Court:ANDHRA PRADESH HIGH COURT
Bench: JUSTICE Ranga Reddy
ALAMURI LALITHA DEVI & ORS. Vs. STATE OF ANDHRA PRADESH On 22 August 1994
Section 498-A — Cruelty — No evidence that death is homicidal or suicide — Evidence suggest, might be natural death — A reasonable nexus has to be established between cruelty and the suicide.
The appellants in Crl. A. No. 269/89 on the file of First Addl. Sessions Judge, Machilipatnam have preferred this revision against the judgment dated 26th September, 1991 confirming their conviction and sentence for offence under Section 498-A IPC in C.C. No. 1/88 on the file of Judicial Magistrate of First Class, Gudivada.
2. The three Revision Petitioners along with another as A2 were tried for offence under Section 498-A IPC by the judicial Magistrate of First Class, Gudivada in C.C. No. 1/88. The substance of accusation against them was that A3 being the husband of Madhavi and the other accused being his relatives had subjected her to cruelty an offence punishable under Section 498-A IPC.
3. The case for prosecution is in brief as follows : A1 is the wife of A4, A2 and A3 are their sons. They all belong to Gudlavaller and were living together. A3 was working in Adithya Finance Corporation at Machilipatnam and he used to go to Machilipatnam from his village by bus. P.W. 1, Baburao is the husband of Tayaramma P.W. 2. Madhavi (the deceased) was their eldest daughter. P.W. 3 was the younger sister of Madhavi. Madhvi was studying second year Law degree in the Law College at Machilipatnam. At that time, the parents of Madhavi wanted to celebrate her marriage with A3. But, Madhavi was interested in continuing her studies and was not willing for the marriage. The parents persuaded her to marry and she agreed on condition that she should be allowed to continue her studies even after the marriage. The marriage of the deceased Madhavi and A3 took place on 1-6-1986 at their village Pedana. At the time of marriage, some jewellery and other articles were presented to Madhavi and some cash was also given to A3 as dowry. After some time the marriage Madhavi joined her husband. A3 and A4 the husband and the father-in-law of Madhavi did not like her continuing the studies, so, she was forced to give up her studies and she was very much dis-satisfied on account of it. After the marriage, it is alleged that the husband and her father-in-law pursuaded Madhavi to get a Scooter for A3, so that he could conveniently go to Machilipatnam where he was employed, every day from the village to attend to his duties. Madhavi in turn told her parents about this demand. But, her parents did not comply with that. It is further alleged that the husband of Madhavi insisted on her to get a sum of Rs. 25,000/- from her parents for investment in the Finance Corporation on the ground that such investment would advance his prospectus in the Finance Corporation. Even this request was not conceded by the parents of Madhavi. It is further stated that A3 used to say often that if he had married elsewhere, he would have got more dowry than what he got by marrying her. Thus, on account of failure to comply with all these unlawful demands, the deceased was subjected to harassment and cruelty. She told the same her parents, sisters and also P.W. 4 who was their neighbour at Pedana. She was in the habit of writing diary and Ex. P2 was the diary written by her. The entries in that reflected the mentally agony she suffered at the house of her in-laws. One G.V.L.N. Sastry was an employee in the Agricultural University at Hyderabad and he was also doing Archakatvam at Anjaneyaswamy temple. His parents were residing at Pedana, native village of Madhavi. So, she happened to know him and used to treat him as her Guru. She wrote letters Exs. A3 and A4 to him. In one of the letters dated 19-1-87 marked as Ex. P4, she has written that her husband is harassing her to get scooter from her father Baburao. P.W. 5 had deposed to these facts. He, also stated as Madhavi having complained to him that A3 has been often stating that he would have got more dowry if he had married some other girl.
4. Madhavi became pregnant. When she was in her 6th or 7th month of pregnancy, on 6-4-87 she was taken to the Nursing Home of P.W. 6 a Private Medical Practitioner and Gudlavaller in a semi-conscious state. He found her profusely swetting and her blood pressure was low and felt that her condition was serious. Advised them to take her to the Headquarters hospital at Bandar. But, the deceased died even before she was taken to the hospital.
5. One Sreenivasa Rao a Polytechnic student who was a tenant of the accused, went to Pedana at about 6.30 or 7.00 p.m. on 6-4-1987 and informed the parents of the deceased that the condition of their daughter was serious. In the meanwhile, A2 the younger brother of A-3 also went there and told them about it. So, P.Ws, 1 & 2 and their eldest son Rameshchandra Babu and third daughter went to Gudlavaller by 8 p.m. and found Madhavi dead. They were informed that the deceased died due to stomach-ache. P.Ws, 1 and 2 were not satisfied with the cause of the death of Madhavi as given by the accused. They were not even allowed to see the dead body by removing the cloth with which the dead body was covered. On the next day i.e. on 7-4-87 P.W. 1 wanted to give a Police complaint about the death of his daughter. But the elders of Gudlavaller prevented him from doing so, saying that by giving such complaint he is not going to get back his daughter and that they would see that the cash, jewels and other articles given by them to the accused at the time of marriage will be returned to him. They also told him that if such report is given the dead body will not be returned until post mortem is conducted. So, saying they took him to one Vallabhaneni Baburao (P.W. 8) an elderly person at Gudlavaller. In the presence of P.W. 8, all the jewellery and other articles were returned to P.W. 1. P.W. 8 told P.W. 1 that the cash of Rs. 60,000/- which the accused had received at the time of marriage of the deceased with A3, would be returned on 10-4-1987. Thereafter, the dead body of Madhavi was cremated though according to the custom the dead, body of a pregnant woman used to be buried. The accused themselves sent the movable articles of the deceased to the house of P.W. 1 at Pedana in a lorry. Those articles included an Almirah. When P.W. 1 opened the Almirah, he found a Note Book Ex. P-l in which something was written from 27-10-86 to 23-3-87 which portion is marked as Ex. P-2. Ex. P-2 and the letters Exs. P3, P-4 and P5 addressed to P.W. 5, are in the handwriting of Madhavi. After cremation of the dead body. P.Ws. 1 and 2 went back to their village Pedana along with their son and daughter. They did not give any report of the death of their daughter.
