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Bhagminder Singh & Ors v. State of Punjab - CRA-S-1787-SB-2002  RD-P&H 1776 (17 March 2006)
Criminal Appeal No.1787-SB of 2002
Date of Decision: March 31, 2006
Bhagminder Singh and
State of Punjab .......Respondent
Coram: Hon'ble Mr.Justice Mahesh Grover
Present: Mr.Bipan Ghai,Advocate,for the appellants Mr.J.S.Dhillon, Deputy Advocate
MAHESH GROVER, J.
The present appeal has been preferred by the accused- appellants, namely Bhagminder Singh, Harnek Singh and Gurdial Kaur against the judgment of the learned Additional sessions Judge, Ludhiana dated 26.10.2002 whereby they had been convicted and sentenced under the provisions of Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code.
Married on 16.11.1997, Ramandeep Kaur died on 6.2.1999, after having suffered burn injuries on 5.2.1999. The prosecution case is that Ramandeep Kaur, who was married to Bhagminder Singh on 16.11.1997 was residing at village Chak Kalan which was village of her husband's maternal parents. The mother of Bhagminder Singh is alleged to have left Zora Singh (Bhagminder's father) and was residing in England with some other person. Guridal Kaur, accused is the maternal grand mother of Bhagminder Singh and Harnek Singh is his maternal uncle who was, however, residing,separately, with his wife Rajinder Kaur in the same village but in adjoining house to that of Bhagminder Singh. There was even a passage which was intervening between the wall of the two houses. After a few days of her marriage with Bhagminder Singh it was alleged that Harnek Singh and Rajinder Kaur had started taunting the deceased on account of her bringing insufficient dowry. On 22.5.1998, all the accused persons had turned the complainant out of her matrimonial home. A complaint was made before the Women Cell, Jagraon and Senior Superintendent of Police, Jagraon has also ordered the registration of the case against the accused but with the intervention of the residents of village Chak Kalan and relatives of the complainant, a compromise has been effected, pursuant to which Bhagminder Singh took the complainant to his house. However, the ill-treatment to the complainant continued and she was given beatings by Harnek Singh, his son Jassa at the instance of Guridal Kaur. On 5.2.1999, Barjiner Kaur,mother-in-law of the complainant, who was in England abused her on telephone. Thereafter, she talked to Guridal Kaur and Harnek Singh and Rajinder Kaur, accused. At about 11.00 a.m.
Parvinder Kaur, sister of her mother-in-law came there and at about 1.00 p.m. Bhagminder Singh, Harnek Singh, Rajinder Kaur, Gurdial Kaur, Parvinder Kaur and Jassa were sitting in the court yard of their house.
Gurdial Kaur asked the complainant to prepare tea and when the complainant went to kitchen, she heard Rajinder Kaur saying that it was a good opportunity for finishing her. Gurdial Kaur, thereafter brought a cann in front of the door of the kitchen when other persons also came there and poured kerosene oil upon the shoulders of the complainant who raised alarm and tried to run out. However, Parvinder Kaur, sister of her mother- in-law handed over a match box to Bhagminder Singh and instigated him to light it, who thereafter lit the matchstick and threw it upon the clothes of the complainant. Resultantly, she caught fire and shouted `Bacheo Bacheo' but the accused did nothing to help her. Gurdip Singh, who was husband of the sister of the mother of the complainant and Gurdev Singh son of Balbir Singh, mother's sister's son of the father of the complainant suddenly came to the house which was apparently in pursuance to the telephone call given by the complainant about two days earlier, upon which all the aforesaid persons ran away from the spot taking away the can. Bhagminder Singh, however, in order to keep his image intact took the complainant to DMC& Hospital, Ludhiana along with Gurdip Singh and Gurdev Singh and after taking her to the hospital, he slipped away from the spot. The complainant had also stated that she was pregnant of about 1 ¼ months.
On 5.2.1999, on receipt of telephonic meesage from the Guard Incharge, New DMC about the admission of Ramandeep Kaur, ASI Jasmer Singh reached the hospital. He moved an application Ex. PD/5 to the Medical Officer in order to seek his opinion about the condition of the injured on which the doctor had declared the injured as fit to make statement vide endorsement Ex.PD/1. The statement of the injured was recorded as Ex.PH. The statement of the injured recorded as Ex.PH on the basis of which formal FIR Ex.PH/2 was recorded by Baldev Singh, Sub Inspector/SHO Police Station Dakha who also conducted the investigation.
