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Gujarat High Court
Rajendra V. Sanchania vs State Of Gujarat on 31 March, 2008
Author: A Kureshi
Bench: A Kureshi


Akil Kureshi, J.

1. The appellant-original accused by the impugned Judgment and order dated 21.07.1993 passed by learned Additional City Sessions Judge, Ahmedabad, was convicted for offences punishable under Sections 498-A and 306 of India Penal Code. He was sentenced to RI of 2 years and 3 years respectively for the said offences.

2. As per charge Exh.1, the allegations against the appellant were that he got married to one Priya in May, 1987. During the married life, he used to doubt the character of his wife and used to treat her with cruelty which ultimately led Priya to commit suicide by jumping in to the river and drowning herself. He was thus charged for offences punishable under Sections 498-A and 306 of the IPC.

3. Sundarkumar Alexander John, father of the deceased-Priya, PW-1 was examined at Exh.11. In his deposition, he has stated that his daughter-Priya got married to the appellant in May, 1987, which was a love marriage. At that time, both Priya as well as the appellant were serving in Mazda Company. The appellant did not like Priya being friendly with the staff of the Company and he used to doubt her character. On account of this, they had a fight in the office once, due to which, Priya was scared of her husband. This was conveyed to the witness by Priya’s teacher one Mrs. Fransis. (It may be noted that Mrs. Fransis was not examined as a witness by the prosecution).

3.1 The witness further stated that in June, 1988 his elder son in law- Rajiv had come to his house with his wife. Rajiv had told the witness that the appellant had confided to him that Priya’s character is not good. The witness had thereupon filed an application with Jyotisangh. Jyotisangh had thereupon called both the appellant as well as Priya and they had settled the issues. Since he had complained to Jyotisangh, there was tension between him and the appellant. People from Jyotisangh had instructed him not to meet appellant and Priya.

3.2 As per this witness, once the appellant had told him that if he tried to contact his daughter, he would create hell. The witness further stated that Priya had given birth to a daughter in March, 1988 after which Priya had come to meet him once on 5th June, 1988. Thereafter, she had never come to meet him again. On 17.06.1989, he and his wife Shakuntala had gone to Gandhinagar and visited Priya in her office in the State Bank of India where she was working. He had met Priya’s Administrative Officer who stated that Priya’s work is very good but on account of family problems, she keeps quite. Priya had told the witnesses that her husband doubts her character and mentally torchers her.

3.3 On 20th June, 1989 younger brother of the appellant Tushar inquired about Priya’s whereabouts since she was missing. Next day, i.e. on 21st June, 1989 he read the news report that one girl had jumped into the river Sabarmati and the fire brigade staff was looking for her. Ultimately, Priya’s body was found from the river bed.

3.4 He produced before the Court his application before Jyotisangh dated 07.06.1988 at Exh.13, the letter written by Priya to Jyotisangh on 08.06.1988 along with a letter written by the appellant also on the same day; at Exh.14.

3.5 In the cross-examination, he admitted that his elder daughter Sagundhi had filed a writ before the High Court for claiming custody of Priya’s child after her death. In the cross-examination, he could not state with certainty whether the Administrative Officer of the State Bank of India, Gandhinagar, Mr. Dalal was a very good friend of the father in law of his other daughter Suniti. He stated that on 17th June, 1989 he had gone to Gandhinagar only for an outing and he had no other reason to go to Gandhinagar. He admitted that he had not attended marriage of the appellant and his daughter Priya and the two had got married secretly, which step he did not approve of.

3.6 In her letter to the Jyotisangh dated 08.06.1989, Exh.14, deceased-Priya stated that as far as her character is concerned, everything has been cleared between her and her husband and there is no misunderstanding and the question of committing suicide does not arise. In his letter to Jyotisangh, the appellant also stated that now there is no misunderstanding between them. He, however, expressed desire that his father in law should not interfere in his matters.

4. PW-4, Rajiv was examined at Exh.23, he is the husband of Priya’s eldest sister Sugandhi. In his deposition, he stated that he had come to Ahmedabad in June, 1988 with his wife and daughters. At that time, the appellant had met him and shown few pictures of his wife and some other persons and had inquired about such persons. He had expressed doubt about Priya’s character and suspected that Priya had physical relations with someone else. He also doubted that he was not the father of Priya’s daughter Puja. This conversation, the witness had narrated to his father in law. Upon hearing about Priya’s death, he had reached Ahmedabad on 22nd June, 1989.

