No conviction for mere demand of dowry, says SC

The SC has ruled that a person cannot be convicted for merely demanding dowry.

Updated: Aug 05, 2010, 19:32 PM IST

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ruled that
a person cannot be convicted for merely demanding dowry unless
the demand is followed by mental or physical torture resulting
in the death of the victim.

A Bench of Justices R M Lodha and A K Patnaik said in a
judgement that the prosecution has to establish convincing
evidence that the accused had subjected the victim to torture
soon before her death in connection with the demand.

"The evidence of Prosecution Witness-2, PW-4 and PW-5
shows that Jagdish and Gordhani played a role in the demand of
dowry for a scooter or Rs.25,000/- for Amar Singh but demand
of dowry by itself is not an offence under Section 498A or
Section 304B IPC.

"What is punishable under Section 498A or Section 304B of
IPC is the act of cruelty or harassment by the husband or the
relative of the husband against the woman," the Bench said.

The Bench passed the judgement while upholding the
acquittal of Gordhani, mother-in-law, and Jagdish,
brother-in-law, in a dowry death case of newly-married woman
Santosh in Rajasthan`s Alwar district in March, 8, 1993. It
however, upheld the conviction of the husband Amar Singh.

The sessions court had convicted all the three for dowry
death(304B) and 498A(harassment of married woman by

The Rajasthan High Court had on an appeal from the
accused quashed the conviction of Jagdish and Gordhari while
sustaining the life sentence imposed on Amar Singh.

While the state government had appealed against the
acquittals, Amar Singh challenged his conviction.
"Thus, there was evidence in the case of Amar Singh about
his exact conduct which caused harassment to the deceased but
there was no such evidence in the case of Jagdish and

The apex court altered the life sentence of Amar Singh
from life imprisonment to 10 years.

"A prosecution witness, who merely uses the word
`harassed` or `tortured`, and does not describe the exact
conduct of the accused which, according to him, amounted to
harassment or torture may not be believed by the court in
cases under Section 498A and 304B IPC," Justice Patnaik
writing the judgement observed._

Citing its earlier ruling in Kans Raj v. State of Punjab
and Others (2000) case, the apex court said that in cases
where accusations of dowry deaths are made, the overt acts
attributed to persons other than the husband are required to
be proved beyond reasonable doubt. Bby mere conjectures and
implications, such relatives cannot be held guilty for the
offence relating to dowry deaths.

At that time, the apex court had said a tendency has
developed for roping in all relatives of in-laws of the
deceased wife in a matter of dowry death, which, if not
discouraged, is likely to affect the case of the prosecution
even against real culprits.