-Report by Sanstuti Mishra
THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA in case of CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION, MARIANO ANTO BRUNO & ANR. Vs THE INSPECTOR OF POLICE held that upon the appreciation of evidence of the eyewitnesses and other material adduced by the prosecution, Trial Court wrongly convicted the Petitioners and the High Court was also not justified in upholding the conviction of the Petitioners under Sections 306 and 498A IPC.
This appeal is filed under Criminal Appeal No. 166 of 2021 of the Madras High Court of January 31, 2022, wherein, appellants were sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment with a fine of 5,000/- each, and failure to do so would amount to simple imprisonment for a month under section 498A IPC and imprisonment of 7 years with 25,000 fine, non-adherence of which would amount to 3 months simple imprisonment u/s 306 IPC. On appeal, the High Court upheld the applicant’s conviction for violations under Sections 498A and 306 IPC.
The marriage of Applicant No. 1 and Dr. M. Amari Victoria was ordained on September 8, 2005, and had a child in 2007. The husband was informed that his wife had collapsed in the bathroom, she was unable to resuscitate and she died on November 5, 2014. An autopsy on her corpse was performed on November 6, 2014, and her cause of death was asphyxiation due to external compression on her neck. FIR was registered by the police based on the appellant’s statements u/s 174 CrPC, which was further converted into Sections 498A and 306 IPC on PW-1’s complaint.
Petitioner No. 1 caused immeasurable emotional distress to the deceased by forcing the deceased to have another child, even though the deceased miscarried in her second pregnancy. She was deceased, required to do all of her household chores and suffered constant abuse from her in-laws. For the same reason, the deceased was driven to suicide on November 5, 2014.
After reviewing prosecution witness testimony and defence evidence, the Trial court convicted the Appellants (husband and mother-in-law) u/s 498A and 306 IPC. The deceased’s father-in-law was acquitted by the Court.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal filed that allegations of atrocities were first raised by the deceased’s mother who was never raised in nine years of marriage. The relations between both families were good. It cannot be claimed that the deceased committed suicide due to the applicant’s abetment.
It was then submitted that when their statements were taken shortly after the deceased’s death, there was no evidence of animosity between the families. The summary recorded by PW-9 shows a past medical history of depression, attempted suicide, and suicidal ideation. Further that the courts also convicted the applicant based solely on her PW-1 through PW-3 testimony alleging the applicant committed continued sexual and emotional abuse.
PV Yogeswaran, appearing for the respondents, said evidence from PW-1 to PW-3 clearly showed that all defendants demanded a higher dowry after marriage and further were forced to drink cow urine under the name of ‘pooja’.
It was also submitted that PW-1 to her PW-3 repeatedly reported on the nature of the harassment and incidents in which victims committed suicide and left their only child behind. It was then vehemently argued that there was clear evidence of an exponential increase in abuse, harassment, and agitation by the accused following the termination of her second pregnancy in 2014.
The honourable Supreme court concluded the Courts ought to be extremely careful in assessing the facts and circumstances of each case and the evidence adduced in the trial for the purpose of finding whether the cruelty meted out to the victim had in fact induced her to end the life by committing suicide.
Accordingly, the facts and evidence Supreme court analysed facts which were ignored by both the Trial Court as well as the High court. The bench concluded that there was not a shred of evidence with respect to the offence alleged under Section 498A of the IPC meted out to the deceased by the Petitioners. There has been no marital discord between Appellant No. 1 and the deceased during their 9 years of married life. The deceased was suffering from bipolar order and also had suicidal ideas from a few days before suicide. The Trial Court as well as the High Court did not take the evidence of PW-9, the Psychiatrist into consideration while convicting the Appellants under Sections 306 and 498A of IPC. The conviction of the appellants is solely based on the oral evidence of the mother and sister of the deceased, who are interested witnesses. As a result, the impugned judgment dated 31.01.2022 passed by the High Court as well as the judgment and order of the Trial Court dated 26.03.2021 are unsustainable and deserve to be set aside and are hereby set aside. The appellants are acquitted of the charges levelled against them. The bench opined that to convict a person under Section 306 IPC, there has to be clear mens rea to commit the offence.