HM Journal

DOES ‘‘SOON BEFORE DEATH’’ IMPLY ‘‘IMMEDIATELY BEFORE DEATH’’?

Introduction:

The High Court of Punjab and Haryana dismissed the appeal of the appellant dated 06-11-2008 and upheld the order of conviction and sentence passed by the Trial Court on 11-12-1997.

Facts:

Appellant 1 and the deceased were married on 01-07-1994. On 31-07-1995, some person informed the Complainant at about 4 or 4.30 that their daughter was ailing and admitted to the hospital. When the Complainant along with his wife and son reached the hospital, they found that the deceased had passed away due to the burn injury.

The body was 85% damaged due to the burn injury. Kerosene traces were found by the doctor on the body of the deceased.

There were many instances of harassment and cruelty related to the dowry which was witnessed by the close ones of the deceased.

Submission/ Contentions of Appellant/s:

Firstly, the possibility of accidental fire has not been ruled out in this case. Moreover, the demand for Dowry has not been proved. Lastly, assuming that the demand for dowry was made, it is not proved whether it was made proximate to the death of the deceased.

Submission/ Contentions of Respondent/s:

The appellant has not shown any material, which will merit the interference of the Court. The death of the deceased had occurred within a year of the marriage. Furthermore, the specific instances for the demand of dowry have been witnessed and stated consistently.

Principles and Observations of the Court:

Was the Trial Court, and the High Court, was correct in convicting the accused on the charge under Section 304B and 306, IPC?

  • In Bansi Lal vs. the State of Haryana, the Court emphasized the mandatory application of the presumption under Section 113B of the Evidence Act once the ingredients of Section 304B of IPC stood proved.
  • “Section 304B, IPC does not take a pigeonhole approach in categorizing death as homicidal or suicidal or accidental”.
  • The phrase in Section 304B, IPC ‘‘soon before’’ cannot be constructed as ‘‘immediately before’’.
  • As the essential ingredient that the deceased had committed suicide is not proved by the prosecution thus Section 306, IPC merits the interference of this Court.

Judgement:

The High court and Trial Court had not committed any error in convicting the appellants under Section 304B, IPC as the burden under Section 113-B was failed to discharge by the appellant. The offence under Section 306, IPC is not justified upon the appreciation of facts and circumstances discussed in the Court.

Opinion:

The Court has convicted the appellant with correct analysis and reasoning. It has called out the Trial Courts to balance the right to hear the other party and the right to a speedy trial.

Judgement Name: Satbir Singh & Another vs. the State of Haryana

Judgement Date: 28 May 2021

Judges/Bench: CJI. (N.V. Ramana), J. (Aniruddha Bose)

Name of Writer: Sakshi Sharma

College: Akola Law College

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