Dec 03, 2010
The Delhi High Court has said the justice delivery system needs overhauling as the poor are not getting timely justice in higher courts which are are kept occupied with cases involving persons with money or power.
"The whole criminal justice system needs overhauling so that the constitutional mandate of equality before law is made meaningful and it should not be the case that higher courts are kept occupied by the persons with money or power, as is the case today," the court said.
The court made the remarks while setting aside the conviction of a poor vegetable vendor who had to spend seven years in jail due to delay in disposing his appeal in the High Court.
The trial court had awarded seven years jail term to the vendor for allegedly killing his wife in 2003 and he filed an appeal in 2004 on which the High Court took six years to pass the verdict.
In the verdict, Justice S N Dhingra found him innocent and acquitted him but he had already spent his jail term.
"In this case, the High Court did not find time to hear the appeals of other two appellants who continued to remain in jail during trial period as well as appeal period for no crime of theirs," the court said adding the High Court should fix a time limit for disposing of such appeals.
"Neither the criminal should be let off by default as the High Court has no time to hear appeals nor should the innocents rot in jail by default," the court said.
The High Court pulled up the trial court for convicting the accused even though there were not sufficient evidence against him and merely on the basis of a statement made by his brother-in-laws.
"The conviction seems to be the result of a callous criminal justice system where neither the defence counsel prepared the case nor the prosecutor discharged his duty in an impartial manner nor did the judge consider it as his duty to see what offence was made out and everyone acted in a mechanical manner," the court said.
The court found that there was no evidence that the accused was harassing his wife for dowry leading to her death.
"The most disturbing factor is that no evidence, whatsoever, was collected by the police about the real facts. No effort was made by the public prosecutor or by the trial judge to even go through the evidence and consider what charges were made out. Charges seemed to have been framed in a mechanical manner," the court said.
In this case, the accused had married Janki in December, 2000 and she died within five months of her marriage.
The court said that in such cases husband and in-laws should come forward to tell what was the real cause of death.
"The criminal practice in India has been on the lines of old track that accused must not speak and he should not be examined as a witness. I do not know why this practice developed but in all matrimonial offences, this practice is shutting the doors of the court to the version of the other side by their advocates," the court said.
Del HC-Justice Dhingra aquits Mother in-law of dowry death, slamming the trial court and public prosecutor for callousness. 'Criminal Justice System in India Needs Overhauling'
Date of Reserve: 1st October, 2010 Date of Order: 2nd December, 2010 +Crl. Appeal No. 93 of 2004
RANI ... Appellant
Through: Mr. Bhanu Pratap Singh, Advocate
Through: Mr. O.P. Saxena, Addl. PP for the State
2. To be referred to the reporter or not? Yes.
3. Whether judgment should be reported in Digest? Yes.
1. Present Appeal has been preferred against the Judgment dated 1st October, 2003, and order on Sentence dated 13th October, 2003, whereby the Appellant was convicted under Section 304B/498-A IPC read with Section 34 IPC and sentenced to undergo Rigorous Imprisonment for a period of 7 years with fine of `1,000/-.
“(1) Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, such death shall be called "dowry death" and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.(2) Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.”
To bring home an offence under Section 304-B IPC it is an obligation of the prosecution to prove in those cases where death of a woman occurs within 7 years of her marriage, that soon before her death, she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any other relative, in connection with a demand of dowry. Mere making of demand is not the only pre-requisite for proving an offence under Section 304B IPC. The prosecution was thus supposed to prove that the demand made by the accused was coupled with a harassment or cruelty in connection with the demand. Unnatural death can be called a dowry death only if, after making a demand of dowry, the accused perpetuates cruelty on the victim so that the demand made by him is got fulfilled by perpetuation of cruelty on the victim. If the alleged demand of dowry is not coupled with cruelty, harassment or any other such act on the part of accused, Section 304B of IPC would not be made out. In this case, none of the three brothers stated that cruelty was perpetuated on Janki or she was harassed by the appellant or by any other relative for not fulfilling the demand. I consider in these circumstances conviction of the appellant under Section 304B IPC was totally illegal and unjust. The conviction seems to be the result of a callous criminal justice system where neither the defence counsel prepared the case nor the prosecutor discharged his duty in an impartial manner nor the Judge considered it as his duty to see what offence was made out and everyone acted in a mechanical manner.
for abetment of suicide, apart from proving suicide, it has to be proved that the appellant or accused was instrumental in commission of suicide. Section 113A of Evidence Act which raises a presumption regarding abetment of suicide in respect of
a married woman reads as under:
“113A. Presumption as to abatement of suicide by a married women - When the question is whether the commission of suicide by a women had been abetted by her husband or any relative of her husband and it is shown that she had committed suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage and that her husband or such relative of her husband has subjected her to cruelty, the court may presume, having regard to all the other circumstances of the case, that such suicide had been abetted by her husband or by such relative of her husband.”
A perusal of above section would show that abetment of suicide of a married woman by relatives would be presumed by the Court if it is shown that her husband or such other relative of husband had subjected her to cruelty. In the present case, there is not an iota of evidence in respect of cruelty perpetuated upon the victim, either medical evidence or oral evidence. I, therefore, consider that that the appellant could not have been convicted even under Section 306 IPC.
list reads as under;
(i) One Silver Coin, (ii) One Three Piece Suit for Boy, (iii)
One Gold Ring, (iv) 51 Utensils, (v) Fruits and Dry Fruits,
(vi) Nine Sarees, (vii) Nine Gents Shirts, (viii) Four Pairs of
Clothes for Children and (ix) ` 501/-. At marriage the dowry list is as under;
(i) One Silver Coin, (ii) 5 Units of Clothes for Boy, (iii) One
HMT Wrist Watch, (iv) 27 Utensils (of Steel and Brass), (v)
Ear-ring (Kundal) + „LONG‟ of Gold for Girl, (vi) A set of
Silver pajeb + Key Ring, (vii) One Double-Bed with
Matress, Quilt and Pillow, (viii) One Chair, One Table, One
Stool, One Dressing Table, One Cooler, One Godrej
Almirah and One Small Box.
15. In this case the High Court did not find time to hear the appeals of other two appellants, who continued to remain in jail during trial period as well as appeal period for no crime. In all such cases where appellants are in jail and sentence is not suspended, the High Court should fix a time limit for disposing of such appeals. Neither the criminal should be let off by default as High Court has no time to hear appeals nor should the innocents rot in jail by default. The whole criminal justice system needs overhauling so that the constitutional mandate of equality before law is made meaningful and it should not be the case that higher courts are kept occupied by the person with money or power, as is the case today.