State of Kerala v Kirankumar
The Prosecution Case
Vismaya committed suicide as abetted by the accused – her husband – and the same is, in fact, a dowry death. When she was alive, Vismaya was severely harassed by the accused for bringing lesser dowry than what was supposedly agreed and for “gifting” him a car which did not meet his expectation. Vismaya was unable to countenance the harassment and left with no other option, she committed suicide in the bathroom attached with the bedroom of the matrimonial home during the early hours of June 21, 2021.
The Defense Case
The investigation is flawed and veracity of conversations traced through the phones of the parties was not established. The accused was put to severe disadvantage due to the disproportionate propaganda and he is, in fact, a victim of the media hype.
The entire ruling dispensation also supported the propaganda against him. Vismaya’s parents, brother, and friend, four of the prosecution witnesses, are deposing falsehoods. There is no evidence that just prior to her death, Vismaya was harassed on account of dowry.
Court’s Analysis and Findings
Testimony of main prosecution witnesses
The Court said that close family and friends of Vismaya had no reason to depose with any false intentions. the Court, Only if there is a marital discord, an element of animosity will sprout in their mind and all of them uniformly attributed that, the aspiration of dowry was the root cause for the harassment and taunting on Vismaya. Several instances of cruelty unleashed by the accused on Vismaya were deposed by these witnesses in a confidence inspiring manner before this Court. Their evidences are supported by digital evidences furnished by the prosecution.
Testimony of defense witnesses
It was contended by the defense that there was a sense of camaraderie between Vismaya and Kumar. However, a couple need not be at loggerheads 24/7 and this only indicated the ability of Kumar, a former Assistant Motor Vehicle Inspector, to safeguard himself against any possible allegations of dowry harassment or cruelty.
the Court opined, It is palpable from the electronic evidences adduced that, the accused had guarded himself from creating evidence by Vismaya and her family. In some conversations, he has cautioned his family members about the possibilities of their calls being recorded by the family members of Vismaya. He was that much vigilant.
Deficiencies in the investigation
It would not be right to acquit the accused solely based on deficiencies at the initial stages, even though the same was admitted be the prosecution.
the judge said, If the mistakes are in series, the professional competence of said Investigating Officer is at stake and it is for the persons having administrative control over her to decide about the future course of actions. However, this Court expresses its utter disgust and utmost displeasure regarding the manner in which the initial investigation was carried out in this case. Nevertheless, the subject mistake in Ext.P91 is not at all a sufficient circumstance to doubt the genuinity of prosecution version as a whole.
Importance of electronic evidence
Both sides relied on several recorded conversations and chats. With the rise in use of mobile phones and similar gadgets, electronic evidence is of massive assistance to investigative agencies and courts.
the judgment noted, Certain chats are like soliloquies that demonstrate the desolation of Vismaya. The fear of Vismaya towards the accused is also manifest from Ext.P10 (series) – chats.
There is a distinct advantage in getting the words of the deceased as evidence as was done in this case.
When the possibility to get the maker in flesh and blood to depose before the Court is completely vanished due to her death, the next endeavour should be how to include the statement of said individual within the sweep of Section 32(1) of the Indian Evidence Act.
Section 304B IPC : Dowry Death
The evidence tendered by the prosecution directly indicated that there is a proximate live-link between the death of Vismaya and the demand of dowry by the accused and the demand had not become stale or dried out.
The prosecution established the offence under Section 304(B) IPC, Unlike in many other cases, in the instant case, the words of the victim herself are available for the appraisal and consequential adjudication of the litigious matter. She has spoken extensively about the harassment faced by her in the recorded conversations. In matters of emotions, one cannot have fixed formula. The time lag may differ from case to case. This must be kept in mind while examining each case of dowry death.
Section 306 IPC: Abetment of Suicide
Kiran Kumar is not a layman, he is a person of exceptional intelligence and a trained investigator. It can be inferred that he knows how to provoke and push a person to the edge. Under Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, the Court can presume the existence of any fact that it thinks is likely to have happened and Kumar’s disposition is one such factor.
The accused himself knew of the delicate mental condition of Vismaya indicating that he knew his actions could drive her to suicide.
It is true that, an act of suicide would normally be a matter of discretion for the reason it can be said that, the person concerned had a choice, but, there may be situations where a person is virtually left with no choice, for example, where the tormentors by way of systematic campaign, drive a person to commit suicide by leaving no other choice.
Therefore, the prosecution is entitled to avail the presumption as stated in Section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act leading to the conclusion that Kumar abetted the suicide of Vismaya.
Section 498A: Cruelty for Dowry
There was a conversation regarding a car before marriage and subsequent conflict which subsisted throughout due to the car was not one which Kumar hoped he would be given.
Vismaya’s family had agreed to give 100 gold sovereigns at the time of her wedding. After the wedding, the same was weighed by Kumar and it was found to be 80 sovereigns only. He then kept it in a locker which could not be accessed by Vismaya.
the Court said, As the factual matrix would unveil, the cruelties were based on the aspirations of the accused to earn wealth through his legally wedded wife. …It was his harassment that driven her to commit suicide. He coerced her to meet his unlawful demand of acquiring car and other assets.
Therefore the offence under Section 498A IPC was proved.
Sections 3, 4 Dowry Prohibition Act
The provisions of the said statute cannot be watered down…The accused being a member of discipline force, is supposed to be aware of the stringency of above quoted legal provisions and its purport and import. In this case, from the available materials, it is well lucid that, the accused had demanded dowry in connection his marriage and he accepted a car as dowry.
The Court, however, acquitted Kiran Kumar of the charges under Section 323, 506(i) IPC deeming it fit to give him the benefit of doubt.
Quantum of Sentence
The defense submitted that Kumar is a young man and the sole provider of his family and ailing parents. The prosecution failed to produce any jail reports regarding his conduct in the jail.
the Court said, Certainly, he has an excellent educational background and earned a government employment during his prime age. Therefore, the chances of reformation cannot be ruled out and remorse can occur on passage of time. He can recognize his mistakes and can reform himself.
The following sentences were awarded:
- 304B IPC: 10 years imprisonment
- 306 IPC: 6 years imprisonment, ₹2 lakhs fine
- 498A IPC: 2.5 years imprisonment, ₹50,000 fine
- Section 3 Dowry Prohibition Act: 6 years imprisonment, ₹10 lakhs fine
- Section 4 Dowry Prohibition Act: 1 year imprisonment, ₹5,000 fine
Reference :- Bar & Banch
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