On 6.2.1999, a telephonic message was received about the death of Ramandeep Kaur by ASI Jasmer Singh, at about 7.10 a.m., and he,accordingly reached DMC & Hospital, Ludhiana. He prepared the inquest report Ex. PB on the identification of Gurdev Singh and Mohan Singh whose statements were recorded by him under Section 175 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and offence under Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code was added. Post mortem examination was also conducted upon the body. ASI Jasmer Singh, thereafter, received the secret information that the accused persons were going towards village Bassian Bet and he,thereafter, arrested accused Jaspreet Singh @ Jassa, Gurdial Kaur, Rajinder Kaur and Parvinder Kaur from the said place. On the next day, he inspected the spot and prepared rough site plan Ex.PJ of the place of occurrence.
The police thereafter investigated the matter and completed arrest of the other co-accused, namely, Harnek Singh and Bhagminder Singh. Bhagminder Singh, Harnek Singh and Rajinder Kaur were challaned under Sections 306/109/34 IPC while Jaspreet Singh @ Jassa, Parvinder Kaur and Barjinder Kaur were found innocent by the Police in the investigation. They were,therefore, placed in column No. 2 while submitting report under Section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
The case was thereafter committed by the Illaqa Magistrate on 19.7.1999 and the learned Additional Sessions Judge finding a prime case under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and in the alternative under Sections 304-B/408-A read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code charged the accused persons accordingly. The accused pleaded not guilty and claimed trial.
On an application moved by the prosecution under Section 319 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, Jaspreet Singh @ Jassa and Parvinder Kaur accused were summoned vide order dated 14.7.2000 to face trial along with the remaining accused persons. Jaspreet Singh @ Jassa being a juvenile, was sent to the Principal Magistrate Juvenile Justice Court while the accused Parvinder Kaur was charge-sheeted and the charge was amended. All the accused persons claimed trial.
The prosecution in order to bring home the guilt of the accused examined, as many as, 11 witnesses.
PW1 Dr.Gurcharan Singh, who had conducted the post mortem on the dead body of the deceased on 6.2.1999 gave the casue of death as shock as a result of extensive burns which were sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature. All the injuries, according to him, were ante mortem in nature. He proved his report Ex.PA along with the pictorial diagram Ex.PA/1 showing the seats of injuries.
Dr. Shavinderpal Singh, PW3 who had admitted the deceased Ramandeep Kaur in the department of Plastic Surgery in the DMC Hospital and who had examined her at the first instance made the following observations:-
"Respiratory distress was present.
There was history of epilepsy present. BP pulse was unrecordable. Respiratory rate was 30 per min. Anemia was present. On local examination, there was third degree burns over the face, neck, head chest trunk and back and second degree burns over left buttock and third degree burns over upper part of bilateral thighs with total of approximate 45% burns."
He proved Ex.PD injury report along with Ex.PD/1 pictorial diagram suffered by the deceased.
Gurtej Singh, PW5 is the father of the deceased while Gurdev Singh , PW 6 is his cousin being his father's brother's son. Both of them deposed that the deceased was being harassed on account of bringing insufficient dowry and stated that the deceased was given beatings by the accused persons and had also been turned out of the matrimonial home on 22.5.1998. A complaint had been lodged in the Women Cell on 30.8.1998 and even thereafter the accused persons had not agreed to rehabilitate the deceased in her matrimonial home and a case was directed to be registered on the orders of the S.P. Headquarter on 27.11.1998 and thereafter with the intervention of the respectables of the village and the elders, a compromise was effected but this did not last even for 5/7 days and they again gave her beatings. On 3.2.1999, a telephonic call was received by Gurtej Singh from her daughter regarding harassment at the hands of her in -laws. She made a desperate plea that it was not possible for her to tolerate the harassment any longer. Gurdev Singh, Gurdeep Singh were apprised of the situation by Gurtej Singh, upon which they decided to visit the deceased.
On 5.2.1999, a telephonic call had been received by Gurtej Singh from Gurdev Singh at 3 or 3.15 p.m., by which he was informed that Ramandeep Kaur had been burnt alive by putting kerosene oil on her and she was admitted to DMC & Hospital Ludhiana. The rest of the prosecution witnesses, namely, the police officials deposed, in support of the investigation, that they had conducted in order to establish the guilt of the accused persons. After the conclusion of the prosecution evidence, accused were examined under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure who denied the incriminating evidence and circumstances against them and stated that they were innocent and were being falsely implicated.
Bhagminder Singh stated that the deceased-Ramandeep Kaur was suffering from epilepsy and was ill before the marriage, had even got her treated from various doctors at Mullanpur and Ludhiana. At the time of marriage, she was being given medicines by her father. On the fateful day, she was cooking meals and stove burst and she got injuries and he had thereafter taken her to the hospital.
The defence examined, as many as, nine witnesses, primarily, in the form of the residents of the village and the Sarpanch of the village where accused were residing.
