25 Dec 2010

All bridal deaths not dowry deaths: High Court

Holding that parents of a deceased bride are often emotionally so attached to their child that they cannot perceive that their child could at all have committed suicide and thus have a tendency to push all cases of suicide into one of alleged dowry-death, the Delhi High Court in a recently reported decision Narender Singh Arora v. State (Govt. of NCT Delhi) (2010) 173 DLT 244 has upheld the decision of the trial court wherein the court rejected the argument of parents that the case was one of dowry death and held that it was a suicide simpliciter by the deceased bride. 
The High Court inter alia observed as under;
5. This case is a reflection of mentality which is now taking grip of parents of a deceased wife in the criminal cases. Whenever a woman dies an unnatural death within seven years of her marriage at in-laws’ house, whatever be the cause of death, the in-laws must be hanged. This case also shows how truth is losing significance because of the ego of the litigants to see that in-laws should be hanged.
6. Suicide is a known phenomenon of human nature. Suicides are committed by living human beings for various reasons, some are not able to bear the normal stresses which are common in life. Some are not able to cope up with the circumstances in which they are placed. Some commit suicide because of frustration of not achieving the desired goals. There are many cases where students commit suicide because they failed to achieve certain percentage of marks. Some commit suicide because they are not able to retain top position, some commit suicide because they are not able to cope with the demands of life. Some commit suicide because they suffer sudden loss, some commit suicide out of fear of being caught. There are various reasons for which suicides are committed by men and women. All suicides are unnatural deaths. Suicide is a complex phenomenon. One, who commits suicide, is not alive to disclose as to what was going on in his or her mind when he or she committed suicide. There is no presumption that every suicide committed by a married woman in her in-laws’ house or at her parents’ house has to be because she was suffering harassment at the hands of her husband or her in-laws.
7. Normally in-laws are convicted on the testimonies of parents of the girl who, in a fit of anger or because they had lost their daughter, are not prepared to believe that their daughter could commit suicide for any other reason. Fortunately, in this case, the deceased was in the habit of writing letter to her parents when she was living at her in-laws’ house and to her husband when she was living in her parents’ house and these letters were produced before the trial court. The trial court went through these letters and after going through all the letters written by the deceased, preferred to believe the circumstances prevalent between deceased and her in-laws, as reflected by the letters instead of believing the testimony of father of the girl and other relatives of the girl who wanted the court to believe that it was a dowry death. The learned trial court extensively quoted these letters. A perusal of these letters would show that the deceased was in the habit of writing every minuscule thing happening in the family of her in-laws to her father. She was in love with her father and in her letters gave details of happenings in the family of her in-laws to her father. She had written to the extent that she had to go to market by Rickshaw and that her in-laws were not well-off. She had written how her bhabi used to behave cleverly and wanted to separate from the house, how her bhabi used to behave; how her father-in-law used to behave, who were the servants in the family, how they used to cook, what her bhabhi did at the dinner table, how she managed to take bigger share of chicken and all trivial things. The learned trial court concluded that girl who was writing to her father about each and every circumstance of her matrimonial home to such minute details, could not have held back any information from her father if she was harassed on account of dowry or any dowry demand had been made to her. I consider that the trial court rightly put greater reliance on the letters written by the deceased right up to the time of her death to her parents and rightly rejected the oral testimony of her father and other family members who wanted the court to believe that she was being harassed on account of dowry demands. It is well known maxim that men may speak lies but the circumstances do not. The letters written by the deceased is her own testimony in respect of what kind of life she was leading. This testimony of her is unimpeachable and most reliable testimony because it was given by her when there was no shadow of any litigation between the two and relations were normal. The testimony given by her father is not normal testimony. Her father and other family members who deposed in the court testified after death of Arveen and their testimony is coloured with the loss they suffered due to sudden death of the daughter little realizing that she committed suicide not because of dowry demands but because of her fragile and sensitive nature which is reflected from the letters written by her. The letters reflect that she was in deep love with her husband, her husband was also in deep love with her. It looks she was not getting all those facilities at her in-laws’ house to which she was used to and accustomed at her parents’ house. The letters do not reflect any kind of ill-treatment being meted out to her either at the hands of her husband or at the hands of her in-laws. The letters only reflect the usual day-to-day hiccups which a newly married couple has to undergo. I consider that the learned trial court relied upon the best evidence in order to come to a just and right conclusion whether it was a case of dowry death or it was a case of simple suicide and rightly acquitted the accused persons for the offences under Section 304B/302/498A read with Section 34 IPC.
8. The counsel for the petitioner argued that the trial court did not look into the theory of murder of the girl though charge of murder was there. In this case, the death had taken place by hanging. There were ligature marks around the neck of deceased. It is argued by the counsel for the petitioner that the ligature mark was continuous on the neck without a break and if it were a case of hanging, the ligature mark would not have been continuous and there would have been a break in the ligature mark. It is submitted that it was a case of manual strangulation and a case of murder. This theory was also examined by the learned trial court. The trial court had referred to medical jurisprudence and drawn a table showing differences between a suicidal death by hanging and a homicidal death by strangulation and came to a conclusion that there was no evidence of a homicidal death. The learned trial court also noted that to the doctor who conducted postmortem, no questions were put suggesting that this was a case of murder and not a suicidal death. Even otherwise, except the ligature marks, there was no other external injuries, no mark of struggle and no other evidence to show that it was a homicidal death. To my view, the learned trial court rightly came to conclusion that it was a suicidal death. I find no force in this revision petition. The revision petition is hereby dismissed.

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