4.1 In the cross-examination, he admitted that he had not stated in police statement that he had visited Ahmedabad in March, 1988 or that the appellant-Rajendra had taken him out of the house while narrating his doubts. He had also not stated before the police that he had conveyed to his wife what Rajendra (appellant) had told him.

5. PW-5, Sunidhi, Priya’s another sister was examined at Exh.29. She stated in her deposition that Priya’s husband used to doubt Priya’s character. She had once called up Priya at her office at State Bank of India, Gandhinagar. At that time, Priya had told her that her husband harasses her a lot. She has got fed up and does not know what to do. She had once again called Priya and desired to meet her but Priya told her that if her husband came to know about this, he would create trouble.

5.1 In the cross-examination, she stated that she had met Priya last in June, 1988. She admitted that in her police statement, she had not narrated about the complaint of ill-treatment made by Priya when she met her in June, 1988. She stated that she had called up Priya at her Bank in January, 1988.

6. Apart from other police witnesses and panch witnesses, this in the nutshell is the evidence led by the prosecution to establish the charges of cruelty, harassment and ill-treatment by the appellant meted out to his wife Priya to establish offences punishable under Sections 498-A and Section 306 of IPC.

7. From the assessment of the evidence on record, it can be seen that as far as Priya’s father-PW-1, Sundarkumar Exh.11 is concerned, he had complained to Jyotisangh about alleged ill-treatment to his daughter-Priya at the hands of her husband. His complaint was filed in June-1988 and was based on the disclosures made to him by his another son in law-Rajiv. It may be noted that the unfortunate incident took place on 21st June, 1989 i.e. more than a year after Priya’s father had occasion to complain about the appellants behavior towards Priya. By all accounts, the issues between the husband and the wife were resolved at that stage. The letter written by Priya to Jyotisangh and also one written by the appellant both on 8th June, 1988 would suggest that the Jyotisangh had brought about a settlement between the couple and whatever misunderstanding between them; was cleared.

8. It can also be seen that admittedly Sundarkumar, Priya’s father was not in favour of his daughter marrying the appellant who did not belong to the same religion. In fact, he stated that Priya got married secretly against his wish, which he did not approve of.

9. It also appears that the appellant had desired that Priya’s father should not interfere in the internal affairs of the couple. Jyotisangh also instructed him not to meddle in the affairs of the husband and wife. On account of these reasons, Sundarkumar had virtually no contact with Priya, after June, 1988. What were the relations between the husband and wife thereafter, and what was the behavior of the appellant towards her wife, Sundarkuarm, therefore, would not be in a position to state with any degree of personal knowledge.

10. He did, however, try to suggest that he had occasion to visit Priya at her office at State Bank of India, Gandhinagar Branch on 17th June, 1989. As noted, he stated that he had met Priya’s Administrative Officer on that day who had praised Priya’s performance, but disclosed that she keeps quiet due to family problems. Priya also, according to this witness, complained for her husband doubts her character.

11. This assertion the witness, however, seems some what suspicious and not entirely and believable. Firstly, the defence confronted the appellant with the suggestion that Priya’s Administrative Officer Mr.Dalal was a close friend of the father in law of elder daughter of the witness, Sundarkumar, however, did not reply this question with any degree of certainty. Significantly, the prosecution did not examine Shri Dalal as a witness. The disclosure stated to have been made by him to Sundarkumar, therefore, remained in the realm of hearsay evidence. Secondly, Sundarkumar’s visit to Gandhingar was a chance visit. He stated that he had gone to Gandhinagar only as an outing and had no special business there. One may re-call that the Sundarkuamar had virtually no contact with his daughter Priya. He was in-fact instructed by Jyotisangh not to interfere in Priya’s family affairs. Sundarkumar’s son in law-Rajendra was also apparently not fond of his father in law. The assertion of the witness, therefore, that he had occasion to meet his daughter only days before her untimely death, has to be viewed with suspicion. There is no other corroboration of this oral assertion of the witness regarding his visit to Gandhinagar. His wife who is stated to have accompanied him was not examined.

