The Calcutta High Court, while acquitting the husband, ruled that the Dowry Prohibition Act does not prohibit giving traditional presents to the bridegroom.
“voluntary presents given at or before or after the marriage to the bride or the bridegroom, as the case may be, of a traditional nature, which are given not as a consideration for marriage but out of love, affection on regard, would not fall within the mischief of the expression ‘dowry’ made punishable under the Act.”
The appellants preferred the instant appeal, being aggrieved from the judgement and order of conviction and sentence passed by the learned Additional Sessions Judge. The appellants were convicted for committing offence under IPC Sections 498A and 304B.
In Aug 2011, the father of deceased Soma lodged a complaint. In his complaint he stated that,
- his daughter Soma got married with Netai Ghosh in June 2011
- at the time of marriage, he gave “bridal presents” as per his financial capacity
- it was also decided to give a gold chain to the bride within six month of the marriage
- Husband, Mother-in-law and sister’s husband used to abuse her with filthy language
- the deceased used to inform the said incident over phone to her parents and family
- on 4th August, 2011 at about 7 pm the complainant came to know that his daughter Soma died consuming poison
According to the complainant, her daughter committed suicide due to unbearable physical and mental torture by her husband and his family for dowry.
On the complaint, on 5 August 2011, the police registered a case under section 498A/304B/34 of the IPC and section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. The police after the investigation, submitted the chargesheet accusing the three persons as named in the complaint.
The prosecution examined a total of 8 witnesses, out of which 5 were relatives of the deceased Soma while the rest 3 were officials (One who wrote the FIR, second was the Autopsy Surgeon and the third person was the Investigating Officer of the case).
The husband and other two accused submitted their denial from the allegations of dowry demand. Husband Netai Ghosh submitted that he used to come home on weekends as he worked at a distant place and he also said that he had cordial relations with his wife (deceased Soma). The accused persons also submitted that deceased Soma was very ill tempered.
The learned trial judge held the appellant guilty
The The learned trial judge held the appellant guilty of the offence made under IPC 498a/304b. The trial court observed that
- All the witnesses (who were also relative of the deceased) stated that deceased Soma was tortured by the appellants both physically and mentally on demand of a gold chain.
- Secondly, the deceased had met with an unnatural death within 44 days of marriage.
- And thirdly, the defence failed to prove its case.
The Learned Advocate for the appellant
The Learned Advocate for the appellant submitted that according to the FIR, the accused persons never demanded any dowry before marriage. He further said that exchanging of gifts does not come under dowry.
“If the parents of the bride give some presents at the time of marriage the same do not come within the definition of dowry.“
On the allegation that the relatives were torturing the deceased for a gold chain, the learned advocate for the appellant further submitted questioning that, the deceased’s father or her relatives never visited the matrimonial home of the deceased to settle the matrimonial dispute. They did not take any step to settle the dispute. He further said that the witnesses are close relative of the deceased and they are very much interested to see the appellants convicted and sentenced, and stated the necessity of independent witnesses.
The Ld Advocate for the appellant further submitted that, the learned trial court failed to appreciate the evidence of the defence which has examined four neighbouring persons who stated on oath that relation between Netai and Soma was cordial.
Over the Un-natural death, the Ld. advocate submitted that the ld. trial court did not considered the “Postmortem report”.
The Learned Advocate for the State
The Ld. Advocate for the State submitted that it is difficult to produce evidence as such incidents are only known to the close relatives, as such torture happens inside the house. The Ld. council also submitted that the deceased committed suicide due to unbearable torture by her husband and family for the gold chain.
The bench noted that, the complainant (father of the deceased) has never stated that the husband ever demanded dowry as a consequence of marriage. The bench said that section of Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 cannot be applied on mere demand.
“The definition of the expression ‘dowry’ contained in Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 cannot be applied merely to the ‘demand’ of money, property or valuable security made at or after the performance of marriage.“
The bench quoted Section 4 of the act and said that mere demand of dowry is not sufficient.
“Under Section 4 of the Act, mere demand of dowry is not sufficient to bring home the offence to an accused. Thus, any demand of money, property or valuable security made from the bride or her parents or other relatives by the bridegroom or his parents or other relatives or vice versa would fail within the mischief of ‘dowry’ under the Act where such demand is not properly referable to any legally recognized claim and is relatable only to the consideration of marriage.”
The bench further said that, the act do not prohibit giving traditional presents to the bride.
“Dowry as a quid pro quo for marriage is prohibited and not the giving of traditional presents to the bride or the bride groom by friends and relatives.“
The bench further said that, as it was decided to give the gold chain in six month and the said time was not over when the deceased met with unnatural death.
The bench also said that, this is absolutely natural that near relative would intervene if a married lady is tortured, but there is no such evidence to settle the dispute in the matter.
The bench also observed that as the deceased Soma was ill tempered, so she could not have silently digest.
“It is in the evidence that Soma was ill tempered. Therefore if at all any incident of quarrel broke out between the appellants and Soma here the nature of Soma was not such that she would silently digest the allegations made against her.“
The bench also said that, the trial court failed to consider the circumstances and prosecution also failed to prove the cause of death.
The bench hold the order of the trial court and acquitted the appellants from the charge.
CRA/147/2017 Netai Ghosh & Anr. -Vs State of West Bengal