6. On 11.4.1987 on the directions of the Superintendent of Police, the Section 1 of Police (P.W. 11) Gudlavaller, registered a case in Crime No. 20/87 under Sections 498-A and 201 IPC and issued an F.I.R. Ex. P32. Then he examined P.W. 6 the Private Medical Practitioner and recorded his statement. It would appear that the Superintendent of Police had given such direction on account of some public agitation at Machilipatnam. The Inspector of Police, Pamarru took over investigation from P.W. 11. On 12-4-87 on the direction of Superintendent of Police, Krishna, he visited Gudlavaller. On the same day, he examined P.W. 8 and then visited the cremation ground and seized some bones and ashes (M.O. 1) from the place where the dead body was cremated under Ex. P26. On the next day i.e. on 13-4-1986, he visited Pedana village and examined P.Ws. 1 to 3 and others. Later he sent M.O. 1 for chemical examination but nothing incriminating was found. Ex. P30 is the report. After completion of investigation a charge-sheet was filed.
7. The accused when examined under Section 313 Cr.P.C. denied as having made any unlawful demands as alleged by the prosecution. It is also stated that the deceased died a natural death on account of stomach ache. The learned Munsif found that the deceased was harassed by accused 1, 3 and 4 for not complying with their unlawful demands and further the deceased was compelled to give up her studies and on account of it, she was mentally upset. But, however, he found that there is no evidence that the deceased Madhavi died an unnatural death. So, they were convicted for offence under Section 498A IPC and sentenced to one year rigorous imprisonment and to pay a fine of Rs. 1,000/- each and A2 was acquitted. Aggrieved by the said conviction and sentence, Al, A3 and A-4 filed an appeal before the Sessions Court, but the same was dismissed by the Sessions Judge. Hence, this Revision Petition is filed.
8. The only contention in this revision is that there is no legal evidence establishing the ‘cruelty’ on the part of the petitioners-accused as envisaged under Section 498A IPC. So, we have to consider whether the evidence on record establishes that the petitioners had subjected the deceased Madhavi to such cruelty as would bring it within the mischief of provisions of Section 498-A IPC.
9. Before proceeding to consider the above question, it would be convenient to extract Sec. 498-A IPC which reads as follows :
“Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.”
10. It is difficult rather impossible, to enumerate acts amounting to cruelty or to put cruel conduct into a ‘straight jacket’ or to make cruel conduct conformable to any inflexible standard. The danger of any attempt at giving a comprehensive definition of cruelty that may embrace all cases and situations has been repeatedly emphasised by Courts. The term cruelty has been designedly left by the judicial authorities too, to an elastic form to meet the necessities of the changing requirements and concepts of the Society. Cruelty is not a fact isolated from the environment and background of the spouses, therefore each case ought to be decided individually according to the peculiar set up of the case. Therefore, the conduct complained of must be decided to a certain degree by reference to the parties capacity or incapacity for endurance. So, in order to avoid speculation or ambiguity regarding any interpretation of the word cruelty’ the explanation to Section 498-A IPC provides as to what would amount to cruelty for purpose of Section 498-A. For purpose of Section 498-A, according to explanation (A) any wilful conduct which is of such nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause any grave injury or danger to life, limb or health of the woman, is cruelty.
11. Here, in the instant case there is no evidence that Madhavi’s death is homicidal or suicide. On the other hand, the evidence of P.W. 6 suggests that it might be a natural death though there is some suspicion regarding her death. So, it cannot be said that Madhavi committed suicide on account of the conduct of the accused so as to bring it within explanation (A) of Section 498-A IPC. Further, a reasonable nexus has to be established between the cruelty and the suicide in order to constitute an offence under Section 498-A IPC. Even if suicide is established, it has further to be established that it was occasioned on account of cruelty which was of sufficient gravity as to lead a reasonable person, placed in similar circumstances to commit suicide.
12. According to explanation (b) to Section 498-A IPC, it is not every harassment of a woman by the husband or his relatives that amounts to cruelty, but it should be with a definite object namely to coerce the woman or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand or it should be on account of failure on her part or any person related to her to meet such demand.
13. In the instant case, P.Ws. 1 to 5 have stated that A3 has been demanding a Scooter and also insisting on Madhavi to get a sum of Rs. 25,000/- for investment in the Finance Corporation. He also has been frequently stating that he would have got more dowry if he had married elsewhere. In the letter Ex. P4 written by her to P.W. 5 some time in November, 1986, she has stated that she has been harassed “Vedinchabadindhi” by her husband to get a Scooter from her father. Further, in the Diary maintained by her, she has stated that if she dies, her husband could marry again and get a dowry of about 2 or 3 lakhs. This would suggest that the evidence of P.Ws. I to 4 is probable. These Exs. P2 and P4 are un-disputedly in the handwriting of the deceased and they corroborate the testimony of P.Ws. 1 to 4 so far as the complicity of A3 is concerned. These documents however, do not connect A1 and A4 with the commission of offence. I, therefore, set aside the conviction and sentence of petitioners 1 and 3 i.e. AI and A-4 had confirm the conviction and sentence of the 2nd petitioner i.e. A3. Accordingly, the Revision Petition is partly allowed.
Appeal Partly allowed.