Hari Om V. State of Haryana & Another, AIR 2014

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Supreme Court of India, Criminal Appeal No. 1167 of 2011 | 31-10-2014

Facts of the Case:

As per the prosecution case, Poonam - a young girl having post-graduate degree to her credit, was married to A-1 on 04.07.2002. At the relevant time, A-1 was working as sub-inspector in Delhi Police. In the marriage, Pooam's parents spent around Rs.6.50 lacs. An amount of Rs. 3.50 lacs was paid in cash to the appellant (A-1) for purchasing a car and the remaining amount was spent on gifts and other expenses.

After a week of the marriage, A-1 made a telephone call to the parents of Poonam and demanded several items - such as furniture etc., which, according to A-1, were not given in marriage. On 21.7.2002, when A-1 visited Poonam's parents house, collected the demanded items. During that time, the appellant (A-1) also complained to them that Sarris given to his relatives in the marriage were of inferior quality and, therefore, they should pay a sum of Rs.20, 000/- in cash in lieu thereof. Though Poonam's parents tried their best to convince A-1 that they did their best looking to their financial capacity in the marriage and now it may not be possible for them to satisfy his demands but A-1 did not agree and threatened that if they do not satisfy his demands, he will not keep Poonam with him.

After sometime, on 30.7.2002, Poonam’s parents (complainant) went to the house of A-1 and tried to persuade him and his parents to give up new demands, which included money for purchasing a flat in Delhi. However, out of sheer compulsion, Poonam's parents agreed to pay the amount as demanded at the earliest. On this assurance, A-1 said that they can take Poonam with them and when money is sent, she can come to matrimonial home. Then Poonam returned to parental home with her parents.

On 5.8.2002/6.8.2002, A-1 made a telephone call to Poonam reminding her of payment for purchasing a flat in Delhi and in lieu of saris. Due to persistent illegal demands by A-1, Poonam became tense and on 7.8.2002 at about 6.30/7.00 AM, she committed suicide in her room by consuming poison. She was taken to civil hospital in an unconscious condition where doctor declared her dead at 7.45 AM. This led to taking up of investigation on the basis of FIR No. 336 dated 07.08.2002 (EX-PN) lodged by the parents of the deceased against the appellant and her parents for commission of the offence punishable under Sections 304-B/498-B/34 IPC on the same day at about 12.50 PM at Jind Police Station. During the investigation, the police recovered one 3-pages hand written letter (Ex.PA) from Poonam's bedroom.

On 7.8.2002, Dr. Satija (P.W.10) conducted post mortem and found no injury on the body of the deceased. During examination, stomach and its contents were sent for chemical examination. A piece of small intestine, a piece of large intestine, a piece of liver, spleen and kidney with their contents were also sent for chemical examination. The report of the chemical examiner (Ex-PT) revealed that Poonam consumed poison (aluminum phosphide), which caused her death. This event led to arrest of the appellant (A-1) and her family members (A-2 to A-5) followed by recovery of dowry articles from the house of the appellant by the police and then filing of challan against him and his parents for the offences punishable under Sections 304-B and 498-B of the IPC to which they did not plead guilty and claimed trial. The prosecution examined 17 witnesses to prove the charges in relation to the offences against the accused persons whereas the defense examined 19 witnesses.

The Additional Sessions Judge, Jind, by judgment dated 31.01.2004 and sentence dated 04.02.2004, convicted A-1 to A-5 for the offences punishable under Section 304-B and 498-A IPC and imposed sentenced on them. Feeling aggrieved, all five accused (A-1 to A-5) filed criminal appeals before the High Court out of which this appeal arises. The High Court, by impugned judgment, dismissed the appeal in respect of the appellant (A-1) and upheld the conviction and sentences awarded to A-1 and allowed the appeal in respect of A-2 to A-5, namely, Subhash, Dharam Pal, Ram Chander and Chander Kalan and acquitted them of the charges framed against them.

Issues regarding the Case:

Feeling aggrieved by the order of the High Court, A- 1 has filed this appeal by way of SLP against the impugned judgment and demands reduction in the his sentence.

Judgment of the Case:

The Supreme Court in this case held that “Having heard learned counsel for the parties and on perusal of entire record of the case, we are inclined to allow the appeal in part finding some force in the submission urged by learned senior counsel for the appellant.Though the appellant did not make any attempt to assail the finding of his conviction on merits, yet with a view to satisfy ourselves as to whether the concurrent findings of the courts below on conviction are legally sustainable or not, we perused the record and specially the evidence. Having so perused, we are satisfied that no case is made out to interfere in concurrent findings of the courts below on merits for the following reasons.

Firstly, Poonam committed suicide and died within one month of her marriage. This event attracted rigor of Section 304-B read with Section 498-A IPC and Section 113-B of the Evidence Act, 1872.

Secondly, her death was due to persistent illegal demands of dowry made by the appellant one after the other to Poonam and to her parents.

Thirdly, the death of Poonam had a direct nexus with demand of dowry duly proved by evidence and Poonam's suicide note (EX-PA) mentioning therein the reasons, which compelled her to end her life.

Fourthly, the suicide note was duly proved to be in the handwriting of the deceased.

Fifthly, defense witnesses were not able to demolish or weaken the prosecution case on any of these material issues.

And lastly, in the light of these established facts, a clear case under Section 304-B read with Section 498-B of IPC and Section 113-B of the Evidence Act for drawing presumption as to dowry death under Section 304-B was made out against the appellant. We, therefore, on our part uphold the finding of conviction and hold that the courts below were justified in holding the appellant(A- 1) to be guilty of committing offences punishable under Section 304-B read with Section 498-B IPC, which caused death of Poonam.

Applying the principle of law laid down in the aforementioned cases and having regard to the totality of facts and circumstances of this case, we are of the considered opinion that the ends of justice would meet, if we reduce the sentence of the appellant from life imprisonment to that of 10 years. In our view, this case does not fall in the category of a "rare case" as envisaged by this Court so as to award to the appellant the life imprisonment. That apart, we also notice that while awarding life imprisonment, the courts below did not assign any reasons.

The learned counsel for the State and the complainant were not able to cite any authority in support of their submission except to oppose the prayer made by the appellant. Therefore, we are not impressed by their submission. Hence in the light of foregoing discussion, the appeal succeeds and is allowed in part. The conviction of the appellant-Hari Om (A-1) under Sections 304-B read with Section 498-A IPC is upheld. However, the sentence (life imprisonment) awarded to the appellant is altered and accordingly, is reduced to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment. To this extent, the impugned judgment stands modified.”


1. https://www.legitquest.com/case/hari-om-v-state-of-haryana--another/8C082