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There cannot be moral conviction in absence of legally admissible evidence: Bombay HC

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Mumbai, Apr 15 (ILNS) The Bombay High Court has recently acquitted four members of a family, convicted in 2010, in connection with a woman’s death by suicide within two months of her marriage into the family.

A Division Bench of Justice Sadhana S Jadhav and Justice NR Borkar, while hearing a Criminal Appeal filed by Sachin Ramchandra Teke, said, “Just because wife has died in her matrimonial house within two months of marriage, the entire family cannot be stigmatised as having committed offences as serious as an offence under Section 302 of IPC. In absence of legally admissible evidence, there cannot be moral conviction.”

The case pertains to the couple- Sachin and Megha, who got married on July 28, 2010, and resided in a joint family at Malshiras. In September 2010, two months after the marriage, Megha was found hanging to the rafter inside her bedroom. A report was then lodged by her father at the Police station, alleging that her daughter complained to him that she was subjected to ill treatment and harassment for not getting a gold ring for Sachin and was also subjected to starvation.

About nine witnesses were examined by the prosecution, whereas the defence examined four witnesses. The Counsel for the appellants submitted that there was cogent and convincing evidence to show that there was no dispute between the members of both the families over dowry or the golden ornaments.

APP MH Mhatre submitted that Megha died in her matrimonial home and the reason for her mental depression and suicide ought to have been known to the accused. On three occasions before the incident, Megha has been said to have complained to her father and brother about ill-treatment meted out to her on the ground that the family members and relatives of the accused were not honoured properly at the time of marriage and that the father had not fulfilled the demand of golden ring of one tola.

The Court, after going to the facts of the case and examination of witnesses, observed that the medical evidence proved beyond all reasonable doubt that the cause of Megha’s death was asphyxia due to hanging and therefore, conviction for an offence under Section 302 of IPC was unwarranted. The Court also took note of the statement of the neurologist with whom Megha was taking treatment, that she was under mental stress since 2005 and was a sensitive girl.

The Bench also set aside a Sessions Court Judgement dated June 29, 2012, convicting husband and other family members for offences punishable under Sections 498-A (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty), 302 (Murder), 304-B (Dowry death) read with Section 34 (Act done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code and various Sections of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

“It prima facie appears that the deceased Megha was willing to continue her education, however, she was married hurriedly by her parents, since they found a suitable match for their daughter in all aspects. However, she did not seem to be happy with the marriage and in all probabilities, in a state of stress had committed suicide. All these facts speak for themselves and the appellants/accused deserve to be acquitted”, the order read.

“It is true that the presumption under Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act was attracted in this case, as the wife died in her matrimonial house within seven years. However, it is a rebuttable presumption and this presumption does not absolve the prosecution from proving its case beyond reasonable doubt. In this case, the accused have rebutted the presumption by examining the defence witnesses.

“The evidence of the defence witnesses is to be treated at par with the evidence of the prosecution witnesses. The surrounding circumstances also need to be taken into consideration. In the present case, it cannot be said that she has died in suspicious circumstances. It is a case of suicide within two months of marriage. The prosecution has failed to prove any ill-treatment meted out to the victim within two months of her matrimony. The offence under Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act are not proved beyond reasonable doubt”, it observed. ILNS/AP/SNG/RJ

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