A Supreme Court Bench of Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice Aravind Kumar has set aside conviction of an accused under Section 304B in a dowry-death case on the ground that the dying declaration did not suggest that there was any proximate nexus to the act of committing suicide on account of preceding demand for dowry.

In that context, it was said that, "This Court having arrived at a conclusion that the dying declaration made by the deceased as per Ex.P-45 being genuine and when said declaration is perused it would not suggest that there was any proximate nexus to the act of committing suicide on account of preceding demand for dowry or in other words the demand of dowry on any particular date having triggered the deceased to commit the suicide or forced her to selfimmolate. This proximate link not being available in the facts obtained in the present case, we are of the considered view that conviction of the accused under Section 304B cannot be sustained."

Notably, the Court convicted the appellants for abetment to suicide under Section 306 and Section 498A read with Section 34 IPC.

Counsel VN Raghupathy appeared for the State.

This case involved the tragic death of Akkamahadevi, the third daughter of the complainant, Shri Chandappa Gooli. Akkamahadevi was married to the second respondent, accused No. 1, in May 2010. Following her marriage, allegations arose that a dowry of Rs. 31,000 and 1.5 tolas of gold were given, and later, an additional dowry of Rs. 50,000 and more gold was demanded. Accused No. 1 and his parents allegedly subjected Akkamahadevi to physical and mental torture, leading her to commit suicide by self-immolation in December 2010.

The prosecution filed a case against the accused, and the Trial Court convicted them primarily based on a dying declaration made by the deceased before her death due to burn injuries. The accused appealed, claiming that the deceased was physically and mentally unfit to provide a true and voluntary statement. The High Court upheld the conviction, emphasizing the credibility of the dying declaration. The appeal challenged the High Court's decision.

The Apex Court took the considered view that, "dying declaration Ex.P-45 in the instant case which came to be accepted by the courts below cannot be found fault with, particularly, in the backdrop of the evidence tendered by the person who recorded the same as per Ex.P-45 and he having stood to his ground in the cross-examination and having spoken about her mental capability to make such statement and that too consciously." It was also said that the dying declaration suggested the possible explanation of the occurrence of the incident and it also appeared to be the truthful version of the maker.

Further, the Court analyzed question as to whether the accused could be convicted for the offence under Section 306 of the IPC, whose basic ingredients are suicidal death and abetment thereof. In that context, it was said that, "The act of cruelty has been spelt out by none else than the victim herself in her dying declaration Ex.P-45. She has in clear words stated all the accused were harassing her by stating that her father had given less dowry and customary gifts to her husband and being unable to tolerate this mental torture, she had set fire to herself on the fateful day. The accused being the husband, father-in-law & mother-in-law are said to have harassed the deceased, subjected her to cruelty and the deceased has in clear terms stated in her dying declaration that she could not tolerate the same. Thus, the torture which has taken place within the four walls is supported by the statement of the victim and stands proved by virtue of dying declaration having been accepted by us. It is this act of torture which led the deceased to commit suicide and these acts have forced the deceased to commit suicide."

In light of the same, the appeal was allowed in part. The appellants were acquitted for the offences punishable under Section 304B IPC and Section 3 and 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act and convicted for the offence punishable under Section 306 and Section 498A read with Section 34 IPC and sentenced to imprisonment for the period already undergone with fine of Rs.5000/- each

Cause Title: Paranagouda and Another vs The State of Karnataka and Another

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