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Lal Singh (since deceased) & Ors v. The State of Punjab. - CRA-S-327-sb-1993  RD-P&H 4020 (12 July 2006)
Criminal Appeal No.327/SB of 1993
Date of decision : 24.5.2006.
Lal Singh (since deceased) and others vs. The State of Punjab.
Coram: Hon'ble Ms. Justice Kiran Anand Lall.
Present: Mr.Ajay Mahajan,Advocate,for the appellants.
Mr.Ashutosh Hoshiarpuri,Assistant Advocate General,Punjab.
Kiran Anand Lall,J.
This appeal is directed against the judgment dated 13.8.1993 vide which the trial court convicted the appellants under Section 306 IPC and sentenced them to undergo rigorous imprisonment for five years and to pay a fine of Rs.1000/- each, or, in default to undergo further rigorous imprisonment for six months.
Binder Singh and Pritam Kaur appellants are the brother-in-law (husband's brother) and mother-in-law of the deceased, Kulwant Kaur @ Rani. Lal Singh, the father-in-law, who was also tried and convicted/ sentenced with them, died during the pendency of appeal. His name was, therefore, deleted from the array of parties.
In nut-shell, the prosecution case is that Kulwant Kaur was married to Gurdev Singh, about two years prior to her death. Her husband was in Army. Therefore, since the time of marriage, she had been residing at her in-laws' house. A period of two years expired but no child was born to Criminal Appeal No.327/SB of 1993 (2)
her. Lal Singh, Pritam Kaur, and Binder Singh, therefore, started taunting and harassing her, in this regard. And, she had been complaining about all this to her parents. Even on the preceding day of occurrence viz. 6.6.1989, she visited her parents at Jagraon and informed them about increase in the harassment being meted out to her by her mother-in-law, father-in-law, and brother-in-law, for having not produced a child. She also told them that they had made her living very difficult. She was, however, sent back by her parents, after being told that her husband would take her along after allotment of quarter to him and therefore she need not worry. However, on the next day viz. 7.6.1989, Joginder Singh PW informed her father Chhota Singh (complainant) at 12.00 noon, in Village Kothe Sherpur, where he had gone for doing masonry work, that his daughter (Kulwant Kaur) had consumed poison and was lying dead in the Civil Hospital at Jagraon. Her father, accordingly, reached the hospital. On receipt of information from the doctor, police also came there and recorded his statement, Ex.PA/II, which forms the basis of this case. Dr.Rajiv Bhalla, Medical Officer, Civil Hospital, Kharar, conducted post-mortem of the dead-body of Kulwant Kaur on the application of police, Ex.PB. Liver, spleen, and kidneys were sent for Chemical Examination. As per report of the Chemical Examiner, Ex.PE, aluminium phosphide was detected in the contents of liver, spleen and kidneys. The cause of death, in the opinion of Dr.Rajiv Bhalla, was due to aluminium phosphide-poisoning.
The appellants were arrested and after completion of investigation, challan was put in against them, in court.
On receipt of the case in his court, by way of commitment, the learned Additional Sessions Judge framed charge under Section 306 IPC Criminal Appeal No.327/SB of 1993 (3)
against the appellants, to which they pleaded not guilty. Thereupon, the prosecution was called upon to substantiate their case.
Prosecution examined seven witnesses viz. PW1 Dr.Gurinvder Singh Chhatwal, PW2 Chhota Singh, PW3 Nasib Kaur, PW4 Joginder Singh, PW5 Inspector Kirpal Singh, PW6 Head Constable Jasbir Singh, and PW7 Dr.Rajiv Bhalla, in support of their case.
After the close of prosecution evidence, statements of Lal Singh (since deceased) and the two appellants were recorded under Section 313 Cr.P.C. wherein they denied the prosecution allegations and added that they had been falsely implicated. Lal Singh and appellant Binder Singh gave totally divergent causes for the commission of suicide by Kulwant Kaur. Lal Singh deceased stated as follows:- "She was remaining mentally disturbed due to her husband being posted in the forward area (Non- family station) most of the time. Kulwant Kaur @ Rani could not conceive."
