders of a trial court, the Court noted that the testimony of the deceased woman's parents, highlighting a dowry demand, was disregarded on a flimsy ground.

"The Sessions Judge has appreciated the evidence of prosecution witness with regard to aspect of cruelty from and has refused to accept the version of parents of deceased on the ground that accused knew about the financial status of parents of deceased, who were poor as compared to accused persons and therefore, there was no question of asking dowry. Such finding, with utmost sincerity has to be considered as flimsy and imaginary," the Court held.

The Bench was seized of a criminal revision application filed by the father of a woman who died due to 97 per cent burn injuries at a government-run hospital on June 14, 2001. The deceased's parents alleged that their daughter was often ill-treated and harassed by her husband and her in-laws, as her parents had failed to fulfil the dowry demands.

The sessions judge, however, in his judgment dated March 23, 2004, said that since the accused were aware of the poor status of the deceased's parents, there was no question of their demanding dowry. The judge further relied upon a dying declaration, wherein the deceased stated that she committed suicide because she couldn't tolerate the extreme pain in her stomach.

However, Justice Deshpande highlighted that the sessions judge failed to note the fact that the dying declaration which he took into account was not authorised by a doctor endorsing that the deceased was in a "fit state of mind" to make any statement.

The Bench further noted that the said dying declaration was not recorded as per the mandatory parameters and thus wasn't useful for adjudicating the matter.

Justice Deshpande further noted that the deceased sustained 97 per cent burns at a time when all the accused persons were present in the matrimonial house.

"Such burn injuries were sustained within a period of three years from her marriage. Prior to the said incident, there are allegations by her parents that she was subjected to ill-treatment and demand of dowry. Therefore, rejecting such contention on assumptions and conjectures as well as on flimsy ground, is not at all justified," the judge opined.

Therefore, the Bench found it a fit case for exercising jurisdiction under Section 401 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) since the sessions judge completely ignored settled propositions of law with regard to dowry death, appreciation of evidence in connection with demand wherein normally there is no independent witness, and thirdly, with regard to dying declaration which appears to be not genuine.

"Thus, acquitting all accused persons on these grounds is a miscarriage of justice. Deceased and her parents suffered at the behest of said judgment and therefore, interference is necessary," the Bench concluded.

Advocates Aummaheshwari Jadhav and PR Katneshwarkar appeared for the revision petitioner.

Additional Public Prosecutor Geeta Deshpande represented the State.

Advocates SR Bagal and BN Gadegaonkar appeared for the accused.

[Read judgment]

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