Sections 306 & 498A IPC; K.V. Prakash Babu Vs. State of Karnataka [Supreme Court of India, 22-11-2016]

Penal Code, 1860 – Sections 306 & 498A – Suicide – Extra-Marital Affair of Husband – Wife was guided by the rumour that aggravated her suspicion which has no boundary. The seed of suspicion planted in mind brought the eventual tragedy. But such an event will not constitute the offence or establish the guilt of the accused under Section 306 of the IPC. If the husband gets involved in an extra-marital affair that may not in all circumstances invite conviction under Section 306 of the IPC but definitely that can be a ground for divorce or other reliefs in a matrimonial dispute under other enactments. The conviction under Sections 306 and 498-A of the IPC is set aside. Appeals are allowed.

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

(DIPAK MISRA) AND (AMITAVA ROY) JJ.

November 22, 2016

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO(S). 1138-1139 OF 2016

(@ S.L.P. (Crl) Nos. 5928-5929 OF 2016)

K.V. Prakash Babu … Appellant

VERSUS

State of Karnataka … Respondent

For Petitioner(s) Mr. S.R. Singh, Sr. Adv. Mr.Anurag Thomas, Adv. Mr. B. Vishwanath Bhandarkar, Adv. Mr. H.K. Naik, Adv. Mr. Karunakar Mahalik,Adv. For Respondent(s) Mr. V. N. Raghupathy,Adv.

J U D G M E N T

Dipak Misra, J.

Leave granted.

2. The instant appeals reveal a factual score that has the potentiality to shock a sensitive mind and a sincere heart, for the materials brought on record show how “suspicion” can corrode the rational perception of value of life and cloud the thought of a wife to such an extent, that would persuade her to commit suicide which entail more deaths, that is, of the alleged paramour, her mother and brother who being not able to emotionally cope up with the social humiliation, extinguish their life-spark; and ultimately the situation ropes in the husband to face the charge for the offences punishable under

Sections 302 and 498-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)

read with

Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

(‘1961 Act’ for short). As the facts would unveil, the husband gets acquitted for the offence under Section 302 IPC but convicted in respect of other two charges by the trial court. In appeal, his conviction under Section 3 of the 1961 Act is annulled but success does not come in his way as regards the offence under Section 498-A IPC. And the misery does not end there since in the appeal preferred by the State, he is found guilty of the offence under Section 306 IPC and sentenced to suffer four years rigorous imprisonment and to pay a fine of Rs.50,000/- to be given to the father of the victim with a default clause.

3. In the course of our adumbration and analysis of facts, it will be uncurtained how the seed of suspicion grows enormously and the rumours can bring social dishonor and constrain not-so-thick skinned people who have bound themselves to limitless sorrow by thinking ‘it is best gift of God to man” and choose to walk on the path of deliberate death. A sad incident, and a shocking narrative, but we must say, even at the beginning, the appellant-husband has to be acquitted regard being had to the evidence brought on record and the exposition of law in the field.

4. The singular issue, as the aforesaid passage would show, that arises for consideration in these appeals, by special leave, that assails the judgment and order dated 13.04.2016 passed by the High Court of Karnataka at Bengaluru in Criminal Appeal No. 655 of 2012 whereby the High Court has allowed the appeal preferred by the State which had called in question the legal acceptability of the judgment and order passed by the learned Additional Sessions Judge, Fast Track Court-III, District Kolar, Karnataka, who vide judgment dated 5.1.2012 had found the appellant guilty of the offences punishable under Section 498-A of the IPC and Section 3 of the 1961 Act and sentenced him to suffer rigorous imprisonment of one year and two years respectively with the default clause. It is apt to note here that the appellant had also preferred Criminal Appeal No. 126 of 2012 wherein the High Court while passing the common judgment has opined that the prosecution has miserably failed to establish the conviction under the 1961 Act. However, as stated earlier, it found the appellant guilty of the offence under Section 306 IPC and the result of such conviction was imposition of four years rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs. 50,000/- (Rupees fifty thousand only) with the further stipulation that Rs.45,000/- (Rupees forty five thousand only) be paid to the father of the deceased.

5. The occurrence that led to launching of prosecution is that the marriage between the appellant and the deceased, Anjanamma, was solemenised on 12.10.1997. The appellant, as alleged, got involved with one Deepa, daughter of one Ashwathamma inasmuch as his visit to the house of Ashwathamma was quite frequent. As the prosecution story proceeds, the deceased felt extremely hurt and eventually being unable to withstand the conduct of the husband who was allegedly involved in an extra-marital affair, put an end to her life on 20th August, 2004. An FIR was lodged at the concerned police station by the father of the deceased, which set the criminal law in motion and the investigating officer recorded statement of witnesses under Section 161 of the IPC and after completing the investigation, placed the charge sheet under Sections 201, 302 and 498-A of the IPC and Section 3 of the 1961 Act before the concerned Magistrate who, in turn, committed the matter to the Court of Session. The accused abjured his guilt and expressed his intention to face trial, advancing the plea of denial and false implication. In order to establish the charges, the prosecution examined 31 witnesses in all. The defence chose not to adduce any evidence. The main witnesses are father of the deceased, PW-1 and the neighbours who have deposed about the extra- marital affair of the husband and the death of the deceased.

6. As we have already stated about the conviction and the punishment, the same need not be stated in detail. There is no dispute that the learned trial judge as well as the High Court has not found the appellant guilty of the offence punishable under Section 302 of the IPC. The High Court has also arrived at the conclusion after detailed deliberation that the prosecution has not been able to establish the offence under Section 3 of the 1961 Act. However, it has found the appellant guilty of the offence under Sections 498-A and 306 of the IPC.

7. It is submitted by Mr. S.R. Singh, learned senior counsel that the High Court has completely erred in appreciating the evidence to sustain the conviction under Section 498-A inasmuch as there is no material whatsoever with regard to demand of dowry or any kind of torture. According to Mr. Singh, the High Court has applied the second limb of Section 498-A IPC on the foundation that the involvement of the husband in extra-marital affair established cruelty under the said provision and, therefore, it would be an offence under Section 306 of the IPC which is contrary to the pronouncements of this Court.

8. Mr. V.N. Raghupathy, learned counsel appearing for the State had supported the judgment and order passed by the High Court by placing reliance on the analysis of the various facets and the scrutiny and scanning of the evidence of the prosecution witnesses including that of the father, the neighbours and the investigating officer. . To appreciate the submissions raised at the Bar, we have bestowed our anxious consideration and carefully examined the decision rendered by the trial court and that of the High Court. On a studied scrutiny of the evidence, it is demonstratable that the father of the deceased in his deposition has not stated anything with regard to any kind of cruelty meted out to the deceased except stating that she quite often complained to the parents about the visit of the appellant to the house of Ashwathamma and that she had suspicion against her husband that he was going to have a second marriage. The other witnesses including the investigating officer have deposed that there was discussion in the locality about the illicit connection of the appellant with one lady at Chelur Village. Barring the aforesaid, there is no whisper with regard to any kind of ill-treatment or cruel behaviour by the husband.

10. In view of the aforesaid evidence, the question that emerges for consideration is whether the conviction under Section 498A and 306 IPC is legally justiciable in this context. We think it appropriate to refer to Section 498A of the IPC. The said provision reads as follows:-

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