The cause of commission of suicide, as disclosed by Binder Singh appellant, was as under:-
"Gurdev Singh had advanced money to his brother- in-law amounting to Rs.10,000/-. There was dispute regarding the repayment of that amount. She committed suicide on account of non-payment of the aforesaid amount by her brother to Gurdev Singh" Pritam Kaur appellant, however, could not give any reason for which Kulwant Kaur had committed suicide. Statement made by her, on the point under reference, is as under:-
Criminal Appeal No.327/SB of 1993 (4)
"In the morning my daughter-in-law went to see her parents at Jagraon in a good mood and came back in the evening to my house. There was no quarrel at her instance. I treated her as my sixth daughter, as I have already five daughters. Only God knows as to why she committed suicide".
Four witnesses were examined in defence. DW1 Gurdev Singh is son of Pritam Kaur appellant (and Lal Singh, now deceased), and brother of Binder Singh appellant. He deposed that he and his family had cordial relations with Kulwant Kaur. They never made any dowry-demand from her. During the days of occurrence, his posting was at a non-family station, but Kulwant Kaur wanted that he should take her along, immediately. He also produced letter, Ex.DB, stating that it was written to him, by the deceased. DW2 Jagdishwar Singh, DW3 Gurdial Singh, and DW4 Arjan Singh stated that they were told by Kulwant Kaur that she had consumed some medicine by mistake. They also stated that they had given an affidavit, copy mark-A, to the police, in this regard.
After conclusion of trial, the appellants and Lal Singh (since deceased) were convicted and sentenced, as mentioned in para no.1 above.
The appellants having felt dissatisfied with the verdict of the trial court, they challenged the same, by filing this appeal.
After having heard both sides and having carefully perused the evidence on record, I find that verdict of learned trial court, holding that the appellants had abetted the commission of suicide by the deceased, is fully justified.
It is the admitted case of parties that marriage of the deceased Criminal Appeal No.327/SB of 1993 (5)
was only about two years old, at the time she committed suicide. Her relations with her husband were, no-doubt, cordial, but he was serving in the Army and was posted at a non-family station during the days of occurrence. She had, therefore, been putting up with her in-laws i.e. the appellants. It is in the sworn testimony of PW2 Chhota Singh and PW3 Nasib Kaur that since she had not given birth to any child, the appellants had been harassing and taunting her, on that count. PW2 made a categorical statement that on 2/3 occasions, Kulwant Kaur came to their house and told him and his wife, Nasib Kaur, that the appellants had been maltreating her for having not produced a child. Exactly to the same effect is the deposition of PW3 Nasib Kaur. It is further in the statements of these witnesses that a day prior to her death also, she had come to their house and told them that the appellants (and Lal Singh) had been maltreating her and fighting with her. PW2 also stated that she had expressed her apprehension, at that time, that the appellants would kill her and she had, therefore, desired that somebody from her parental family should accompany her to her in-laws' house. But, on being persuaded by her parents, she had gone back, alone, to her in-laws' house where she committed suicide on the very next day, by consuming poison. All these facts were disclosed by Chhota Singh PW, in the First Information Report, also. The occurrence had taken place at 12.00 noon and the report was lodged by him, without any loss of time, at 1.45 p.m., on the same day. This fact, by itself, weaves a ring of truth around the prosecution version, as there was hardly any time at the disposal of the complainant, for concocting a false story. The fact that the husband of the deceased was not named as one of the culprits, is also a pointer towards the bonafides of the prosecution.
Criminal Appeal No.327/SB of 1993 (6)
Kulwant Kaur having committed suicide just within two years of her marriage, the only fact required to be proved by the prosecution, in order to avail the benefit of presumption under Section 113-A of the Evidence Act as to the abetment of suicide by her, was that the appellants had subjected her to cruelty. In the context, it would be useful to reproduce below the provision contained in Section 113-A of the Evidence Act:- "113-A. Presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman.- When the question is whether the commission of suicide by a woman had been abetted by her husband or any relative of her husband and it is shown that she had committed suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage and that her husband or such relative of her husband had subjected her to cruelty, the court may presume, having regard to all the other circumstances of the case, that such suicide had been abetted by her husband or by such relative of her husband.