DW6-Sukhwant Singh, who is Sarpanch of the village, deposed that at about 1 p.m., he heard some noise from the house of Bhagminder Singh and he along with other panchayat went to his house and found Ramandeep Kaur-deceased engulfed with the flames and Gurdial Kaur, Bhagminder Singh and a neighbour Harpal Kaur were alleged to be present there and they extinguished the fire with the help of green fodder lying there. He is also a signatory to the compromise which had been effected earlier when the matrimonial dispute had erupted between the deceased and her husband. Similar is the statement of Avtar Singh, DW7.
The learned Additional Sessions Judge thereafter went on to peruse the evidence before him and came to the conclusion that no offence under Section 302/304-B of the Indian Penal Code was made out. But it was the circumstances on account of harassment which forced the deceased- Ramandeep Kaur to commit suicide. He,therefore, went on to acquit Parminder Kaur and Rajinder Kaur, accused of all the charges. Bhagminder Singh, Gurdial Kaur and Harnek Singh were found guilty under the provisions of Section 306 IPC and in pursuance to the conviction, Bhagminder Singh was ordered to undergo imprisonment for 10 years and a fine of Rs.5000/- and in default of payment of fine to undergo simple imprisonment for two years; Harnek Singh was ordered to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 7 years and a fine of Rs.3000/- and in default of fine to undergo simple imprisonment for one year; Gurdial Kaur was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment with a fine of Rs.2000/- and in default of fine to undergo imprisonment for a six months. Out of the amount of fine as and when recovered, Rs.8000/- was directed to be paid to the parents of the deceased as compensation.
The appellants have assailed this judgment of the learned Additional Sessions Judge by virtue of the present appeal.
Shri Bipan Ghai, learned counsel appearing for the appellants submitted that the appellants have not been convicted under Sections 302/34 IPC and a conviction was only recorded under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code and considering the fact that Gurdial kaur is an old lady of 70 years and the maternal grand mother of accused, Bhagminder Singh, husband of the deceased and Harnek Singh maternal uncle of Bhagminder Singh were living separately and there is no question of his involvement in the offence. On behalf of Bhagminder Singh it was submitted that out of 10 years sentence awarded to him, he had already undergone 4 years of sentence and,accordingly, in these peculiar circumstances, their sentences should be reduced.
In support of his contention, he has placed reliance on the judgment of this Court reported as Jagsir Singh and another vs. State of Haryana, 2004(1) RCR (Criminal)123. I am afraid this judgment does not come to the rescue of the appellants as it was a case where the occurrence was 13 years old and,therefore, this fact had weighed with the Court while reducing the sentence.
The deceased-Ramandeep Kaur was barely married for two years and died a cruel death on account of burn injuries. It has also come in the evidence of PW3 Doctor-Shivenderpal Singh that the deceased was having an history of epilepsy. This fact has also been admitted by Bhagminder Singh while giving his statement under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Compromise which was recorded earlier on 28.11.1998 also stands testimony to the cruel treatment being meted out to the deceased and unfortunately, for her, the disease on which she had no control became an impediment in her matrimonial life and ultimately, became the cause of acute harassment and finally death. No leniency,therefore, can be shown to the perpetrators of such a heinous crime.
It was argued by the learned counsel for the appellants that Harnek Singh was living separately and,therefore, he had nothing to do with the affairs of Bhagminder Singh. The evidence, however, shows that the house of Harnek Singh was adjoining that of Gurdial Kaur, who was his sister and there was a common wall with the opening therein which suggests that there was deep interaction between the families and it was in fact, an extended family. I, therefore, cannot accept the plea that Harnek Singh was an innocent relative who was not involved in the goings in the house of his sister Gurdial Kaur. The earlier marital discord and consequent compromise suggests continuous ill-treatment of the deceased, who barely survived for slightly over one year, in her matrimonial home.
I, therefore, dismiss the appeal qua Bhagminder Singh and Harnek Singh. As far as Gurdial Kaur is concerned, she is the maternal grand mother of Bhagminder Singh. In the absence of the mother of Bhagminder Singh, she virtually took over the role of mother-in-law and by her conduct meted out continuous harassment to the deceased. Had she acted as an elder of the family and assuaged the feelings which had erupted in her house, such a situation would not have arisen. It is a case where the family's elder abandoned her role of a sagacious advisor. Consequently, I dismiss the appeal on her behalf as well. However, taking into consideration her age, which at the time of recording her statement under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure was 74 years, I reduce her sentence to already undergone. The rest of the sentence and conviction qua Bhagminder Singh and Harnek Singh is maintained and their appeals are dismissed.
Before parting with the judgment, I am constrained to comment that in cases where unnatural death takes place within such a short time of the marriage and there are serious allegations of cruelty, learned Courts should be more circumspect in applying the provisions of Sections 304-B and 498-A of the Indian Penal Code as death within seven years of marriage would attract the presumption of law against the accused persons. With these observations, I dispose of the appeal, with the modification as above.
March 31 ,2006 Judge
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