Supreme Court Lays Down The Conditions For Applying Section 113-A of Evidence Act
The Division Bench comprising of Justices S. Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari has held that for attracting the provisions of section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act, the following three conditions must be satisfied –
1) Woman has committed suicide
2) Such suicide is committed within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage
3) The accused had subjected her to cruelty.
The Court opined that if these conditions are satisfied then presumption can be drawn against the accused and if he cannot rebut these presumptions then he is likely to be convicted. The Court also noted that in view of Section 4 of the Evidence Act, the contentious fact has to be regarded as proved, unless disproved.
The prosecution case against the Appellant-Accused was that his wife had committed suicide by consuming poison at her matrimonial home as she was unable to bear the continuous mental and physical cruelty subjected to her by the Appellant-Accused. The incident happened with a time period of 8 months from the date of her marriage. On appeal against conviction, the High Court upheld the sentence of the accused.
Before the Supreme Court, the Appellant contended that all the witnesses of the Prosecution were relatives and interested witnesses and that no independent witness was examined to support the case of the prosecution, hence, the case of the prosecution becomes suspicious.
The apex court while considering the contention of the Appellant observed "Most often the offence of subjecting the married woman to cruelty is committed within the boundaries of the house which in itself diminishes the chances of availability of any independent witness and even if an independent witness is available whether he or she would be willing to be a witness in the case is also a big question because normally no independent or an unconnected person would prefer to become a witness for a number of reasons."
"There is nothing unnatural for a victim of domestic cruelty to share her trauma with her parents, brothers, and sisters and other such close relatives. The evidentiary value of the close relatives/interested witness is not liable to be rejected on the ground of being a relative of the deceased. Law does not disqualify the relatives to be produced as a witness though they may be interested witness," the Bench opined.
The Court further held that the evidence of any interested witness needs to be dealt with utmost care and caution and that the Court has to examine the evidence very carefully and check if there are any infirmities in the evidence of such witness and whether the evidence is reliable, trust-worthy and inspires the confidence of the Court.
"Another important aspect to be considered while analyzing the evidence of interested witness is whether the genesis of the crime unfolded by such evidence is probable or not. If the evidence of any interested witness/relative on a careful scrutiny by the Court is found to be consistent and trust-worthy, free from infirmities or any embellishment that inspires the confidence of the Court, there is no reason not to place reliance on the same, If the evidence of any interested witness/relative on a careful scrutiny by the Court is found to be consistent and trust-worthy, free from infirmities or any embellishment that inspires the confidence of the Court, there is no reason not to place reliance on the same," noted the Court.
The Bench found that the Prosecution was successful in proving that the deceased was harassed by the accused to meet their demand of Rs. 25000 from her father and did not accept the case that the demand was only for a loan. The Bench also found that the accused could not prove their case that the victim was suffering from mental illness.
For the charges contemplated under section 306 IPC, the Court observed that all three conditions for attracting Section 113A of Evidence Act were met and the Prosecution was able to establish the case under section 498A, thereby confirming the findings of both Trial Court and High Court to be correct.