12. So far as Rajiv PW-4 Exh. 23 is concerned, his testimony reliefs arise the alleged disclosures made by the appellant to him when the witnesses had visited Ahmedabad in June, 1988. As per the witness, Rajiv had expressed grave doubt about Priya’s character. He was doubting that Priya may be having physical relations outside the marriage and that in-fact, the appellant may not be the father of Priya’s daughter Puja. Other than this, Rajiv- PW-4, Exh.23, throws no further light. He resides at Ahmednagar in Maharashtra. As per his own evidence, he had met the appellant in June, 1988, during his visit at Ahmedabad. He, thereafter, had no contact either with the appellant or with Priya. More than a year passed after the incident of June, 1988 and this witness had no knowledge about relations between the husband and wife in the interning period.

13. PW-5, Sunita Exh.29, sister of deceased Priya, as noted. had spoken about her conversation with Priya at her office. When Priya is stated to have complained to her about ill-treatment by the appellant. In the examination in chief, Suniti did not specify when such conversation had taken place. In the cross-examination, however, she stated that she had called up Priya at her Bank at Gandhinagar in January, 1988. She further stated that she had met Priya in June, 1988.

14. It can thus be seen that the information that these three key witnesses could give to the Court about appellant ill-treating his wife pertained to period around June, 1988 or prior thereto. Thus, except for Sundarkumar PW -1 who attempted to suggest that his daughter complained to him about the ill-treatment at the ends of the appellant when Sundarkumar met his daughter at her Bank on 17th June, 1989; which assertion I find not entirely free from doubt, none of the witnesses had any concurrent information about the nature of relations between the appellant and his wife.

15. From the available material on record, there is nothing to establish that there were disputes between the appellant and his wife. It also appears that in the past, the appellant had perhaps without valid reasons doubted the character of his wife and in fact gone on to suggest that she was carrying someone else’s child. Such allegations would certainly be hurtful and to a young newly married woman could cause considerable mental disturbance and may also in a given set of facts lead to conviction under Section 498-A of Indian Penal Code. However, to bring home charge under Section 498-A and 306 of IPC what was required to be established was that the appellant treated his wife with cruelty within the meaning of Section 498-A of IPC and that the cruelty was such that the appellant had also be held guilty having abated suicide under Section 306 read with Section 107 of IPC.

16. For the purpose of Section 498-A of IPC, cruelty means:

(a) any willful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or

(b) harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.

17. Admittedly, in the present case, there were no allegations of dowry demand.

18. It is by now well settled that the cruelty which Section 498-A of IPC envisages is not mere harassment or disputes between the husband and wife which can be at best termed as normal wear and tear of marriage life.

19. To bring home the charge under Section 306 read with Section 107 of IPC, it is further necessary to establish that the offender abated and intended that the victim commits suicide. (See the case of Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India reported in 2005 AIR SCW 3569).

20. What exactly were the relations between the appellants and his wife after June, 1988 till she committed suicide in June, 1989, has not been brought on record. The information that the witnesses had was revolving around June, 1988 period or some time before that PW-1 Sundarkumar complained to Jyotisangh about ill-treatment by the appellant to his wife in June, 1988. This was on the basis of disclosure made to him by his elder son in law Rajiv-PW-4 Priya’s sister Suniti though refers to her conversation with Priya at her office when she had complained of ill-treatment by the appellant, admitted that such conversation should took place in January, 1988.

21. Thus, I find that the prosecution has not been able to lead any evidence on record to show that the appellant had treated Priya with cruelty shortly before she committed suicide so as to hold him guilty of offence under Section 498-A of IPC. What promoted Priya to take extreme step, what were the compelling circumstances which promoted a young lady to end her life, leaving behind young daughter are questions which may remain unanswered. Any conviction of appellant, however, purely on the basis of previous incidents would be based solely on surmises and conjunctures. For want of sufficient material on record about the appellant’s ill-treatment to his wife at a time when she committed suicide, the appellant must be acquitted of the charges.

22. When I find that offence under Section 498-A itself is made out, charge under Section 306 of IPC also automatically fails.

23. In the result, judgment and order under challenge are quashed. Conviction of the appellant is set aside. Appeal disposed of accordingly. Bail bond stands cancelled.

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