No conviction for dowry death if harassment is over a year: SC

No conviction for dowry death if harassment is over a year: SC

A bench headed by Justice S B Sinha said: “Some harassment which had taken place one year prior to the death without something more, in our opinion, could not have been considered to be a cruelty which had been inflicted soon before the death of the deceased. It does not satisfy the proximity test.’’

The apex court passed the ruling while setting aside the conviction of Suresh Kumar Singh under Section 304 B (dowry death) for causing the death of his wife Asha Devi on December 8, 1993, who died due to severe burn injuries.

“In view of our finding that the death did not take place within seven years from the date of marriage, no presumption could have been raised either under Section 113A or under Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act,’’ the court said in the judgement.

In the present case, family members of the deceased had alleged that Asha was subjected to harassment by her husband and in-laws for gold ornaments a year before she died. Singh was convicted under Section 304 B IPC (dowry death) and awarded a sentence of seven years by a sessions court in Uttar Pradesh which also convicted him under Section 498A IPC (harassment by husband/relatives) and sentenced him to three years for the offence. Both the sentences were to run concurrently.

The Allahabad High Court confirmed the sentences, after which Singh appealed in the apex court. Interpreting Section 304 B IPC (dowry death), the apex court said as per the statute the death must have been caused by burns or bodily injury or other than under normal circumstances. To invite conviction under the section, it is necessary that soon before her death, the woman must have been subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband and such cruelty or harassment must be in connection with dowry,” the bench said.