Coming down heavily on a trial court for not framing murder charges against the husband and in-laws of a woman killed for dowry — despite evidence to this effect, the Delhi High Court has remanded the case back to the lower court.
A division bench of Justice Kailash Gambhir and Justice Indermeet Kaur rapped the trial court judge for not taking into consideration all the evidence available against the husband and in-laws of the woman.
The court also directed the judge to complete the trial within six months after framing the additional charge of murder.
The court was hearing a set of appeals filed by the husband and in-laws of Shalu Jain (28) who died due to burn injuries June 14, 2000, two-and-a half years after her marriage.
On Dec 8, 2010, a trial court awarded life term to Shalu’s husband Yash Jain, ten years’ imprisonment to Veena and Subhash Jain (parents-in-law) and seven years’ imprisonment to Prashant Jain, her brother-in-law.
They moved the high court challenging the punishment awarded to them saying it was an accidental death and she received burn injuries while cooking food in the kitchen.
The trial court had held them guilty under section 304B (dowry death) and 498A (subjecting a woman to cruelty) of the India Penal Code, but not framed murder (section 302) charge against them.
The high court, while dealing with the case, relied on the medical and scientific evidence placed on record by the prosecution, which proved that Shalu died due to “combined effect of shock due to burn injury and organic phosphorous poisoning found inside her stomach”.
Angered at the order of the trial court, the bench said the trial court perhaps had forgotten that “fair and proper trial is at the core of our judicial system to reach the ultimate goal of dispensation of justice between the parties”.
“It is first and foremost duty of every court to see that neither any innocent man is punished nor any guilty person escapes from the clutches of law. Both are public duties of a judge,” the court said.
“During the course of the trial, the learned Presiding Judge is expected to work objectively and in a judicious manner,” the bench said in its recent judgment.
“A watchful and diligent trial judge, before whom every piece of evidence is placed by the prosecution and the defence, has to be a protector of the rights of both the victims and the accused and nothing should escape his sight which can unduly benefit either of them,” the bench added.
While appreciating the evidence on record, the court is expected to be “fully cautious” and ensure that the determinative process is not subserved, it opined.
“For truly attaining the object of a ‘fair trial’, the court should leave no stone unturned to do justice and protect the interest of the society as well,” the bench said.
The bench said the high court is empowered to remand back the case to the trial court in case there is an omission on the part of that court to frame any charge and where such omission results in failure of justice.
“The court has ample power to amend or alter a charge. Even after being empowered with such vast power, we fail to comprehend that as to why such an injudicious approach was adopted by the trial court,” it added.
Shalu got married to Yash Jan 23, 1998 but died within a short span of two and a half years. According to the prosecution, Shalu’s husband and in-laws used to harass her and demanded dowry.
Additional Public Prosecutor Richa Kapoor said the victim’s death was an unnatural death and asked the bench to enhance their sentence on the basis of the medical and scientific evidence.