Explanation.- For the purposes of this section, "cruelty" shall have the same meaning as in section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code."
"Cruelty" is defined in Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code as "any wilful 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." Repeated taunts of in- laws about the inability to bear a child, to a helpless daughter-in-law, like Kulwant Kaur deceased who was putting up with them on account of her Criminal Appeal No.327/SB of 1993 (7)
husband being posted at a non-family station and was completely dependent on them, were, in my considered view, likely to drive her to commit suicide.
As already stated above, the deceased had repeatedly told her parents about her pitiable condition but they did not pay any heed to that. On the preceding day of occurrence also, she visited them and told them about her such condition but they sent her back, by simply assuring that her husband would take her along after allotment of quarter to him. Well, in such type of situations, court would be required to enter into the mind of the deceased to realise the extent of her helplessness and the pitiable condition in which she must have felt at that time. And, the learned trial court, had infact, done so and had, thereafter, taking into consideration the acts and conduct of the appellants raised a legitimate presumption under Section 113-A of the Evidence Act that the appellants had abetted the commission of suicide by her. The evidence led by the appellants, in an attempt to prove their innocence is not convincing at all. The testimony of DW1 Gurdev Singh, has to be brushed aside as being of an interested witness. He is son of Pritam Kaur appellant and brother of Binder Singh appellant. Letter Ex.DB, which he claims to have received from the deceased, does not bear the date of posting. The date of receipt is also not decipherable. That being so, for more than one reason, no value can be attached to the contents of this letter which is silent about the conduct of the appellants. Firstly, it may well have been written by the deceased, soon after her marriage, and not near about the period of occurrence. Secondly, otherwise too, a daughter-in-law would not, normally, complain to her husband, against her in-laws, in a letter, posted at his official address. The testimony of DW2 Jagdishwar Singh, DW3 Gurdial Singh and DW4 Arjan Singh to the effect that the deceased Criminal Appeal No.327/SB of 1993 (8)
told them that she had consumed "some medicine by mistake" also, does not inspire confidence. Infact, the same is clearly an after-thought, as it was not suggested to any of the prosecution witnesses that deceased had told the defence witnesses about her having consumed "some medicine by mistake".
Therefore, the same has to be brushed aside, altogether.
Another fact which further strengthens the prosecution case, is, the conflicting reasons, given out by Lal Singh deceased and the two surviving appellants about the reason of commission of suicide by the deceased. According to Lal Singh (since deceased), she had committed suicide as she used to remain mentally disturbed due to her husband's posting at a non-family station, whereas the version given by Binder Singh appellant (in his statement under Section 313 Cr.P.C.) is that she committed suicide as her brother had failed to return the loan amount of Rs.10,000/- to her husband. In so far as Pritam Kaur appellant is concerned, her statement (under Section 313 Cr.P.C.) was recorded in the end, and by that time, she had come to know the divergent stands taken by the other two culprits. She, therefore, acted "wisely" and simply pleaded lack of knowledge about the cause of commission of suicide by Kulwant Kaur, by stating that "Only God knows as to why she committed suicide".
Thus the appellants and Lal Singh (since deceased), not only failed to rebut the statutory presumption of commission of offence under Section 306 IPC against them, by virtue of Section 113-A of the Evidence Act, by having failed to lead convincing positive evidence to prove their innocence, they even gave divergent reasons for the commission of suicide by Kulwant Kaur. The trial court, therefore, rightly held the prosecution case as proved beyond doubt. I do not find any flaw in the well-reasoned Criminal Appeal No.327/SB of 1993 (9)
verdict of guilt recorded by the trial court against them, on the basis of cogent and convincing prosecution evidence. No interference in the same is called for, and the appeal shall, accordingly, stand dismissed.
24.5.2006. (Kiran Anand Lall)
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