‘Acquittals can't be reversed in a routine manner’



New Delhi: Acquittals by trial courts bolsters innocence of the accused and higher courts cannot reverse such orders in a routine manner, the Supreme Court has ruled, acquitting a convict in an alleged dowry death case.

A bench of justices BS Chauhan and Dipak Misra held that the Punjab and Haryana High Court had wrongly convicted the husband, Rohtash, a resident of Haryana for dowry death despite the fact that there was no material on record to prove his guilt.

"The appellate court should bear in mind the presumption of innocence of the accused and further that the trial court's acquittal bolsters the presumption of innocence.

"Interference in a routine manner where the other view is possible should be avoided, unless there are good reasons for interference," the bench observed.

According to the prosecution case, Rohtash's 21-year old wife Indro died on July 4, 1989, within a year-and-a-half of their marriage by consuming poison at her matrimonial home due to alleged demand for dowry by the husband and family members.

It was alleged that the family taunted her saying she comes from a "bhooka nanga" family and also forced her to seek Rs 10,000 from her parents for Rohtash to enable him start a tailoring business.

The trial court however, acquitted Rohtash and his parents of the charge. On an appeal from the State of Haryana, the high court reversed the acquittal and sentenced Rohtash to seven years rigorous imprisonment under IPC Sections-304-B (dowry death) and 498-A (harassment), following which he appealed in the apex court.

Upholding his appeal, the bench said there was no evidence to prove that the husband had demanded dowry nor for that matter medical evidence to suggest that the death occurred due to consumption of poison.

"Depositions make it crystal clear that the version given by the prosecution witnesses regarding demand of Rs. 10,000 by the appellant did not find mention in the statement under Section 161 CrPC of either of the witnesses," the bench said.

"It is to the effect that only in exceptional cases where there are compelling circumstances and the judgement in appeal is found to be perverse, the appellate court can interfere with the order of the acquittal," the bench said.

The court said it was of the considered opinion that in the instant case, there had been major improvements or embellishments in the prosecution case and demand of Rs.10,000 by the appellant does not find mention in the statements under Section 161 CrPC.

"More so, even if such demand was there, it may not necessarily be a demand of dowry. Further, the chemical analysis report falsifies the theory of suicide by deceased taking any pills," the bench said while acquitting the husband.

PTI