Demand for starting business amounts to dowry: SC

Demand for property or valuables which has a connection with marriage constitutes "dowry" even if it is made by the husband or in-laws for starting a new business, the Supreme Court has ruled.

Updated: Feb 16, 2011, 22:54 PM IST

New Delhi: Demand for property or valuables
which has a connection with marriage constitutes "dowry" even
if it is made by the husband or in-laws for starting a new
business, the Supreme Court has ruled.

"If a demand for property or valuable security, directly
or indirectly, has a nexus with marriage, in our opinion, such
demand would constitute `demand for dowry`; the cause or
reason for such demand being immaterial," the apex court said
in a judgement.

A bench of justices Aftab Alam and R M Lodha passed the
judgement while dismissing the appeal filed by Bachini Devi
and her son challenging the seven years` rigorous imprisonment
awarded to them in a dowry death case.

The bench rejected the argument of the convicts who
citing an apex court 2007 judgement in the Appasaheb vs
Maharashtra case claimed that if a demand is made by the
husband or in-laws for starting a business, the same would not
constitute "dowry".

"There is no merit in the contention of the counsel for
the appellants that the demand of motorcycle does not qualify
as a `demand for dowry`. All the essential ingredients to
bring home the guilt under Section 304B IPC are established
against the appellants by the prosecution evidence.

"As a matter of law, the presumption under Section 113B
of the Evidence Act, 1872 is fully attracted in the facts and
circumstances of the present case. The appellants have failed
to rebut the presumption under Section 113B," Justice Lodha,
writing the judgement, said.

It was the case of the prosecution that the victim Kanta
hanged herself at her in-laws` house in Kurukshetra on August
11, 1990, within three months of marriage, after she was
pestered for bringing home a motorcycle to enable the husband
carry out his milk vending business.

The deceased`s father Pale Ram, a rickshaw-puller, could
not afford to fulfil the demand.

The Additional Sessions Judge(I), Kurukshetra, sentenced
them to seven years of RI. The Punjab and Haryana High Court
affirmed the sentence, following which the duo appealed in the
apex court.

The convicts took the plea that there was no evidence of
a demand for motorcycle. It was further argued that in any
case the demand of motorcycle for the purposes of the business
does not qualify as a "demand for dowry" and, therefore, no
offence under Section 304-B IPC can be said to have been made
out against them.

Rejecting the argument, the apex court said, "The mere
demand for dowry before marriage, at the time of marriage or
any time after the marriage is an offence.

"Appasaheb cannot be read to be laying down an absolute
proposition that a demand for money or some property or
valuable security on account of some business or financial
requirement could not be termed as `demand for dowry`.

"It was in the facts of the case that it was held so,"
the bench said.

Hence, it dismissed the appeal, while directing Bachini
Devi, who is on bail, to surrender within two months and serve
the sentence.

PTI